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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 20, 2008 3:27 PM

Yuck, squared

Posted by Larry Stone

Well, that might have been the worst game I've ever seen (from the Mariners' standpoint, that is. I'm sure White Sox fans loved it).

I'd have to say that was rock bottom for Seattle -- for now. They were completely non-competitive. I've gotten a few e-mails complaining about the effort, but I don't see it as an effort problem. It was just a totally out-classed team. Dickey's knuckleball was getting ripped around, but I cut him some slack. As Riggleman said after the game, he's been jacked around so much between starting and relieving, and both, that maybe somewhere along the line it sapped his knuckleball.

But whatever the cause, when you fall behind 8-0 after two, it's going to be a long, ugly game, and it was. They are now 46-80, With 36 games to go, the M's must finish at least 17-19 or better to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1980. In other words, they have to have at least a .472 winning percentage the rest of the way. That doesn't seem too much to ask, right? Well, consider that their win percentage for the season is now down to .365. And consider that their win percentage since the All-Star break is .290 (9-22). It doesn't look too good.

It looks terrible, in fact. I'd suggest they just throw the kids out there and let them learn under fire. Today's lineup had Clement, Balentien, Reed and LaHair. Good. They're taking their lumps, but that's OK. As Riggleman said, "I've tried to impress on them, your character as a man is judged in bad times, not good times. We're going through some bad times. They're passing the character test. Now we have to get over the hump and start winning some games.''

On that note, I'm heading for the airport. Geoff will return to his rightful spot here tomorrow.

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August 20, 2008 10:35 AM

Game thread, 8-20, Mariners vs. White Sox

Posted by Larry Stone


UPDATE 11:49: Well, that was something to see: Ken Griffey Jr.'s first White Sox home run, which was his first American League home run since 1999 with the Mariners. It was the 609th homer of his career, tying him with former White Sox and Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa for fifth on the all-time list.

UPDATE 11:45: Just got an update on Jim Thome. He was scratched because of slight soreness in his right leg. The White Sox offense has really struggled without him.

UPDATE, 11:30: To answer my own question (see below): Doesn't look like it.

So, will I get to see a Mariners' victory on this road trip? Remember, Geoff was in Anaheim, so he got to cover the lone win. I'm 0-for-Minnesota and Chicago. Trust me, the trudge into that visiting clubhouse after each defeat is not pleasant. One time in the early 1990s, I was covering a bad Giants' team, and after a loss, one of the writers was chuckling about something as he walked into the clubhouse to do his interviews.One of the Giants' players -- I believe it was Will Clark -- started screaming at him, "What are you laughing about?" It got pretty ugly. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, Balentien is back in left field after a spell in center. I asked Riggleman if he had a feel for what Balentien's best outfield position is. Here's his answer:

"He's OK in center. The thing about it is, he's got such a good arm that we probably would like for him to settle in in left or right. If our necessity is that he plays center, that's what we'll do. But it's hard to throw guys out from center. Basically, you throw peopl;e out from left and right. We probably would like to have him play one of those two eventually.''

Could Ichiro wind up back in center? "The makeup of the ballclub is going to determine that. I'm pretty sure Ichiro prefers to play right. I know for the team he would go to center."

More tidbits: Felix is fine after getting hit on his left ankle by a line drive on Tuesday. Carlos Silva is penciled in to return to the rotation on Aug. 31 against Cleveland. And don't pencil in Erik Bedard for anything. Apparently, his last throwing session didn't go so well.

"What I'm hearing is he's not as encouraged by his previous outing as he was with his others,'' Riggleman said.

The immediate upshot: Bedard's Saturday bullpen session will almost certainly be delayed. The long-term upshot: His chances of pitching again this season are up in the air.

"I guess I'd look at it as kind of gravy if he does,'' Riggleman said. "I'd love for him to pitch for us. I'd love to have him feel good about how he pitched going into the offseason, with a plan for him, but I can't make it happen."

I'd say the chances of trading Bedard in the offseason are extremely slim if he can't get back on the mound this year (or even if he does). So look for the big lug to be back in the Mariners' rotation next year -- provided his left shoulder allows it.


Lineups

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Jeremy Reed CF
Raul Ibanez DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Jeff Clement C
Wladimir Balentien LF
Bryan LaHair 1B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS

R.A. Dickey P

White Sox

Orlando Cabrera SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Carlos Quentin LF
Ken Griffey Jr. DH
Paul Konerko 1B
Nick Swisher RF
Alexei Ramirez 2B
DeWayne Wise CF
Juan Uribe 3B

Gavin Floyd P

(The White Sox made a late lineup change, scratching Jim Thome, moving Griffey from RF to DH, Swisher from CF to RF, and DeWayne Wise to center field. Not sure yet what's wrong withThome. Interesting that Griffey was originally playing right and not center).

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August 20, 2008 8:45 AM

How winning teams do it

Posted by Geoff Baker

No, I'm not going to get into a whole dissection of Felix Hernandez's bad night. Been a while since he got shelled like that. It happens. Pitchers have bad games. In fact, he hasn't given up two home runs, gone only five innings and given up five runs or more all at the same time in a game all season. Last time he went at least five innings and failed to get a strikeout in any game? It's never happened. That was a first. The only other time he's failed to log a strikeout in a start came in April of last season when he was sidelined by an elbow injury in the first inning against the Twins.

Anyhow, if not for Hernandez buckling down, which he did in that fourth inning, he probably would have allowed six runs over just 3-plus innings. So, it could have been worse. These White Sox have made good pitchers look bad all season, so don't sweat it. It's one game.

On to today's topic. We've spilled a lot of words this season over the M's clubhouse culture and the things they don't seem to do right. Bill Bavasi got the ball rolling back in May, and the subject keeps coming up. I know many of you have followed the happenings with the Tampa Bay Rays, specifically the travails of young phenom B.J. Upton, a good player with some bad habits. These habits include loafing it on the basepaths. He's already been benched twice in the past few weeks for not running hard down to first base.

After the first benching, some of you compared his situation to how the Mariners might have handled a similar event with one of their young players. You were surprised that a team in first place might take such action for a first time offense. But, as many of you noted, good teams do tend to try to snuff out these little brush fires with quick, decisive action, rather than letting them grow into something more serious.

It's August. Players do tend to loaf all across the game.

Anyhow, Upton was at it again a couple of nights ago, this time getting thrown out at second after cruising in to the bag on what should have been a double. He apologized for his actions when speaking to reporters on Tuesday. And this time, he wasn't benched. No, what interested me was how manager Joe Maddon decided to deal with Upton this time. Here's the account from the Associated Press version of the story:

Maddon, however, did not take him out of the game Monday night. Instead, he left it to veterans such as Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena to take up the issue with Upton.

Floyd vowed, "He's going to get it right, trust me."

And that, folks, short and sweet, is what good clubhouses do. Some of you might not like the methods, which can include throwing folks up against walls if talking does not drive the message home. But the message will eventually be driven home, one way or the other. I have no idea how Floyd planned to make his point. I mean, he seems supremely confident that Upton will listen to him. Must be an engaging fellow. I don't know, Floyd has always seemed a nice enough guy, so perhaps he merely plans to talk to Upton over some coffee. But at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he can probably be pretty persuassive with somebody who tries to blow him off. Pena is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Upton is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. It helps that both Floyd and Pena are sporting on-base-plus-slugging percentages above .800. Talking is always easier when you can do it on the field as well as off. But, sometimes you make do with what you have.

The New York Times version of the story says:

Maddon did call upon ''the other 24 people'' in the Rays' clubhouse to handle Upton, who is as popular among teammates as he is now frustrating.

So, let the debating begin about what the Rays should do next.

"It's the way it should be,'' Maddon said (of clubhouse enforcement). "And it's how these things should be handled. I really want to move beyond all this. The focus needs to be on how well we are playing and the accomplishments of these guys in (Monday's) game.''

There's more.

Floyd was very hurt by the event and told reporters he would "put his butt on the line" to fix the situation.

By the way, Floyd is talking to reporters, referring directly to Upton and saying he plans to take action, before actually speaking to the player. Just thought I'd point that out. In fact, this whole thing, I'd say, has been handled rather publicly by Maddon, Floyd and the Rays. Not really being kept "in-house". Or is it? What constitutes in-house? Maybe that's something else to talk about today.

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure Upton won't be goofing off on the bases again anytime soon. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. As can be staring down the wrong end of a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder's cocked fist as the wall presses against the back of your neck.

Sigh.

As for the Mariners? Heck, Hernandez could have thrown nine innings of one-run ball and still lost this game. So much for Seattle's 15 hits on Monday being a sign of something to come. The Apocalypse, maybe? For me, seeing Jarrod Washburn get out-slugged the night before was more disappointing because his team had at least done a few of the things necessary to win.

But when you don't score runs, nor help out on defense, a pitcher will usually wind up losing the game. Hernandez wasn't helped all that much by Wladimir Balentien's defense on that A.J. Pierzynski double in the third inning. But he's used to that, I'm sure. The Mariners defenders have made a lot of starting pitchers work harder than they had to this month. I think I heard somewhere that they aren't happy.

Oh well, so Hernandez couldn't "stop" this onslaught. What a road trip. It concludes today with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, the way these White Sox have scorched any balls up in the zone. We'll see. Happy Dickey Day?


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August 19, 2008 8:44 PM

Yuck

Posted by Larry Stone

Well, that was pretty awful. The tone was pretty much set for the Mariners when they started the game with runners on first and third, no outs, and couldn't score.

The most alarming part of the game, to my eyes, was not the fact the M's got shut out. It was the fact that Felix Hernandez, in five innings, didn't strike out anybody. As I mentioned, the only other time that happened was last year against the Twins in April, but he lasted just one-third of an inning in that game. He had a bad elbow, it turned out, and went on the disabled list.

There is no apparent arm trouble for Felix this time. In fact, everyone said he had good stuff. Felix himself said that the Sox were hitting good pitches -- balls on the hands, balls on the corners. He also said that his left ankle, where he got hit by a Juan Uribe line drive, is sore, but won't keep him from making his next start. It's the same ankle he hurt back at Shea Stadium covering home plate. Remember, the game he hit the salami off Johan Santana? That injury landed him on the disabled list.

"It hit me on the wrong spot,,'' he said of Uribe's drive. But then he added, "It's fine.''

Hernandez actually did his best pitching right after getting hit. Orlando Cabrera followed wtih a double to put runners on second and third with two outs, but Felix got three ground outs to get out of the inning without any more runs.

Here's a stat to leave you with -- the records of Seattle's original starting five this season. Felix is now 7-8, Silva is 4-14, Washburn is 5-13, Batista is 4-12, and Bedard is 6-4. That's a combined 26-51. Just the way Bill Bavasi drew it up, right?

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August 19, 2008 4:52 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. White Sox, 8-19

Posted by Larry Stone

UPDATE 6:53: That was a very rough outing for King Felix. He didn't strike out anyone in five innings (11 hits, five runs, three walks). He's only had one other career start with no strikeouts -- and that was the one last year against the Twins, his third start of the year, in which he exited after one-third of an inning with elbow problems. We'll need to find out after the game what's going on. He got hit in the foot by a hard line drive off the bat of Juan Uribe in the fourth, but he was struggling long before that.

(Sorry, internet troubles. I've been trying to post this for half an hour).

I've got to think covering the White Sox is pretty fun. You've got a good, exciting team to watch, and you get to deal with Ozzie Guillen every day. I've sat in on his pre-game sessions the last two days. What a kick. He really does love to talk, he's colorful, he says outrageous things. Everything that reporters love. I asked him yesterday whether Joey Cora was ready to manage. He went into a long, tongue-in-cheek schtick about he'd love to get him out of here, before getting serious and telling how ready he thinks Cora is to manage.

I said, "I'd bet you'd hate to lose him."

"Are you kidding?'' he replied. "I don't want to lose Carlos Quentin. Bleep Joey. He can be replaced by any bleeping body. Sitting next to me on the bench and talking bleep? That's what he does. I don't want to lose Carlos Quentin or JD (Jermaine Dye) or any of those guys. Joey? Anyone can do that bleep."

He was kidding, of course, and it was pretty bleeping funny. Maybe you had to be there."

BTW, I talked to Joey today about the Mariners' managerial job. He was very even-handed, because the job technically isn't open and he doesn't want to be disrespectful to Jim Riggleman, who is a friend. But I get the feeling that he wants it very badly. I'd be very surprised if Cora isn't at least a finalist if and when the job does open up. He has strong credentials as Guillen's \coach for five years (third-base coach 2004-06, bench coach 2007 and 2008) -- including a World Series ring, and another possible playoff run this year -- and he has those strong Mariner ties. Plus he's managed three years in the minors, and one year in the Venezuelan winter leagues. Cora has already interviewed for openings in Pittsburgh and Washington, and is starting to get traction as one of the prime names on the "manager in waiting" list. It's hard to speculate on the next manager

Lineups

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Miguel Cairo 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Wladimir Balentien CF
Kenji Johjima DH
Jamie Burke C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Felix Hernandez P

White Sox

Orlando Cabrera SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Carlos Quentin LF
Jermaine Dye RF
Jim Thome DH
Alexei Ramirez 2B
Ken Griffey Jr. CF
Nick Swisher 1B
Juan Uribe 3B

Clayton Richard P

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August 19, 2008 4:08 PM

Love this cartoon

Posted by Geoff Baker

Pretty much sums up the whole experience of blogging a season like this one. I'm sure most of you will agree, whichever side of the coin you happen to fall on in any particular day. Enjoy the game. Larry should be chiming in soon.

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August 19, 2008 9:08 AM

Nah, on second thought

Posted by Geoff Baker

Had an earlier post, didn't like the tone of it when I read it in black and white, so I took it down.

What do I care if Jarrod Washburn got lit up last night? I'm not paying his salary. I didn't decide to keep him on the team instead of trading him. Yes, he got lit up. I won't cheapen this blog by resorting to a petty back and forth. Many of you come on here to get a credible take on what's gone on this season and I've tried to give it to you the best way I can. If you don't think Washburn was worthy of those last 14 starts, you don't have to. He's certainly had his problems in August with giving up too many home runs and extra-base hits.

Like the rest of his team, he hasn't been good enough this month. The Mariners are now 1-8 over their last nine games. They are 5-14 for the month. They are 21-31 under manager Jim Riggleman. That's a .404 winning percentage. Yes, it's better than John McLaren's winning percentage. But it won't spare this team from joining the 100-100 club. That is, it won't keep the M's from becoming the first team to spend over $100 million and lose 100 games.

Maybe that's why the team is reluctant to trade away players other than Arthur Rhodes? I keep hearing whispers about that wherever I go. I certainly hope that is not the case. Just the usual rumor mongering. The usual supposition by people not in a position to know.

Here's what I do know.

The record for losses by a team spending more than $100 million in payroll is 96 by the 2003 New York Mets. The Mariners will almost certainly top that mark and then some if they keep getting blown out on the scoreboard the way they have the last four games. For a team that is supposedly trying to win games, these Mariners sure find it difficult to succeed at the task.

I don't know what's scarier, believing Carlos Silva -- that some of these guys aren't trying their best to win.

Or to believe the opposite is true. That this team really is giving 100 percent maximum effort every night.

Because if this is the best this bunch can manage, nothing short of a complete blowup this off-season is going to even begin to undo the damage that's been done to this franchise in 2008.

On that happy note, I'm off to play MLB 2K8. If you want more analysis than that, this team will have to give me something other than smouldering ruins to sift through. But yes, they have been getting a lot of hits lately. The trick is to get them when you're not five runs down.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS (9:35 a.m.): For ScottM, this is a team with a core of players that failed to win when it mattered in August 2006, September 2007, or in all of 2008. So, that's a pretty empty glass to start with. There is talent here, but even those talented players have underperformed when it mattered. It's a team with a potential ace pitcher in Felix Hernandez and a No. 2 starter in Erik Bedard who may or may not be damaged goods and will likely be out of here before 2010. After that, a whole lot of guessing, including a closer having trouble closing and a bullpen weakened by the loss of Brandon Morrow.

The most consistent player all season, (no, not Ichiro)...Raul Ibanez, could be gone this winter as a free-agent. You have a center fielder playing in right field because of the wear on his aging body, a catcher given a $24 million extension after putting up some of the worst offensive numbers in the league, a handful of promising prospects still trying to hit and a middle infield that appears non-existent.

It's a team that's been called out by former GM Bill Bavasi, ex-manager John McLaren, anonymous coaches, Carlos Silva and maybe Miguel Batista (we're still not sure about that one). Hardly a who's-who of team leaders, but then it begs the question of who passes for a leader on this team. And when even your worst-performing executives and players feel the need to call you out, it doesn't exactly speak volumes about the capabilities of your team.

Yes, there are some nice, complimentary pieces here, like Ichiro, or Adrian Beltre, who would look good on a contending team with others around to carry the load. But here, they are simply some of the better pieces on a team missing key components. The M's lack a true No. 3 or No. 4 hitter. For those wondering what that entails, it's sort of what Ibanez has done the past month. Just picture that all year long and you'll have an idea. The guys who are eating up the most payroll on this team are not good enough to put this team over the top without others around to shoulder the burden. Those others will cost money. The kind of money those players here are already making.

So, either you're going to spend more money and drive payroll higher. Or, you're going to start over.

And that's just the stats part. Then, we get to real life. The stuff that takes place on the field and in the clubhouse. Who is going to make these players, new , old, or whatever, perform up to the levels expected of them when it matters? Who will hold them accountable when they don't measure up, or don't bring their "A-Game'' for a month or two?

These are questions we've tried to ask and answer all season because they will help dictate what this team does next. I'm leaning towards the glass being real empty right about now. We'll see what the new GM thinks.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT (12:46 p.m.): For Piratesfan, I think I understand what you're getting at. And yes, as far as singles hitting for average goes, Ichiro has been more consistent. But as far as overall production, it's pretty tough to argue Ichiro over Ibanez.

Ibanez OPS:

April: .839
May: .673
June: .827
July: .916
August: 1.227


Ichiro OPS:

April: .683
May: .782
June: .713
July: .823
August: .727

One guy has put up an OPS beyond .800 in every month but one. The other guy has had one OPS month above .800. Both have had one month in the high .600s. I don't think this is a matter of following the team every day and drawing the wrong conclusion based on being too close. Just a matter of seeing who has been the better producer. Ibanez wins that one pretty easily. If ichiro was hitting for power and stealing bases, there might be an extra argument to be made. But he isn't and there isn't. Sorry.

For ViewFromBallard, I appreciate what you're saying, but there's a difference between "defending'' players and not continuously attacking them even when they do something right. To point out that some players have done some things right is not "to err''. Any more than it's "right'' to ignore what Carlos Silva said just because he weighs more than other players and has a losing record. I know you didn't bring Silva up specifically, but, I've been accused of "defending" and "enabling" him before. If anything, the evidence (a ton of Seattle losses and mistakes) seems to support what he said about the team not playing hard enough. And he's been saying it since May. Unless someone out there has better evidence to the contrary, maybe he's on to something? Just maybe he knows more than the Seattle blogosphere about what's happening on the team? I know that's tough to fathom, but it could be possible. I think the perponderance of evidence, while it may be totally circumstantial, at least merits further exploration and not outright dismissal and condemnation. But if you, or anyone else out there, knows why we should ignore the issue he and others have raised, let's hear it. And not just guesswork. Direct knowledge. Otherwise, I'd submit we don't all know the answers to everything and do have to listen to what others have to say from time to time.

If you think we're too close to management to be objective, then you really haven't been reading what's been written in this space this year. And you have, I know, because you mention in the second part of your post that we do criticize the team. Maybe we're just not criticizing them enough for your taste? Sorry, I don't think I can blast the team any more than I have already. I happen to know the Mariners executive branch can't stand this blog (meaning what I write here) because they feel it's too negative. But sometimes, you can make a point without scorching the earth.

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August 18, 2008 8:56 PM

Same as it ever was

Posted by Larry Stone

This is getting monotonous. The Mariners got crushed tonight, 13-5, as Jarrod Washburn didn't make it out of the fifth inning. He gave up eight runs and is now 0-4, 7.36 in four starts since the July 31 trade deadline. Here's Washburn's assessment of his night:

"Early in the game, I thought I made some good pitches. All the hits in the second inning were on good pitches. Swisher's homer was on a changeup that Jeff (Clement) said would have been a ball, low and away. I don't know if he was guessing changeup or what.

"In the fifth, the walk (to No. 9 hitter Juan Uribe) didn't help. The home run by Cabrera was a fly ball in most parks. After that, I lost concentration a little bit.''

A couple of other tidbits: Betancourt's homer was his first since May 28, a span of 241 plate apperances; the seven wild pitches over the last two games is a club record. I'd guess it's pretty close to a major-league record, but I'm not sure how to look that up tonight. Maybe we'll find out tomorrow.

The one bright spot was three hits by Clement, the first three-hit game of his career. He's now 6-for-9 in his last three games and says he's starting to relax at the plate. He did some of his damage tonight against a lefty, Mark Buehrle. All good signs on an otherwise lousy night. Ichiro and Ibanez also had three hits as the Mariners managed 15 hits in a losing effort. One key stat: 13 LOB.

I'll leave with Riggleman's obligatory glass half full quote:

"It's demoralizing to continue to get beat, but I'm also encouraged to see the progress we've made the last month offensively,'' he said. "Now the pitching is struggling. One of the two has gotten us for what seems like weeks at a time. It's a shame to waste all this hitting we've gotten in the last month.''

On second thought, maybe even Riggleman's glass is only a quarter full.

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August 18, 2008 4:45 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. White Sox, 8-18

Posted by Larry Stone

Seeing Mark Buehrle in the lineup reminds me of one of my favorite games I ever covered, right here at U.S. Cellular in 2005. It was Mark Buehrle against Ryan Franklin, a Saturday day game, and it was over in 1 hour and 39 minutes. The White Sox won 2-1. I believe Ichiro had all three hits off Buehrle. I think I was back in my hotel room, all written, by 5 o'clock.

Speaking of which, Ken Griffey Jr. held a press conference in the dugout before the game, and when he was asked the biggest difference in coming back to the American League, he replied, "Time of game. Every now and then, you get a 2:14 here."

You never know what persona you're going to get with Junior, but he was relaxed and personable. When he's like that, there's no one more fun to talk to. I'll be writing about the interview for tomorrow, but here's an interesting tidbit. Someone said that Jim Thome called Griffey the best hitter he's ever played against, and Randy Johnson the best pitcher he's ever faced. Griffey was asked to name the best pitcher and hitter he's played with or against.

"Probably the best pitcher was Pedro in his prime. The best hitter was probably two: Edgar being one, and Barry Bonds being the other.

"There was nothing Edgar couldn't hit. You'd try to jam him one time, and he'd shoot it to right field. You'd do it again, and he'd pull it down the line. You just didn't know what he was going to do with the bat. Plus, he had short arms. You couldn't really jam him.''.

I asked Junior if he thought that Edgar, who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot after the 2009 season, should be a Hall of Famer.

"No doubt,'' he replied.

Then I asked if he thought Edgar WOULD be a Hall of Famer.

"I hope so. In my book, he's a Hall of Famer.''

Unfortunately, Griffey isn't in the starting lineup tonight. He's been struggling since he got to Chicago -- .225 (9-for-40) with no extra-base-hits.

Lineups

Seattle

Ichiro RF
Miguel Cairo 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Wladimir Balentien CF
Kenji Johjima DH
Jeff Clement C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jarrod Washburn P

White Sox

Orlando Cabrera SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Carlos Quentin LF
Jermaine Dye RF
Jim Thome DH
Paul Konerko 1B
Nick Swisher CF
Alexei Ramirez 2B
Juan Uribe 3B
Mark Buehrle P

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August 18, 2008 10:46 AM

Happy Jarrod Day

Posted by Geoff Baker

Yes, I know it doesn't have the same ring to it as Happy Felix Day, but at least every Jarrod Washburn start gives the Seattle blogosphere something new to ruminate about other than how its favorite team managed to lose that day's game.

Washburn has become perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 2008 Mariners. He's lived out two different seasons: the one before May 25 and everything since. Ever since May 25, he's compiled an earned run average of 3.27 over his last 14 outings, posting nine "quality starts" of at least six innings pitched and three earned runs or fewer allowed.

By comparison, over the same period of his last 14 starts, Felix Hernandez has thrown exactly the same number of innings as Washburn (88), while compiling an ERA of 2.86 with 10 quality starts.

The difference? Hernandez has thrown one more quality start and allowed four fewer earned runs than Washburn over the exact same number of innings going on three months. And yet, one ballplayer is lionized and the other, villified. Interesting, to say the least.

We won't get into another debate about whether the M's should have traded Washburn or not. Obviously, they aren't going to. I thought they might be able to work out a deal with the Twins, but given that 30-day waiting period the now have to go through before they can put Washburn on waivers again, it isn't going to happen. I honestly don't understand what the M's are doing. If they can pull off a better deal this winter, they'll change my mind, but it seems a needless risk to take. I'd mentioned before July 31 that there was no need to deal him until August, if money was all the team wanted, and, as you saw, there was at least one other taker in the Twins. So, we know that two AL contenders thought enough of Washburn that they were willing to take on $13 million of his salary through 2009. Never mind teams in the NL, where he'd have probably been better-suited.

The M's are obviously gambling that there will be a broader NL/AL market come this winter. But I still don't get the gamble. I know the team says it doesn't care about money, only value, but $13 million buys you plenty of value on the player front. Especially for a team that likely won't be contending in 2009. I agreed with Seattle waiting past the July 31 deadline and their move proved correct. They advanced from the cash and a token Yankees prospect to at least talking cash and more serious players with the Twins. But this latest move, I think, stretches things too far with little more to be gained. We'll see.

On to Washburn, the reason his "turnaround" has been greeted with such skepticism is obviously not in the results he has produced. By any measurement, they have been more than acceptable. In fact, his entire season's numbers have been skewed by three starts in May in which he gave up nearly a third of his earned run totals over just 11 2/3 innings. Take away those three starts, against the Indians, White Sox and Tigers, and Washburn's ERA falls from 4.58 to 3.47.

No, obviously you can't cherry pick this way. But, for all of those skeptics shrugging off Washburn's stretch of the past 2 1/2 months as a "fluke" a skeptic might say those three outings were the abberation and that he's actually had his best statistical season in years. The truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in the middle.

Some of those who look at more advanced statistical measurements for pitchers have scoffed at Washburn's results. Why? It boils down to the way he compiles them. Washburn, simply put, does not have the look of the kind of pitcher fancied by these analysts. He gives up too many flyballs for their taste. Too many line drives as well. Doesn't strike out as many batters as they'd like.

And they are right. Washburn does give up a lot of flyballs. This is nothing new. He's been a flyball pitcher his entire career. Does he give up a lot of line drives? Too much for the liking of the analysts, though not all that much more than he has his entire career. The last year Washburn was in Anaheim, his line drive rate was 21 percent. This year, it's jumped to 23 percent, which, yes, is too high in general terms.

But should we be looking at Washburn in general terms?

Continue reading this post ...


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August 17, 2008 4:07 PM

A wild one

Posted by Larry Stone


I'm going to make this quick, because I have to rush to catch a plane to Chicago. (Yes, Geoff and I like to live dangerously on getaway day).

What a wild game, in many ways. R.A. Dickey called his knuckleball action "violent" which is good and bad. It was hard to hit, harder to catch. The four wild pitches in the fifth were a major-league record. Poor Kenji Johjima (who had a passed ball in the same inning) didn't seem to have a chance with some of those pitches. Dickey said that Charlie Hough told him once that the knuckleball always was erratic in the Metrodome. Apparently, Gino Petralli set a passed ball record here trying to catch Hough's knuckleball. Didn't have time to look up the details.

All told, Mariners pitchers walked 10 in the game. Riggleman cut Ryan Feierabend some slack (nerves, three days' rest) and said he'll make his next start. But if he has another effort like this one, we'll see.

The Mariners have a .299 average since the break, and Raul Ibanez is ridiculous right now. They just need to get their pitching together to win some games. It would help if they didn't fall behind in the first inning every night. The Twins scored 2, 2 and 5 in the first inning. If you play catchup every game, you're going to lose most of them. And the Mariners are.

I'll leave with one last rousing quote from Riggleman after the game:

"We're going to get it together. You can sense it. We're going to get it together and get it turned around.''

I don't share his confidence. Do you?

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August 17, 2008 10:32 AM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Twins, 8-17

Posted by Larry Stone


UPDATE 1:04 P.M. The Mariners made it a little less hideous in the sixth with three home runs, cutting the Twins' lead in half to 8-4 (Justin Morneau just made it 9-4 with a home run as I was typing this). Amazingly, the back-to-back home runs by Balentien and Johjima were just the second back-to-backers by the M;s this season.

Jason Kubel just got his fourth hit of the game, a double. He's officially a Mariner-killer. He is now 13-for-18 against them this season.


UPDATE 12:38 P.M. Well, Dickey just tied a major-league record with his four wild pitches in one inning. It's been done five times, most recently by Ryan Madsen of the Phillies in 2006. No chance for No. 5, however. Dickey is out of the game. This game is hideous.

UPDATE 12:08 P.M. Feierabend is out of the game after three innings. He wouldn't have made it out of the third if Adam Everett hadn't run into the third out trying to stretch a single. Feierabend's pitching line is ugly: 3 ip, 10 h, 6 r, 6 er, 1 BB, 1 SO. Ouch.

R.A. Dickey and his rubber arm is in the game.

UPDATE 11:33 A.M.: OK, so maybe he's still not ready. The Twins blasted Feierabend for five runs in the first inning, with five hits -- three of them doubles. What struck me is that his fastballs were coming in at 85, 86, which seems well below what I remember from Feierabend. Dickey was warming up halfway through the inning, not a good sign.

I'm looking forward to seeing Ryan Feierabend pitch today. If he can show something down the stretch, he should be a viable rotation candidate for next year. I think a lot of people wrote Feierabend off too early because he has struggled at the big league level, but he was awfully young. Feierabend turns 23 next week; he was starting games for the Mariners at age 21, when he just wasn't ready. There's not too many Felix Hernandezes. Perhaps now he's ready. If so, I'll have to work hard learning to type the name "Feierabend," which I find exceedingly difficult, for some reason. I have to almost do it with one finger every time to make sure I get it right, which isn't good on deadline. There's a little inside journalism for you.

Meanwhile, guess who's back in the rotation? Why, R.A. Dickey, who was taken out to make room for Feierabend. Now that Carlos Silva is on the disabled list, Dickey is back in Silva's spot and will likely start Wednesday against the White Sox. For the time being, anyway. Brandon Morrow isn't too far from coming back up to start. In case you didn't see, Morrow worked 3 2/3 innings last night for Tacoma against Sacramento (61 pitches, 39 stirkes). He gave up three hits, two runs, struck out five and walked two. Morrow probably has two or three more minor-league starts to make before he's ready.

Then there's Erik Bedard, who threw on the side today for the third straight day. The Mariners hope he'll be ready to throw off a mound by the time the team returns home next weekend, followed by simulated games. If all goes well, they'd like Bedard to make some starts in September, too. And Riggleman thinks Silva will be back in a couple of weeks, too. The rotation could be awfully crowded in September -- Felix, Washburn, Silva, Rowland-Smith, Feierabend, Morrow and Bedard may all be in the picture. We'll see how they sort it all out.

Lineups

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Miguel Cairo 3B
Raul Ibanez LF
Adrian Beltre DH
Jose Lopez 2B
Wladimir Balentien CF
Kenji Johjima C
Bryan LaHair 1B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Ryan Feierabend P

Twins

Denard Span CF
Nick Punto 2B
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Delmon Young LF
Jason Kubel RF
Randy Ruiz DH
Brendan Harris 3B
Adam Everett SS
Glen Perkins P

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August 16, 2008 4:43 PM

Silva on DL

Posted by Larry Stone

The Mariners placed Carlos Silva on the disabled list after the game with triceps tendinitis in his right elbow. That clears a roster spot for Ryan Feierabend to be activated tomorrow for the start. It was, by the way, finally confirmed that Feierabend really is going to make the start, as everyone has known for a few days. He's apparently in town but stayed back at the hotel.

As for Silva, Riggleman said he had felt some elbow pain in his bullpen session two starts ago, but didn't say anthing until after he got shelled yesterday. The plan is to rest Silva and bring him back in September. I suppose it would be nice for him to finish this season with some positive results to take into next year.

"It's something that I think if we were in a different part of the season, or the standings, he would pitch through it,'' Riggleman said.

Of course, if the Mariners were in a different part of the standings, they might not give someone 4-13, 5.93, an opportunity to pitch through anything. (Oops, I was looking at an old stat sheet. Make that 4-14, 6.36).


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August 16, 2008 12:39 PM

Game thread, Aug. 16, Mariners vs. Twins

Posted by Larry Stone


They just had a softball home-run hitting contest, in which the contestants stood near 2B and aimed for the outfield fence. Finishing second was Jeff Cirillo, now a Twins' broadcaster. Finishing first was T.C., the Twins' mascot -- someone in a bear suit. The dude (or dudette) could really stroke. T.C. was ripping balls into the upper deck, including one off the Kent Hrbek banner above the upper deck! In a bear suit! With a big hear head! I suspect T.C. got doctored baseballs, but I'm a cynic.BTW, he was a southpaw. And when I saw paw, I mean paw.

Not much going on with the Mariners. Raul Ibanez is at DH to save wear and tear on the Metrodome field turf. It's not as bad as the hard stuff that used to be here, but it still takes a toll on older legs.

The Mariners will announce a roster move after the game to make room for the expected activation of Ryan Feierabend to start on Sunday. Maybe they should activate T.C., too.

Lineups

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Jeremy Reed LF
Raul Ibanez DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Jeff Clement C
Wladimir Balentien CF
Bryan LaHair 1B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Ryan Rowland-Smith P

Twins

Denard Span RF
Nick Punto 2B
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Delmon Young LF
Randy Ruiz DH
Brendan Harris 3B
Adam Everett SS
Carlos Gomez CF
Scott Baker P

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August 15, 2008 9:06 PM

Silva medal

Posted by Larry Stone

Not much good can be said about this game. Much of the talk afterward was about Carlos Silva's continuing struggles. He is now 0-5, 8.03 in his last eight starts (40.1 ip, 36 er, 61 hits, five homers, .351 opponents average). He is a sinkerball pitcher who is too often throwing the ball thigh high, as Jim Riggleman put it. I'm no Leo Mazzone, but that's not good.

Riggleman said that Silva will remain in the rotation for now. He said that he throws great bullpen sessions between starts, and before starts. Something just happens when he gets in the game. Again, I'll go out on a limb and say, not good.

What did Silva say about it all? Nothing. He declined to comment. He seemed to be upset about the way his outburst last week was portrayed, but I'm not quite sure what that's about. No question he's highly frustrated, and it might have been a smart thing to clam up.

Riggleman said that he argued Ichiro's non-catch mainly because Ichiro was so upset, and that rarely happens. He admitted that he had a bad angle from the dugout and was "arguing blind,'' in his words. The ejection was because "you argue a point enough, they're not going to continue to listen."

Beltre and Lopez were taken out to save their legs on the unforgiving Metrodome turf, nothing else. Beltre is apparently having some leg problems, and may DH Saturday or Sunday.

Liriano, BTW, was quite impressive -- not as overpowering, perhaps, as in 2006, but his changeup was outstanding. He's a huge weapon for the Twins to catch the White Sox. All they need is Jarrod Washburn, and the division is theirs.

See you tomorrow.

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August 15, 2008 5:12 PM

Thoughts from Pelekoudas

Posted by Larry Stone

Just got off the phone with Lee Pelekoudas, who is not in Minnesota. I reached him in Jackson, Tenn., where he is visiting the Mariners' Class AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx minor-league affiliate.

Pelekoudas will flat out not discuss trade rumors or waiver dealings. He wouldn't talk any specifics of the Washburn situation, or even confirm that Washburn was placed on waivers. So it was impossible to get some of the answers I want to get, and I know you do, too.

But he did want to get the point across, again, that the Mariners are not looking for salary dumps, but, rather, talent. That would be their explanation for the hard line they are reputed to be taking in trade negotiations. Obviously, there is a significant portion of fans who believe that the Mariners would be well-served just to get Washburn's $10 million off the books for next year, regardless of the return. The Mariners clearly disagree, because they just had a golden opportunity to do just that.

Pelekoudas also hinted that there could be a larger trade down the road, one in which the Mariners might even take on salary to get a better player .

One last thing: I clarified the rule regarding putting a player back on waivers after he has been pulled back. That can't be done for 30 days, it turns out. So in the case of Washburn and Raul Ibanez, the 30 days would put them beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility. That makes it extremely unlikely either of them will be dealt prior to the offseason.

At any rate, here's what Pelekoudas said:

"In general, on the issue of dumping salaries, our goal here is to get better. Even back to the trade deadline, and moving forward, we want to get players back that will make us better now and in the future. Money can give you flexibility, but there's no guarantee you can turn that flexibility into anything.

"I've said all along, with players under our control that people are assuming we want to move, we'd like to get value back for them. We want to get the best deal we can get for them, now or later. Other deals may come along and develop into something larger, and even involve us eating some money to get players that make us better.''

So there you have it, straight from the GM's mouth. Now I'm going to get back to watching Francisco Liriano mow down the Mariners. I'd say he has a pretty good sinker working -- nine ground balls outs out of the first 11 outs.

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August 15, 2008 4:46 PM

Game thread, Aug. 15, Mariners vs. Twins

Posted by Larry Stone

Update, 6:46 p.m. : Jim Riggleman just got tossed for the first time as Mariners' manager, and it looked like he had a good reason to be upset (beyond Carlos Silva's bad pitching). Ichiro caught a popup by Adam Everett for what seemed to be the second out of the fiftah, then dropped the ball as he was making the transfer to toss it in. The first-base umpire, Mark Wegner, ruled no catch. Looked like a bad call to me. Riggleman thought so, too, and must have said a magic word to get tossed.

Carlos Silva, tonight's starting pitcher, returns to Minnesota for the first time since he left as a free agent. It's not exactly a triumphant return, what with the 4-13 record and the 5.93 ERA. I hear that Silva hosted a team party yesterday (for the Mariners, not the Twins). No word on whether he threw anyone up against the wall.

I'm looking forward to seeing Francisco Liriano, who was so brilliant in 2006 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Lineups (I'm going to take this nice and slow)

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Miguel Cairo 1B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jose Lopez 2B

Wladimir Balentien CF

Kenji Johjima C

Jeff Clement DH

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Carlos Silva P

Twins

Denard Span RF

Nick Punto 2B

Joe Mauer C

Justin Morneau 1B

Jason Kubel DH

Delmon Young LF

Brian Buscher 3B

Adam Everett SS

Carlos Gomez CF

Francisco Liriano P

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August 15, 2008 4:37 PM

Bonser rumor shot down

Posted by Larry Stone

Just talked to Geoff, the maestro of blogs, and he suggested I put this on a separate entry, because it may be getting lost at the bottom of the original Washburn post..

To reiterate, I'm told by a baseball source with knowledge of the Mariners' talks with Minnesota that contrary to what has been written elsewhere, Boof Bonser's name never came up. And also, Nick Blackburn's name was pulled from discussions very early in the process by the Twins, so speculation that the Mariners were asking for Blackburn is also not accurate.

Wish I could tell you which players the two teams DID discuss, but I can't nail that down. I think it's fair to assume that they were trying to get quality talent in return, however.

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August 15, 2008 2:35 PM

Washburn: "I'm disappointed"

Posted by Larry Stone

Larry Stone here in Minnesota.

If you wondered about Jarrod Washburn's reaction to not being traded, he wore it on his face as he walked into the clubhouse today. He did not look happy. And, it turned out, he wasn't. He said he found out yesterday about the possible Twins' trade about the same time he found out it wasn't happening.

"I had mixed emotions,'' he said. "I was happy and upset at the same time."

The happiness came from the possibility of being traded to the Twins, which was just about the top team on his list of possible destinations. His home, he said, is an hour and a half drive away.

"If the rumors are accurate, it's too bad,'' he said. "It would have been ideal. It would have been perfect. It would have gotten me to a place that's contending and it's in my own damn backyard.''

On the rumors that the Twins were offering Boof Bonser, Washburn said: "If that was the case, how much more do you think you're going to get? A young guy with a great arm who's cheap.''

On whether he can get back mentally into pitiching for the Mariners this season: "Yeah. My job doesn't change. I have to go out and give my team a chance to win, no matter who I'm pitching for. I'm disappointed, but if I fall on my face the last six weeks of the season, I won't be in anyone's plans next year -- the Mariners or someoone trying to trade for me."

UPDATE: 3:30 P.M. -- The Mariners, following MLB guidelines, have a strict no-comment policy on all matters pertaining to waivers. But I'm told by a baseball source with knowledge of the Mariners' talks with Minnesota that contrary to what has been written elsewhere, Boof Bonser's name never came up. And also, Nick Blackburn's name was pulled from discussions very early in the process by the Twins, so speculation that the Mariners were asking for Blackburn is also not accurate.

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August 15, 2008 10:41 AM

Why Twins wanted Washburn

Posted by Geoff Baker

Some folks out there are having a tough time understanding why the Minnesota Twins wanted to take Jarrod Washburn off the M's hands. This is understandable, given how the Twins have a reputation for building from within with cheap, cost-effective homegrown talent. They have a stable of young pitchers, like Nick Blackburn, who the Mariners have gone after before. Remember the Adrian Beltre talks last month? Yes, Blackburn was a name that came up at that point. Did he come up in the Washburn talks? I don't know. But the M's wanted a starting pitcher in the Washburn deal, from what I was told yesterday. Not necessarily him, though.

This article from the Star Tribune explains yesterday's talks pretty well from the Minnesota perspective.

No, this was not, as we mentioned yesterday, a "block" move by the Twins.

We've had this discussion before, but at this time of year, when playoff berths are up for grabs, teams tend to suspend the normal value judgments made on players. Even the so-called "good" teams have been known to do this. Especially when it comes to relief pitching. Think of what the Boston Red Sox gave up last summer in sending outfielder David Murphy, starting pitcher Kason Gabbard and teenage outfielder Engel Beltre to the Texas Rangers for a two-month rental of a washed-up-looking Eric Gagne.

Does this make Red Sox GM Theo Epstein a moron? No. After all, he still won the World Series. And that's always the goal. Not building a fantasy super-team. The goal is always to make the playoffs, then go as far as you can. The money generated off that can offset tons of moves that look foolish in hindsight.

It's why the Tigers shipped off catcher Pudge Rodriguez for reliever Kyle Farnsworth, of all people.

Why yours truly was not against dealing catcher Jeff Clement for an eighth inning reliever last year. If the alternative is to not make the playoffs, then sometimes you have to swallow hard and bite the bullet on a deal that would otherwise look lopsided. In hindsight, dealing Clement or Wladimir Balentien for Octavio Dotel or Al Reyes would now seem foolish. But how foolish? The M's have a surplus of minor league catchers. Balentien strikes out whenever he isn't hitting a home run. We still don't know how either will turn out. When Adam Jones was still here, Balentien was an afterthought. If the M's make the playoffs last year (had they not blown a 5-0 lead at home to the Angels, capping it with Rick White on the mound, who knows how things might have played out?), then Jones likely remains in Seattle and no one remembers Balentien.

But in truth, the moment Bill Bavasi failed to deal for another eighth inning guy, the 2007 season was over. The team knew it, the gassed relievers knew it. They crossed their fingers and prayed for a miracle. Prayed that Rick White, a washed-up waiver claim, might be their cheap "miracle answer" but he wasn't. The fact White was on the mound pitching in key games shows you just how dire the bullpen situation was. Don't even go by the stats. Talk to the relievers and they'll tell you: the bullpen was teetering on the edge of collpase come August. So, by not picking up a bullpen answer, the M's wrote off their 2007 playoff chance. Now, we're almost through 2008 and still no playoffs. Come 2009, there likely won't be any either.

Still, heck, the M's have Balentien. They have Clement.

Some teams, though, would take the chance of missing the prospects for a playoff shot. Is Epstein incompetent? No, he isn't. Is Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski incompetent? Only if you've lived in a cave the past 20 years without access to baseball coverage.

I'm not writing this to justify my support of a prospects-for-reliever deal last year. You're all going to have your opinions on it and may even be right in the end. I may have been wrong. But I'm trying to explain to you the mentality that goes into baseball decisions this time of year. It's easy to look at one-sided deals and say "That GM must be crazy!'' Or, you can try to understand why things happen this way. Why even brilliant GMs like Epstein can make insane-looking moves this time of year.

Now, on to why the Twins would take all of Washburn's salary and maybe give up even more.


Continue reading this post ...


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August 14, 2008 3:26 PM

Ibanez, Washburn staying put

Posted by Geoff Baker

UPDATE (4:51 p.m.): So apparently, the Twins did put in claims on both Ibanez and Washburn, but only got to negotiate on Washburn because they had a better record than the Tigers -- who also claimed Ibanez. The Twins move was not to "block" a Washburn claim by the White Sox. The Twins are in dire need on an 8th inning guy, sort of like the M's last season. What they want to do is pick up another starter and move one of their current starters into the bullpen. They don't view Washburn as a fifth starter the way some of you posting on this blog do. They figured he's better than some of that they already have in the rotation.

Apparently, the M's wanted a player off the Twins' 40-man roster. Not sure who, but I'm told it was one of their many starting pitchers. That's where the deal fell apart. This is interesting because it suggests there would be room for continued negotiation. I mean, there's nothing stopping the two sides from continuing their talks, agreeing on something and then the M's putting Washburn through waivers again, the Twins claiming him (since they could very well be the lowest ranked claimant again) and then sending Seattle the player agreed upon. Since this isn't a "block" but more of a need situation by Minnesota, I don't see their needs changing in the next few days. The only reason this had to end now was the 48-hour negotiation window.

And if someone else swoops in and claims Washburn ahead of the Twins, then the M's still save the salary. Anyhow, that scenario makes as much sense to me as any other we've discussed so far. What do you think?

To answer a question, if the M's put Washburn on waivers and nobody claims him in 48 hours, then he will have "cleared" and be eligible to be traded without the waiver process for the remainder of the season.

And no, I highly doubt Washburn would invoke his no-trade clause. Minneapolis is just a puddle-jumper flight from his home in Wisconsin. He'd go there in a heartbeat.

3:26 p.m.: I've been told that it was indeed the Twins putting in a waiver claim on Jarrod Washburn, as was reported a short while ago by Jon Heyman over at Sports Illustrated's online site. Raul Ibanez was claimed by a bunch of teams, the Tigers having first crack at him. Still no word on who the M's were looking for from the Twins.

As we discussed earlier, the likelihood of an Ibanez deal getting done was slim.

In Washburn's case, once again, if the goal is to unload some money, that can still be done this month. Both players have now been pulled off waivers by the Mariners. But they can be put back on them at any time.

That won't happen with Ibanez. He's staying here for the rest of the year.

When a player is put on waivers a second time, he is automatically lost if claimed. You can't pull him back again. So, the M's won't risk losing Ibanez that way. But they could just throw Washburn back out there and hope he gets claimed.

There is still a chance that could happen, depending on pitching needs. Carrying Washburn into the off-season is a risk. Sure, the market could open up. But there will also be more pitchers on that open market. And the middle-of-the-pack lefty making $10.3 million won't look like such a great deal. Doubtful the M's would get anything significant back that they haven't already been offered at this time of year.

Maybe they have some concerns about their ability to get through the rest of this season without Washburn and the quality innings he's tossed of late? If so, you could hold on to him a while longer, get another start or two out of him and then throw him out on waivers to see if anyone bites.

But we're also now getting into the final six weeks of the season. Not a whole lot of time left for him to make an impact. I know the Mariners want value for the pitcher, but I'm not sure what they're doing here. The market has spoken. They aren't going to get his salary plus a prospect.

Frankly, this team has to decide whether it's going to contend or rebuild next year. If you're rebuilding, Washburn makes little sense as part of that plan. This is where not having a full-time GM could potentially hurt the Mariners. The new GM has to make that call. Not Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln. The new GM will be the one to say if this is a rebuild or a "go for it" scenario. There's no one around now to do that.

If there was, they would very likely opt to rebuild. And Washburn would be out of here.


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August 14, 2008 12:42 PM

Ibanez likely to stay

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just got off the plane from Anaheim and can see that Raul Ibanez and Jarrod Washburn are still part of the Mariners.

My hunch when I woke up this morning was that Ibanez was going to remain with the team and that Washburn will likely be traded. It just makes sense to me. You already have Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva and Ryan Rowland-Smith in the rotation with Ryan Feierabend almost certainly joining it by Sunday and then Brandon Morrow not too long after that.

So, if you want to get a real look at all the youngsters over the final six weeks of the season, trading Washburn frees up room to do just that. It also enables you to offload considerable money for this year and next. Yes, Washburn has been this team's second best -- some may argue best -- starter the past two months. His ERA is right up there with Hernandez's over that period and so are his innings totals.

But again, what does that matter in 2008? And what will it matter in 2009? Does anyone truly think this team can contend next year? The Mariners did not lose out on much by waiting until after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to get to this point. They were not going to get anything decent prospects-wise from the Yankees and could afford to wait a couple of weeks to see whether more interest could be drummed up for Washburn's services. Right now, this is probably the best they will do and unloading Washburn now still gets the team that money-savings the Yankees were offering in late-July.

The savings is substantial and I think the team, in the end, will do the right thing and stop holding out for prospects other clubs don't seem willing to give up.

In the case of Ibanez, the Mariners are right to hold out for prospects, since his departure as a free agent next winter would net the club two compensatory draft picks. I am still not certain the club made the right move in not dealing Ibanez before the July 31 trade deadline. The Mariners say other clubs were not offering player packages that were good enough. That they consisted of borderline prospects (some on 40-man rosters) without a whole lot of major league upside.

Thing is, there are no guarantees those compensatory picks will ever make it to the major leagues either. And if they do, it likely won't be for another four or five years from right this minute. Don't forget, those picks won't even come until next June. So, there is value to picking up players who are near to being major league ready right now.

But this is the route the Mariners have chosen with Ibanez. They will have to live with the consequences. Doing a deal with him now will not be easy. Especially since teams can simply put in a waiver claim to "block" Ibanez from going to a rival club. Teams with the worst record on the claims list get first dibs on the player. If their goal is merely to "block" a deal that would send Ibanez to another team, they can simply refuse to negotiate anything with the Mariners other than offering to take on Ibanez's salary.

As we've mentioned, that is a non-starter and would result in the Mariners pulling Ibanez off waivers and simply taking their draft picks next winter. So, like I said, I will be very surprised not to see Ibanez still here by the end of this 48-hour negotiation window.

By the same token, I will also be somewhat surprised if Washburn makes his next start for the Mariners in Chicago. I expect to see him wearing another uniform by then. If not, the Mariners, as usual, will have plenty to answer for. Not to mention a hefty bill staring them in the face.

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August 13, 2008 11:15 PM

Balentien ends monkey business

Posted by Geoff Baker

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No Rally Monkey was going to catch that Wladimir Balentien blast to center in the 12th inning. The ball clears the fence for a three-run homer, Roy Corcoran completes a third inning of shutout relief and the Mariners win 10-7. Raul Ibanez opened the 12th with a double, his fourth hit of the night.

This one is over. As things stand, the M's should arrive in Minneapolis by 8 a.m. on Thursday.

"We didn't give up, we didn't give in,'' Ibanez said. "We kept fighting back. It was a great win for us and we did it together.''

A good piece of hitting by Balentien, who'd fanned on four prior occasions on the night.

"I had a rough night,'' Balentien said. "But I stayed positive, stayed focused in the game and waited for an opportunity.''

So much to talk about, so little of it truly matters. But give the Mariners credit for staying in this game and fighting back time after time. A true team victory.

"We've been battling and today, we battled back with the intention of winning,'' Ibanez said. "And that made the difference.''

Indeed it did. It's one thing to make a final score look good by tacking on some runs in a onetime blowout. Quite another thing to keep answering the challenge, puch-for-punch. Tonight, as Ibanez said, this team finally played to win. Like a team not afraid of winning. And it was a difference. On August 13 of a season that began on March 31.

Hopefully, next year, it won't take so long.

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August 13, 2008 9:57 PM

Picture tells it all

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Do I need to say more? I'll admit it. I believe in the power of the Rally Monkey. Was here in 2002 when the Angels, down 5-0 to the Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, found a way to come back. Scott Spiezio had his career highlight, a three-run homer in the seventh. And then Troy Glaus capped a three-run eighth with a huge double to put the Angels up to stay. That capuchin monkey was dancin' up a storm that night.

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Here tonight, both teams caught the fever the minute that ape showed its face.

Back and forth, with the M's tying it 3-3 in the seventh, falling behind 4-3, then tying it 4-4 in the eighth only to fall behind 6-4. How about Seattle then scoring three in the ninth to take the lead over a furious K-Rod, who felt Miguel Cairo had been doubled-off at second on a flyout to right moments earlier.

The Angels argued, but to no avail. Jeremy Reed hit a tying double, then Raul Ibanez a go-ahead single. K-Rod was tossed from the game for mouthing off about the Cairo call. All looked good for the M's. They had been 0-64 when trailing after eight innings.

But oh, that monkey again.

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In came J.J. Putz and out of the ballyard went the baseball. The second homer of the night for Mark Teixeira. We're now in the bottom of the 10th, it's 7-7 and the monkey has come out to play once more.

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August 13, 2008 8:27 PM

Mariners at Los Angeles Angels: 08/13 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Raul Ibanez just tagged Ervin Santana for a solo homer to lead off the sixth, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Was this Ibanez's parting shot as a Mariner?

Felix Hernandez has gotten through the past two innings rather easily and is one frame away from a "quality start" beginning the sixth at 79 pitches.

By the way, R.A. Dickey is likely out of the rotation the rest of the season. He's been scratched from Sunday's scheduled start. The M's are remaining mum on who will replace him. My guess is Ryan Feierabend will be called up from Class AAA. Miguel Batista is sore, so it won't be him. It won't be Jake Woods, who the M's consider strictly bullpen material. And manager Jim Riggleman says the team wants to look at some more guys before the season ends.

Sounds like Feierabend to me. By the way, to answer cesame in the comments thread, Feierabend threw only 2 1/3 innings and 53 pitches tonight. Then, he was pulled early. It was like a bullpen session. He can go again on Sunday.

Below, a shot of Dickey, telling it all to good buddy Mark Teixeira.

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Continue reading this post ...


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August 13, 2008 6:37 PM

Ibanez, Washburn claimed

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, I'm going to have to stop listening to scouts at the breakfast table because Raul Ibanez was definitely claimed on waivers today, as was Jarrod Washburn. Ibanez told me he was informed, by someone in-the-know, upon arriving at the park today that a claim on him had been put in. Washburn also received similar information.

The team now has until tomorrow to work out a deal. Actually, it has 48 1/2 "business day hours'' from when the claim was made. So, if it was made today, it would be Friday. If yesterday, which is what folks are saying, it would be tomorrow. Or else, it can pull the players back. Or, allow them to be claimed for salary owed. That won't happen with Ibanez, who is owed less than $2 million and still has value. It might with Washburn, owed roughly $13 million from now through 2009.

In Ibanez's case, we're trying to confirm it, but the Tampa Bay Rays would certainly be a claimant, as would the Boston Red Sox (attempting to block the Rays from acquiring him) and the Toronto Blue Jays (who could secure draft picks if Ibanez leaves as a free-agent after the season). But others could be in on him as well, including the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. We'll see. He has no idea.

With Washburn, it could be limited. I keep hearing the St. Louis Cardinals might be the team but I can't say for certain. I know that's not too precise. But nothing is.

Take the Rays to the bank with Ibanez. They just lost left fielder Carl Crawford for the year. Their pennant hopes are hanging by a thread. Trouble is, the Red Sox and others can block such a deal.

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August 13, 2008 3:16 PM

Vidro officially released

Posted by Geoff Baker

There you go, Jose Vidro -- cleanup hitter for much of his final month in Seattle -- is placed on irrevocable waivers and officially released by the Mariners. No takers for him in a trade.

No word yet on what's happening with Jarrod Washburn and Raul Ibanez. Obviously, the news of Ibanez being placed on waivers contradicts what I was told this morning. No doubt there was interest in both players. As we discussed last month, dumping either for cash-only was never going to be a July 31 deadline issue. I'm working on it...

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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.


Continue reading this post ...


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August 12, 2008 10:52 PM

Another mistake-filled loss

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Speaking of padding stats, here comes Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez to notch a four-run save after an error in the ninth brings the tying run to the on-deck circle. Yeesh. K-Rod strikes out Raul Ibanez for save No. 46 -- in pursuit of Bobby Thigpen's record of 57.

When an error by the shortstop costs your team three runs and a win, it gets to the point where you wonder how much longer that team can continue to play said infielder. Yes, Yuniesky Betancourt did look like Ozzie Smith on that groundout in the seventh inning. But what can I say?

Too late. Mariners lose 7-3.

This was what Carlos Silva talked about last Friday. Bringing your "A Game" right off the bat. Betancourt didn't have it on that Jeff Mathis grounder in the fifth inning and Jarrod Washburn got buried after that. Oh well, another night, another derfeat. Jeff Clement nearly cost Washburn big in the third inning by failing to snag a foul pop-up by Vladimir Guerrero near the screen.

Washburn got his catcher off the hook for that one, striking out Guerrero. But he couldn't pick up Betancourt, nor fool Guerrero a second time when the error enabled him to bat in that fifth inning.

Story of the game right there, folks. Some more botched chances on offense against a shaky Jon Garland.

You've got to get the runner home from third in that fifth inning with one out and Adrian Beltre up. Then another chance later, in a 4-3 game, with one out and runners on first and second, goes by the wayside as well. Lack of execution. So, is it a "talent" issue? Or an execution issue? Not saying these are mutually exclusive, just asking which is predominant with this club?

Mark Lowe yields three runs in the eighth on a Garret Anderson homer and a Juan Rivera double. That's your ballgame. Washburn gets another "quality start" of seven innings, one earned run allowed. But I'm sure he'd rather have had the win.

"When you know that if you make one bad pitch here or there, and it changes the whole game, it's tough to do,'' Washburn said after his 12th "quality start'' this season. "You would hope every game doesn't come down to one pitch. But it seems to be working that way for us.''

Yes, it has. It's why Silva blew a gasket last week. One reason Washburn has only four wins to show for those dozen quality starts.

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman addressed his players after the game. He talked about how it's a team game and that their missed opportunities throughout the contest helped create the loss. Riggleman tried to downplay the Betancourt error as a play made on a "hard hit ball'' that was no gimme. True, it wasn't. But Betancourt is supposed to be an above-average shortstop defensively. At least, that's the rumor.

Riggleman was upset about the lack of add-on runs against Jon Garland.

"I think sometimes some of our guys are going up to the plate with the weight of the world on their shoulders,'' Riggleman said, "and wanting to be successful so bad that they're just not allowing themselves to relax and get a quality at-bat.''

We've been hearing that one since the beginning of the season. It may be true. Perhaps these players are trying too hard in pressure situations. The flip-side, a pessimist might say, is that they can't handle pressure. I won't make that call definitively just yet. But they have been making this "trying too hard'' claim all year. getting the job done, apparently, is a lot harder than it sounds.


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August 12, 2008 8:39 PM

Mariners at Los Angeles Angels: 08/12 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Guarantee you Jarrod Washburn is ticked. Just gave up four runs -- one earned -- in the fifth inning, courtesy of two home runs and one huge error by Yuniesky Betancourt. The usual Betancourt Laze-O-Rama came when he waved his backhand at a grounder to his right. That enabled Jeff Mathis to reach after Juan Rivera had already hit a solo homer. Then, instead of an ensuing 4-3 groundout by Chone Figgins, the play wound up a single through the right side because Jose Lopez had to break for second to cover the runner. A bunt moved both men over. Mark Teixeira then grounded out to bring an unearned run home. Then, the big byproduct of the error -- the fact that Vladimir Guerrero got to hit again with men on. Guerrero smoked a 1-0 pitch into the stands.

Look, I'm not going to say Washburn pitched great. But this is how big innings get going. It's happened too often this year. Breakdowns going on behind the pitchers. Seattle trails 4-3 because of it.

To switch gears a bit, I know many of you are worried about the "deadline" the Mariners have for signing first-round pick Josh Fields. Stop worrying. It turns out, there is no "deadline" at all. At least, not for a long while. Fields was a college senior, so he isn't bound by the Aug. 15 deadline other picks have looming over them. That's because they may opt to go back to school and the deadline is there because of that.

Not for Fields. He isn't going back to school. The Mariners have until a week before next June's draft to get a deal done. Sure, they'd like for that to happen before next season, no doubt. But it doesn't have to happen this week. So, sleep easier.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 12, 2008 4:55 PM

More on "bad talent" underachievers

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Greetings from Anaheim, where the Angels have just taken the field for batting practice. I've just finished perusing all of your comments from this morning (as usual, it takes about an hour since there are so many of you chiming in). I'd like to thank lawyer pal M's Fan in CO Exile for running the blog while I was flying out here. Your check is in the mail.

One thing though, with Colorado's excellent summary, is that he compared the ZiPS projections for the Mariners to their present-day stats. Not to the other list I provided from mid-May. I'm not complaining, since I put those up there for comparitive purposes. It's true that some Mariners are starting to rise up to near where their projections were supposed to be. Some haven't and never will. And if we look back to mid-May, when everyone in the blogosphere was complaining that this team was non-talented trash, we see numbers that don't come anywhere close to the projections.

Now, I didn't pick mid-May out of a hat. That was the day we ran our front-page story about whether the M's clubhouse could be having trouble based on linguistic and nationality lines. We'd pronounced the season all-but-dead in the paper and on the blog. The rationale was that the M's had just blown a chance to fatten up on a Rangers squad that wasn't supposed to be all that good. Pretty much, from that date on, the team never really recovered from its tailspin. You can use the end of May if you want, which is when Bill Bavasi called out the players for a lack of leadership. I'm just telling you why I picked mid-May.

So, if you go with those OPS numbers, versus their ZiPs projections in brackets, you get:

Ichiro .688 (.776)...88 points below expected
Lopez .737...(.671)...66 points above expected
Vidro .533...(.734)...201 points below expected
Ibanez .854...(.799)...55 points above expected
Beltre .777...(.770)...7 points above expected
Sexson .714...(.764)...50 points below expected
Johjima .571...(.721)...150 points below expected
Wilkerson .652...(.741)...89 points below expected
Betancourt .629...(.723)...94 points below expected

So, to summarize, at the point in time that the team truly fell out of it and all of us began turning to next year, the lineup had four guys out of nine who were underperforming OPS projections by 88 points or more. You had six guys out of nine who were 50 points or more below their projected OPS. And you had two guys who were 150 points or more below.

That is catastrophic.

Yes, Jose Lopez was a surprise. But as a team, if you were going to pick one player to overperform offensively, it probably would not be your second baseman. I mean, good on Lopez. But the team needed that from a true power hitter. It got some from Raul Ibanez, as it has all year. Otherwise, when it mattered, a total disaster. Had this team put up its projected numbers we probably would not have been writing off the season in mid-May. Maybe in mid-August. But not in mid-May.

Pitching-wise, no starter had reached expectations by mid-May. Arguably, Felix Hernandez is the only one to have come close to exceeding them this year. Erik Bedard has a good ERA, but finish about 80 innings shy of where most folks expected him to be. That's an enormous innings loss for any staff to make up. Was that a non-talent issue? Or simply a bad luck issue?

Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista and Carlos Silva were all league average pitchers last year. This year, only Washburn has a shot at coming close. None were remotely close in mid-May. Lack of talent? Terrible defense behind them? Underachievers?

Ditto with J.J Putz and Eric O'Flaherty, whose struggles and injuries hurt the team badly in the first six weeks. No talent? Or underperformance? Or bad luck?

These are not mundane questions. Yes, it's true the M's might have overachieved at 88 wins last year. But they won 78 games in 2006. Wouldn't a natural progression from that and regression from last year, leave them at somewhere near 83 wins? Not like the team changed all that dramatically. It added Bedard, lost Jose Guillen. If you think 83 wins, or 80 wins, is right, why is this club headed for 64?

This is what has to be figured out. Can this club add a few players and hope to compete next year? Or, is it so untalented that you have to gut it? Or, is it a team that will produce its numbers over a full season, but not when those numbers matter.

You've seen the numbers Colorado showed you. Some of them don't look so bad. But in mid-May, they were horrific. Some teams that are way out of it do tend to bring up their numbers. Some might even call it padding their stats when nothing's at stake.

We had a guy here earlier this year who many of you accused of doing just that when I first got here in 2006. I wrote a story in Sept. 2006 about "numbers guy" Richie Sexson and how he'd met his home run targets with a lot of meaningless August and September dingers.

So, is that how we should measure numbers? By year-end? Or do we judge Ichiro and company by what they did when it matters? Like back in mid-May. If you don't think so, then you were obviously OK with what Sexson and Adrian Beltre did in 2006. Like I said, there are a lot of things to consider when comparing numbers, projections, overachievement and underachievement.

If you liked Sexson, the 2006 "numbers guy" then you'll probably be OK with what the M's are now doing numbers-wise and measure their production from here. If not, you'll want to go back to when the games meant something and measure from there.

Can't have it both ways, though.

So, in my mind, when there was still a season to play for, this team vastly underachieved. Whatever has happened since is, well, mere numbers being tacked on to nothing. Can you judge a season off those? I don't think so. I think you have to look at what this team did when it mattered and judge from there.

How much was bad luck? How much was injury-related and how much is a lack of talent? For me, the talent would be on the third level. But ultimately, if that talent can't produce when the games matter, you might have to change the entire bunch in any case.

Like I said, this isn't an easy puzzle to solve.


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August 12, 2008 8:12 AM

Bad talent or underachievement?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Getting ready to shove off to Anaheim for tonight's game. Quite the off-day spent by a lot of you going back and forth on the whole Carlos Silva issue. Just one note: I don't dislike Brett Miller. And neither should some of you. I've actually met him before, posted this item from him back in February, on the blog, so I know he's a guy who puts thoughts into things. Was surprised to see him say he'd lost respect for me because of an opinion on Carlos Silva. But, oh well. He's got his opinions, I've got mine. It's been a long season, and these things come and go. As we can see from reading that old blog post, we all had expectations for this season that didn't quite get fulfilled. Silva, Miller, myself.

A part of yesterday's debate centered around whether the Mariners truly are a bad team, built with inferior talent, or merely an underachieving team with players who can't win when they have to. As many of you know, I'm siding with the latter part of that argument. And no, it's not because I'm afraid of being proven wrong about my pre-season prediction. I've already been proved wrong. So, that's not really part of this discussion. The team hasn't won. It hasn't contended. Whether it's for one reason or another, I was still wrong. This isn't an attempt at excuse making. It's an attempt at figuring out what the heck went wrong this year. Something the team is no doubt doing as I type this. In the spirit of catching my plane on time, I'll make this brief.

Here's how I've gone about determining why this team is an underachiever more than a "bad talent" assembly. First off, let's look at this set of on-base-plus slugging percentage statistics, as of today, for the Mariners' starting nine position players and DH (from the Opening Day roster):

Ichiro .755
Lopez .775
Vidro .612
Ibanez .837
Beltre .742
Sexson .696
Johjima .558
Wilkerson .652
Betancourt .632

Better yet, let's look at what they were back on May 15, when, after getting thumped twice in a week by the Texas Rangers, the M's limped home from their latest road trip all but out of it:

Ichiro .688
Lopez .737
Vidro .533
Ibanez .854
Beltre .777
Sexson .714
Johjima .571
Wilkerson .652
Betancourt .629

So, there you go. Obviously, a bunch of players are no longer here. Wilkerson appears to be a case of a guy who simply fell off the planet. I'll grant you that. It happens. But as for the rest, what I do is look at where they were projected to be in 2008, using whatever system you want. Try PECOTA, or ZiPS. Any system at all. Plug it in and see what was projected for them. Then, you look and see where those numbers correspond to the actual ones put up right now. Or, see where they corresponded to those that had been put up at about the mid-May point this team fell out of it.

If they are close, then take that system you used to project performance and put it in the bank.

Or, if they are largely off, you might want to reconsider your claim this team had no talent to begin with. All I'm looking for, in trying to understand the "no talent" argument, is a sign that these players are performing about as expected by everyone before the season began and therefore stink. But I'm not finding that in my research. So far, what I've seen is massive underperformance. And when you have that, I think it's letting the players off the hook too easily to attribute this year's collapse to poor roster building and other things that ignore the massive underachievement we've seen. Sure, some players, like Wilkerson, simply crash. But an entire lineup? Remember, this isn't an old versus young thing. The old guy, Raul Ibanez, has held up quite well. The younger guys, like Yuniesky Betancourt and Adrian Beltre, not so well. Was Ichiro a case of "no talent" with that .688 OPS in mid-May? Not to me, he wasn't.

But that's just me. Do the exercise. Compare projected versus actual numbers. Do it with pitchers, too. You can. And like I said, if this team comes close to the numbers your system projected, send them on by to me and I'll reconsider my stance that this is more of an "ability to win when it matters" issue versus a "talent" question.

Simple enough? I've got to catch my plane.


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August 11, 2008 10:16 AM

Silva's complaints

Posted by Geoff Baker

"I don't care if we are 40 games behind, we should have played better than this,'' Silva said. "For me, every game is important. For me, if we are where we are right now, we should take it one game at a time and play one day at a time. Thinking 'We've got to win this game'. And when the day is over 'We've got to win the next one.' ''

-- Carlos Silva after Friday's game


"It was a total team letdown, starting with myself right on down...We all had a real direct hand in that loss."

--Jim Riggleman after Saturday's game


"It's something that's biting us way too often.''

-- Riggleman before Sunday's game on team's lack of execution


"Today we took a step backwards. We played a real bad ballgame."

-- Riggleman after Sunday's game


Ah, aren't Monday mornings grand? For some of you who haven't figured it out, it was Larry Stone writing yesterday. I haven't been "on'' since Carlos Silva came forward to speak on Friday night. But have followed the highly-predictable aftermath of his comments with great interest. To me, it seems the biggest crime Silva committed was being a day or two ahead of his manager in his public observations. Oh yeah, and the fact that he's packing on some extra pounds. Other than that, Silva didn't voice anything that anyone following this team -- more importantly, actually watching it play -- hadn't already wondered. The hair-splitting I've seen over his "padding stats" comments is just that. Hair-splitting. Silva's message was a simple one. It's one the Mariners have been accused of since way back in April. Not bringing their "A game" day-in, day-out. They haven't. So, what's the problem?

This was a team expected to contend for the post-season. Or, for those of you who "predicted" that the offense would falter, at least a team expected to play around .500 ball. It has done neither. Why are so many so quick to let it off the hook? Silva isn't. Nor should he be. This team, the way it has played all year long, is an absolute disgrace. It is perhaps the worst team in baseball. And the reason is that so many players, individually and collectively, have failed to meet either their career or computer-projected norms. So, what's wrong with Silva noticing?

Remember "White Line Fever"? The line Bill Bavasi used to describe players who couldn't get the job done once they crossed the lines of the playing field? As Bavasi noted, there's a difference between playing hard and playing smart. You can play hard, but if you keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, it becomes an issue of needing to play smarter. To focus on making the right plays in certain situations. On executing when the situation arises. Are the Mariners focused on playing the game right? On bringing their "A game" each and every night? I don't know how anyone watching the games can make that argument. This team has been one of baseball's worst when it comes to getting the runner home from third base with fewer than two out. Also one of the game's worst when it comes to allowing harmless looking grounders to "sneak through" the infield. At failing to make routine plays, like throwing the ball to first base after a tough snag of a grounder. Or covering the bag on a steal attempt. Or hitting the cutoff man so runners don't move up an extra base.

There have been far too many physical and mental lapses all year long. Silva is just fed up. Was he the right guy to be voicing complaints? Well, in theory, no. A guy with a 4-13 record and an ERA up near 6.00 should not have to be the one coming forward. There is a risk his message will be lost amongst the howling masses looking for any reason to discredit the substance of what he is saying. Unfortunately...acutally, fortunately for the people who need defending, when you get into journalism, it's your job to look past things like that, or issues like a pitcher's weight, or fan popularity, and get into the substance of what a guy actually says. So, Silva might have a bad record. Might not look the way some of you feel a pitcher's body ought to look. Nor be as popular as Ichiro, or Raul Ibanez, or Adrian Beltre. But that doesn't invalidate what he has to say.


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August 10, 2008 5:57 PM

Lopez aftermath

Posted by Larry Stone

I honestly thought Jim Riggleman might make a public example of Lopez after the game (beyond pulling him from the lineup in the fourth inning shortly after hitting a home run). But for now, the manager chose to let the situation speak for itself.

"I don't think I even want to address that right now,'' Riggleman said after the 11-3 Mariners' loss to Tampa Bay, when asked why he pinchy-hit for Lopez in the fourth.

"I appreciate the question, because obviously, you take a regular out of the ballgame in the middle of the game, it's going to raise questions. But I haven't talked to Jose yet. After I talk to him, I'll find the right words to explain it to you guys. But I want to get those words out to him first.''

It seems pretty obvious that something about Lopez's play on defense in the fourth inning upset Riggleman. He did confirm that there was no injury involved. The most glaring moment, as mentioned in the game thread, was when Lopez let Jeff Clement's throw on a stolen-base attempt by Akinori Iwamura get past him. I asked Riggleman if he was trying to send a message by pulling Lopez, but again he wouldn't bite.

Lopez, meanwhile, looked none too happy after the game. He talked briefly with reporters, saying he had "no idea" why he was pulled. He said, "Ask the manager.''

We tried that, Jose.

At any rate, this is a good test of Riggleman's abililty to hold this team together. After Carlos Silva's comments calling out his teammates on Friday, and now Lopez being benched mid-game, things could really start to go south. I think the team has responded well to Riggleman thus far; we'll see how he navigates this treacherous juncture.

Riggleman was pretty succinct in summing up the game.

"It was just a bad ballgame. We didn't play good. I don't know how else to say it. It's not in line with the way we've played lately. We've been very competitive. We're getting beat, but as all clubs do when they lose, you feel you should have won ballgames. We've had so many we felt we should have won. Today, it didn't even look like we belonged on the same field.''

Well said by the skipper. Now I'm going to go attend a remedial course on lineup posting.

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August 10, 2008 1:00 PM

Game thread, 8-10, Mariners vs. Rays

Posted by Larry Stone


Update 2:30: Interesting development here, with Tug Hulett pinch-hitting for Jose Lopez in the fourth, after Lopez had hit a home run his previous at-bat. There doesn't seem to be any injury to Lopez, so this could have something to do wtih the throw to second base on Iwamura's stolen base in the top of the inning. Jeff Clement's throw was good and seemed to beat Iwamura, but it went off Lopez's glove and into center, and Iwamura advanced to third. It was originally ruled an error on Clement's throw, but the official scorer just changed that to an error on Lopez.

(OK, I was in a hurry when I typed the lineup. Ichiro is in right, Balentien in center, Reed in left. The Mariners are not going with three center fielders).

Both sides have some bad injury news today, but Tampa Bay's has more serious ramifications for the pennant race. Carl Crawford, their outstanding outfielder, was placed on the DL with a finger injury, and there is some fear that he might be out for the remainder of the season. Obviously, that's a huge blow for the Rays, who are battling Boston and New York in the AL East. They activated Rocco Baldelli today and put him in the lineup in right field,, but there is no guarantee that Baldelli, battling his own medical condition -- something called mitochondrial disorder -- will be able to produce. Crawford apparently hurt himself on a check swing against J.J. Putz on Saturday. The official term is a subluxation of his right middle finger tendon.

Meanwhile, Willie Bloomquist was put on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring pull he suffered running out a double-play ball in the 10th last night. Tug Hulett was called up from Tacoma to take his roster spot. Jim Riggleman said before the game, "It's a very significant pull. I don't know if we'll see Willie the rest of the year."

If that's the case, that could be the end of the Willie Bloomquist era in Seattle. He is a free agent after the season and has made noises about exploring an opportunity in the National League, where playing time might be more plentiful.

Rays

Akinori Iwamura 2B

BJ Upton CF

Carlos Pena 1B

Rocco Baldelli rf

Cliff Floyd DH

Ben Zobrist SS

Eric Hinske LF

Willy Aybar 3B

Shawn Riggans C

Edwin Jackson P

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Jeremy Reed LF

Raul Ibanez DH

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jose Lopez 2B

Jeff Clement C

Wladimir Balentien CF

Bryan LaHair 1B

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

R.A. Dickey P

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August 9, 2008 11:55 PM

"A total team letdown."

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

Before I head out after that 4 hour and 26 minute marathon, here's some tidbits from Jim Riggleman after the game.

"There was some ugly things, and there was some great things.

"It was a total team letdown, starting with myself right on down ... We all had a real direct hand in that loss."

On Bloomquist:

"Willie's in bad shape. Willie's hurting. He really pulled it good."

On RRS in the sixth:
"I probably should have gotten him out of there a hitter or two before."

And on RRS overall:
"He made some great pitches, he was facing a tough lineup and did a good job. We just couldn’t make some plays for him."

On Beltre's double play:
"Any pitch hit in the infield is going to be a double play. He hit it hard. He squared it up and hit it good. Adrian Beltre can do no wrong in my eyes. He's just the ultimate professional."

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August 9, 2008 4:46 PM

Tampa Bay Rays at Mariners -- 8/8/09 game thread

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

9:17 p.m. And it all comes crumbling down. All told, seven straight Rays reached with two outs, turning a 5-1 lead into a 7-5 deficit. And RRS will not be leaving today with his first win as a ML starter.

8:53 p.m. Rowland-Smith got a standing ovation for striking out Carlos Pena to end the fifth, and that might have been the seminal moment of the game there.

The Mariners wasted an opportunity in the third. They had runners on second and third with no out, but Balentien fouled out, followed by a shallow fly out by Bryan LaHair and another pop foul by Johjima. Here's betting that Carlos Silva noticed.

8:03 p.m. Gabe Gross tags Rowland-Smith with a HR to right, and it's 5-1. But otherwise, Rowland-Smith is hanging in there, with 43 pitches through three. He's got a good chance to go six or more.

7:53 p.m. The M's rattled four straight hits off Matt Garza there, with Johjima's double the biggest of them. With no outs, Sam Perlozzo made the right move to keep runners at third on the hits by Johjima and Yuniesky Betancourt. Both runs eventually scored.

Mariners lead 5-0.

7:32 p.m. The Mariners got a couple there, starting with Ichiro's leadoff HR, but they probably walk away from that inning thinking they should have had another. Lopez popped out with Ibanez on third and one out; with the infield in, he just had to get something past the dirt.

It's 2-0 M's.

Ryan Rowland-Smith had a bit of a scare there in the first, grazing Carlos Pena's face with an 0-2 fastball, but otherwise, he looked solid in the first inning. He goes 13 pitches -- 11 of them strikes. He threw just one ball to Upton and another to Pena.

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August 9, 2008 4:33 PM

Riggleman "very disappointed" with Silva's comments

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

Jim Riggleman didn't hold back today discussing Carlos Silva's comments after Friday night's loss. Beginning, "I'm very disappointed," the manager spoke at length the postgame tirade. Here's the transcript of what he had to say:

"I'm very disappointed. A couple things I read there really didn't make any sense. And certainly the writers never would have gotten anything wrong. I'm sure you guys got it just right, but it's just very strange to me.

"When I hear someone say something about selfish play, I always just say, You know what, I challenge anybody to go in there and look at the tape of every game from March 31 to the present time and show me an example of somebody being selfish, and I'd stand corrected if you could point it out. But if you're saying somebody's selfish, I've got to hear some specifics.

"More importantly, he shouldn't say it to the writers. He should say it to me, he should say it to teammates he's directing it at. The one thing he was talking about, not using ground balls to move the runner, we've done a great job of that. But again, anytime you're not successful at doing that, it's the intent that you have to question. And I know the intention has always been to do that, but sometimes you don't get the result. I know guys have always tried to do that, and sometimes you're not successful doing it. You don't intend to give up base hits and walks, but you give them up.

"It's just the wrong way to send a message. You don't do that in the paper; you do that internally.

"I admire him more for doing it when he's 4-13, to tell you the truth. If you're 13-4 and you're saying stuff, it's kind of like, 'I'm going good so I can say anything I want.' At least he's speaking his mind when he's struggling, so I admire him for that, but again, whether it's when you're struggling or when you're going good, you just don't do it publicly.

"The stuff that was said, to me (it) was so convoluted that I don't know who he's directing it at, I really don't. If he had spoke to me, I would know who he was directing it at, because I would say, What are you talking about. But until you give a specific example...

"I'm gonna talk to him and a couple other guys. And he's used the phrase, 'the starting pitchers,' like 'we as the starting pitchers, we're focused, but some other people aren't or something.' That's ridiculous.

"One of the things that happens is there's a lot of cliches in the game, and every team that I've ever seen that struggled, people will say they don't do the fundamentals, they don't bunt runners, they're not hitting behind the runner to move runners over, they don't do this, they don't do that. You hear enough of that, and you look at the numbers, and you find out you're right there where everybody else in baseball is in sacrifice bunts, advancing runners, and the fundamentals of the game.

"It's almost like these blanket statements are made, and the perceptions are because you're losing, you're doing these things wrong. What it really comes to is we, like most teams, we take care of the little things. It's big things. We're not hitting good enough and we're not pitching good enough. If somebody wants to hide behind, 'Oh, we made a baserunner mistake or we didn't move a runner over,' ... and use the word selfish, you can try to act like, 'That's the problem right there. That will make up those 30 games.' But, you know, you've got to hit better and you've got to pitch better.

"When you've got something to say, don't use the newspaper to say it."

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August 8, 2008 11:09 PM

Silva erupts at teammates; hear audio

Posted by Geoff Baker

The Mariners did indeed lose 5-3 to the Rays as Troy Percival closed out a 1-2-3 ninth. Once James Shields got that three-run lead, you kind of knew he wasn't going to give it back.

Carlos Silva just went off on his teammates (some of them) in the clubhouse post-game. Says only half the team trying to win, the other half padding stats and making starters look bad. Said he's close to throwing someone up against a wall.

Listen to the audio portion of what he said right here.

"Maybe half of the team wants to do the best they can,'' Silva said. "Take the starting rotation...every time we cross that line, we want to do our best. No matter how many games we are behind. But maybe half of the team doesn't have that mentality. They are only thinking of finishing strong. And to put up their numbers. That's great, but that affects us. As a team, that doesn't work out.''

Silva's nickname (the other one that isn't Bison related) is The Chief. Here's another comment from him, referring to himself in the third person.

"Maybe Chief has to go and grab somebody from his neck and throw him into the wall and something's going to change,'' he said. "I'm very close to doing that, so write that down.''

This game was pretty much done by the third inning after Silva gave up four runs, three of them earned. Yuniesky Betancourt put an exclamation point on his Bobblehead Night by throwing a routine grounder into the camera bay behind first base. Two runs scored on that play. Jeff Clement had a nice double off the center field wall and a two-hit night, while Raul Ibanez made a leaping catch at the wall.

But I thought Ichiro could have made a better throw home (or not attempted a throw home in the first place) on a single to right in the third inning that scored Ben Zobrist, who is not exactly a track star. Both runners moved up on the play, allowing each to score on the Betancourt error. Carl Crawford ran hard up the line to first on the Betancourt throw. Remember, the Rays benched B.J. Upton the other day for not running out a grounder. The little things can mean all the difference.

"I don't care if we are 40 games behind, we should have played better than this,'' Silva said. "For me, every game is important. For me, if we are where we are right now, we should take it one game at a time and play one day at a time. Thinking 'We've got to win this game'. And when the day is over 'We've got to win the next one.' ''

Many of you will laugh at Silva and accuse him of making excuses for his poor record and ERA. You would be dead wrong. Silva is the last guy to make an excuse for a poor performance. He isn't saying anything that others haven't mentioned privately throughout the season. He's just the only one with the guts (and maybe the size) to say it in public. Put it this way, as he spoke, Felix Hernandez, a guy who's pitched pretty well this year, was standing about two feet to Silva's right listening to every word and smiling.

"It's tough, man,'' Silva said. "It's tough, because you never want to be in this (last place) position. Because, especially for us, as a pitcher, it's going to kill you. Especially as a starting pitcher, that's going to affect you so much.''

Jarrod Washburn was off to Silva's left. He could also hear -- the clubhouse was almost devoid of other players -- but chose to say nothing. Didn't jump up to protest. Nor agree out loud. He just listened. So, I finally asked Silva whether the other pitchers felt the same way he did. He looked at both Hernandez and Washburn, who both looked back at him.

"I don't know, but, Felix and Wash, we are very competitive,'' he said. "I can talk about those two. Very competitive, I don't know if they feel the same way I feel, but I'm sure they are very close (to it) too.''

Neither pitcher seemed to disagree. At least not out loud.

Jim Riggleman alluded to some of Silva's struggles, moments before the pitcher went off. He talked of how hard Silva has taken every defeat and how he's worked to grind out innings even while struggling all year to find control of his sinker.

"The way he gets after it is the way we want everyone to do it,'' he said.

It's a nice dream. But it's still not happening yet. And winning in the big leagues is about a whole lot more than putting up fancy numbers when they mean little. When these games meant something back in April and May, very few numbers were anywhere to be found. From folks being counted on to win.

Yes, this team still has problems. Learning how to bring it game-in, game-out is one of them. And it's a problem that's been here all season. Won't show up on a stats sheet. But it impacts the games just the same.

By the way, Ryan Rowland-Smith is here and starts tomorrow. Jared Wells goes to AAA.

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August 8, 2008 9:24 PM

Tampa Bay Rays at Mariners: 08/08 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

tbay0808 078.jpg

Very little going on in tonight's game. It's still 5-3, with the M's trailing as we head to the ninth. Seattle has had three baserunners since the fourth inning.

Jake Woods did a good job of tossing two scoreless frames after taking over from Carlos Silva one batter into the seventh inning.

Hmm, what else? Here's an interesting tidbit. Turns out Erik Bedard is a knockout ping-pong player. Can take just about anyone in the M's clubhouse.

He and Felix Hernandez were playing a round after the latter mowed down the Rays last night. Guess Hernandez was ready for more. Got to love the competitor in him.

Us Canadians love ping-pong. You can play it indoors, which comes in handy with all that snow.


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August 8, 2008 5:18 PM

Drayer, Capuano out

Posted by Geoff Baker

shannon.JPG

In the photo above, see Shannon Drayer and Cara Capuano, both on the far right (closest to the stands), walking past the area behind home plate last night following Raul Ibanez's game-winning home run in what would be their final M's game worked this season. Capuano is furthest to the right.

A couple of fixtures for those listening to Mariners broadcasts on both KOMO 1000 radio and FSN television won't be on the airwaves any more this season. While it had been known for some time that Cara Capuano was doing her final broadcast work on M's games -- and for FSN -- last night, the news today that radio sideline reporter Shannon Drayer had been let go came as a shock.

I rode up in the elevator with both last night after we'd all done post-game interviews. Drayer was wishing Capuano, whose contract was up at the network, well in her efforts to land with another network. She didn't sound like someone who knew she'd also worked her final Mariners game of 2008. Then today, news came that Drayer would not continue to work M's games this season. It's a tough business. From what I'm told, KOMO will no longer be sending a reporter on the road with the team or doing any post-game interviews. Drayer also wrote a very interesting blog that I had checked out routinely, including right before coming to the ballpark just today. She had good insights. Hopefully, we'll see her get picked up by KIRO when they take over M's broadcasts next season.

Either way, it's disappointing to see both go.

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August 8, 2008 3:56 PM

Bavasi hired by Reds

Posted by Geoff Baker

No, not as a general manager. But Bill Bavasi is going to be a special assistant to GM Walt Jockety with the Reds. This does not surprise me. Many former GMs get hired around the game. The Mariners had one in Dan Evans before he left to become a head honcho with a scouting firm. The first GM I ever covered, Gord Ash, was run out of Toronto in similar fashion to Bavasi this year. But Ash has thrived as an assistant GM with the Miwaukee Brewers for several years now.

Not every baseball executvie is cut out to succeed as a GM. But that does not make them any less of an executive. Bavasi is respected around the game for his time put in when it comes to scouting and development. And don't forget. Hire him and eventually, you might get to bring over some of the people who used to work for him in Seattle. Been known to happen. There are a number of top people in this organization, Bob Fontaine being one of them. I'm not speculating about anything. Just saying stuff happens.

Bavasi had been in this game too long to be jobless for any length of time. Here's to wishing him best of luck.

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August 8, 2008 10:00 AM

Kids running wild

Posted by Geoff Baker

So, we've had an interesting situation the past week of a couple of first place teams coming into Safeco Field and getting upended by the younger Mariners. Seattle has now taken 3-of-4 from the Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Rays with the Jeremy Reeds, Bryan LaHairs, Wladimir Balentiens and Jeff Clements of this world filling out the lineup cards. Yes, Jose Vidro was still here when the "streak" began, but that was done a day later and Balentien was up -- just in time to notch the hit that likely turned defeat into victory for the Mariners last night. Yes, the Ibanez homer was big. But without that Balentien double, the M's likely don't tie the game and it's a different scenario heading into the ninth.

By now, as you'd imagine, the Rays and Twins must be feeling a little frustrated. After all, they no doubt saw the M's on the schedule and figured this would be prime time to fatten up on their lead in the standings.

The Twins might not have known any better, but the Rays certainly should. August can be a dangerous time to play against teams so far out of it they need a telescope to see the next closest competitor. By the second half, non-contending teams usually stack their roster with "kids" to get a look at the future. Or, they leave all the angst of a first-half disaster behind, using the All-Star break to psychologically begin a "new' season, one in which their fans make a break from the first three months as well and tend to also take a fresher outlook while not riding the club as hard.

Frankly, when you bury yourself so far back so quickly, it does remove a certain pressure to perform. Throw in the Dog Days of August, when contending teams are trying to pace themselves, or store some energy for that final September sprint, and you can have the recipe for on-field upsets.

Covering the AL East every year since the Rays' inception in 1998, until my arrival in Seattle late in the 2006 season, my former colleagues and I seemed to notice how some terrible Tampa Bay teams always seemed to have these crazy, illogical second-half runs that came out of nowhere. I mean, these were teams that perennially lost between 90 and 100 games. It was highly unusual to think the Rays capable of sustaining anything for two, three and even five-week stretches. But they usually did. Many of those teams had "kids" to open the season. So, that wasn't as big a factor as it may be for these Mariners. Still, the whole "pressure is off" and opponents trying to "fatten up" theory did hold.

Anyhow, it was always just a perception we had about the Rays. We called it the "Tampa Bay bounce" theory. I decided to do some research this morning and see just how close to reality that theory was.


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August 7, 2008 10:46 PM

Ibanez HR wins it

Posted by Geoff Baker

rays0807 032.jpg

Raul Ibanez rounds third and heads for home after a walkoff solo homer to lead off the ninth against Rays reliever Dan Wheeler. J.J. Putz gets the 2-1 win after pitching out of a jam in the top of the inning with runners at the corners and only one out.

Seattle tied the game in the bottom of the eighth on a Yuniesky Betancourt sacrifice fly that scored Wladimir Balentien and ended Andy Sonnanstine's night.

Eight brilliant innings from Felix Hernandez, who gets a no-decision. When I say brilliant, it's not because he had his best stuff. He clearly didn't. But he was smart enough to figure that out and still try to get by hitters on brains instead of brawn.

The key? A sinker that confounded the Rays time and time again.

"The difference that I see in Felix now is, tonight, he clearly didn’t have his best stuff and he's still into the eighth inning,'' Ibanez said. "He didn't try to strike everybody out. He was pitching-to-contact, for sure.

"So, a legitimate ace.''

Ibanez threw that last line in there. So, I went back and asked him what he considers an ace to be. Remember, this is one of the most overused terms in the baseball lexicon. Every pitcher with an ERA in the low 3.00's who can throw a complete game here and there is dubbed an "ace'' at one time or another.

But there's a difference between a guy who can be counted on to throw eight innings of one-run ball and a No. 1 starter who might do it once in a while. Remember, it's been nearly seven weeks since Hernandez went more than six innings. But Ibanez explained that he feels an ace is "a guy that your team and the other team knows that they really have their work cut out for them that day.

"And as an opposing club, you come in and know you may have to alter your game plan in a big way.''

Putz said this of Hernandez: "Felix didn’t have his best stuff by any means. That shows you what kind of pitcher he is. To be able to go out there without having his best stuff and dominate for eight innings...I think it shows you his maturity. That he's growing as a pitcher.''

Putz is growing, too. At least, growing back to where he was before all of his injuries this season. He gassed up the fastball when he had to tonight. And his splitter dropped out on Dioner Navarro when it had to in that ninth inning.

"The big thing is getting your arm strength back,'' he told me. "The secondary pitches are the ones that suffer when you don't have your arm strength back. When you have that arm strength, you have that confidence in your secondary pitches.''

A big hit tonight by Balentien. Another by Bryan LaHair that moved Balentien into position to score the tying run on that Betancourt sacrifice fly. The Mariners had failed in two prior attempts to score off Andy Sonnanstine with a runner on second and none out, so obviously, all three players figured big in that tying rally.

Amd Ibanez? What more can you say? He's the Player of the Week. And it's only Thursday.

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August 7, 2008 8:49 PM

Tampa Bay Rays at Mariners: 08/07 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

rays0807 030.jpg

This is the best I've seen Felix Hernandez look in a long time. Considering the caliber of the team he's facing, maybe his finest game since that one-hitter at Fenway Park. I'm serious. Forget strikeouts. He doesn't need them. Keeps mowing hitters down 1-2-3. As efficient as he's ever looked. You want to be a true ace -- one who goes seven-to-nine innings routinely, this is what you have to do. He's doing it -- very well.

Unfortunately for him, Andy Sonnanstine retired a franchise record 17 in a row at one point. So, it's still 1-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth. A four-hitter by Hernandez so far.

One of the most exciting young teams in baseball is visiting town tonight. Somebody forgot to tell the Seattle baseball community. Quite the tiny crowd tonight (OK, it's actually 25,423 but looked pretty small to start off. Still hardly a packed house). I guess Rays Nation has yet to catch on as a traveling pack.

rays0807 028.jpg

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August 7, 2008 5:16 PM

Batista to bullpen

Posted by Geoff Baker

rays0807 009.jpg

A look at Jeremy Reed, above, getting some work in at first base. With the logjam of outfielders, expect to see Reed perhaps getting some playing time at the position. We've known since yesterday -- well, since Brandon Morrow went down to AAA to be honest -- that Ryan Rowland-Smith would likely be starting this weekend. The logic being that Miguel Batista would replace Morrow in the bullpen. Batista was scratched yesterday from his coming Saturday start and manager Jim Riggleman confirmed today that Batista is off to the bullpen. Riggleman keeps leaving open the possiblity that Batista will start again this year. As for Rowland-Smith, the manager won't officially announce who will start until he absolutely has to, in case an injury or some unexpectedly heavy bullpen use scuttles the current plans beforehand. But it won't be Batista out there at the beginning. Maybe not the rest of the year.

"Any time we put him in the bullpen, it seems like there's been a need to put him in the rotation not too long afterwards,'' Riggleman said.

The manager is just being nice. If all goes according to plan, Batista is done starting in 2008.

"Without Morrow down there, we'd like to have him down there,'' Riggleman said of Batista in the bullpen.

Once a few weeks go by, it will be too late to stretch Batista back out again. And what's the point?

In fact, what we're seeing here could be a prelude to 2009.

The way J.J. Putz has looked, there will be some question marks at the closer position heading into next spring. I've been asked over and over again whether Brandon Morrow could be bullpen bound again next season. My answer is always a cautious one. Yes, he could indeed be back in the closer spot next year if Putz falters early -- sort of like Jonathan Papelbon with the Boston Red Sox in spring training of last season. Papelbon was pegged to be a starter, but after numerous pitchers failed as closers -- including Joel Pineiro -- it was back to the bullpen for him. Boston only won a World Series doing the flip-flop.

But -- and this is a huge but -- that scenario only makes sense if the Mariners plan on contending in 2009. If they don't, it makes more sense to stick with the Morrow plan and come up with an alternative. That could be Mark Lowe, though he'll have to show better command than he has this year.

It could also be Batista. Don't forget, he's been a closer before. If you need one in a pinch, there could be worse ones out there. In my ideal world, Batista next year becomes a high-priced set-up man for Putz. Let's face it, trading Batista will be rough, unless he's packaged with some real gems. I can easily see the bullpen in his immediate and distant future.

That way, the team gives No. 1 draft pick Josh Fields a chance to learn to pitch in less pressure-packed situations -- if indeed he makes the team next spring, which is still a longshot. Not everyone is going to rise through an organization as quickly as Morrow did.

Yes, Fields will sign at some point in the next eight days. Stop worrying. This is all a part of the process. He's a reliever, not a future Hall of Fame shortstop. Even if his agent is Scott Boras.


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August 7, 2008 10:12 AM

Adam Jones revisited

Posted by Geoff Baker

A year ago at this time, the debate was raging as to whether the Mariners should insert raw rookie Adam Jones into the starting lineup at the expense of any one of a number of regulars. In fact, in the history of this blog, Jones and the debates that swirl around him have generated more site traffic than any other player with less than a full season to his credit.

Well, Jones has just finished his first season in the big leagues. He has a broken foot and is almost certainly done for the season.

His final batting line?

A .279 average, .320 on-base percentage and .405 slugging percentage. He hit seven home runs and drove in 50 runs. His .725 OPS ranked 13th out of 17 major leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances at the centerfield position. Same with his home runs totals. In other words, he hasn't set the world on fire with his bat yet, much as we've seen -- albeit in fewer at-bats -- from Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien over here in Seattle.

Playing the kids, as we've mentioned, requires patience and isn't always the quick ticket to the playoffs.

But wait. There is a second component to what Jones does, given how he plays centerfield. His defense, naturally, has to be taken into account. The author of this very interesting Reds blog has crunched more numbers than I can fit in my brain at one time and come up with a system for ranking the overall contributions of every player. Calls it "Total Value Measures". He's adjusted it for positions as well, a centerfielder being more valuable than a first baseman defensively and such.

The numbers only run up to about two weeks ago but you get a fair indication of what Jones accomplished in his first season for the O's. By that measure, Jones is the seventh best CF in the AL. So, right in the middle. But overall, in the majors, he rated 10th best.

That's right in the top third. Not bad for a first season. So, while Jones did not threaten Joe DiMaggio on any scale, as some projections (taking artistic liberties here) might have had you thinking a year ago, he did indeed show signs of that promise projected for him. Hopefully, he recovers quickly and can put in a full season next year. Ditto on the guy the M's received in a trade for him.


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August 6, 2008 6:14 PM

M's drop finale

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Bryan LaHair reached base on a leadoff single in the ninth. But Yuniesky Betancourt, pictured above, swung into a first-pitch double play grounder. Haven't seen that before. Ichiro flies out to right and the M's and Jarrod Washburn take a 7-3 loss.

Washburn goes six innings, yielding three earned runs on five hits. But Mark Lowe gives up the same hits and runs total in five fewer innings. That, and an error by Adrian Beltre and a great catch by Denard Span was the difference today. Joba Chamberlain is on the DL with tendinitis in his rotator cuff. The Yankees need pitching. Let's see if a deal can be struck.

Mariners catcher Jeff Clement said Washburn had plenty of late movement today, with the ball either sinking or cutting on hitters. As a result, with a few exceptions, they could not square up and make solid contact.

"I thought he threw the ball really well,'' Clement said. "You could tell in the first inning, striking out the side, that he had his good stuff going.''

The 0-2 pitch to Span was supposed to be a slider that started off on the outer corner and broke down and away. Instead, it began inside and broke over the middle, as you saw from our photo.

"It just kind of hung up there over the plate,'' Clement said.

That was enough to be a difference maker on the ensuing three-run triple.

"Early on, Span had a big hit,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "That pitch, I'm pretty sure Wash would like to have back. But as he always does...he kept us in there against a tough ballclub.''

Washburn has a 3.44 ERA since May 25. That's a whole lot of outings. I know ERA doesn't mean everything, but hey, that one outing against Baltimore last week doesn't exactly paint a complete picture either. he has seven quality starts in his last 10 outings. That means a little. He gave up only five hits today against a Twins team that scored 12 runs the past two games. Like I said, the big key is to figure out how hard the flyballs Washburn yields are being hit. When they're mostly mis-hit, as they were today, the damage is minimal. The groundball-flyball numbers in this case won't tell you the full story about a flyball pitcher.

New reliever Jared Wells tossed two scoreless innings. But he cost Mark Lowe an earned run when he bobbled a bunt attempt and mistakenly tried to nab the runner at third. Clement had yelled "third!'' when Wells tried to pick the ball up, but the moment he fumbled it, you have to get the sure out.

"I was wanting to go to third, but I couldn’t get a good grip,'' Wells said. "I should have maybe ate it and gone to first.''


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August 6, 2008 4:10 PM

Minnesota Twins at Mariners: 08/06 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Mark Lowe got knocked around in the eighth inning, yielding two singles and a two-run double to right center by Brendan Harris. Jared Wells came in to make his M's debut with Harris at second and one out and fielded a bunt to his right by Adam Everett. Wells made a poor choice to throw to third and was far too late to nab the runner. That put runners at the corners with none out. After a Carlos Gomez popout, Denard Span -- a mighty fine looking player -- legged out a bunt single to score the third Minnesota run of the inning. Jose Lopez dropped the relay from Bryan LaHair, enabling lead runner Everett to advance to third. Span then stole second base, still with only one out. Wells then walked Nick Punto to load the bases, struck out Mike Redmond with the count full, then got Justin Morneau to fly out. But the damage was done. Seattle trails 7-3.

Hard to believe Seattle came within a hair of taking the lead a half-inning earlier, when Adrian Beltre smoked what looked like a two-run homer to right field. But Span made a leaping catch at the wall for the inning's final out. The roof caved in on Seattle from there.

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August 6, 2008 9:36 AM

End of Vidro/Bavasi era

Posted by Geoff Baker

So, here we are, the Mariners now 1-0 in the post-Jose Vidro era. For me, the Vidro trade with the Washington Nationals truly symbolized the Bill Bavasi regime. It's funny, too, in a way. Because an argument can be made that Bavasi actually "won" that deal. But it was one of those wins that may not have been worth the effort. Like so many Bavasi moves, he might have actually out-thought himself on this one. Bavasi thought that, given the right circumstances, Vidro could go back to being a line drive doubles hitter and deliver an on-base-plus-slugging percentage that would be right up there with other DH types typically paid more money for hitting home runs. Sort of like an undervalued "Moneyball" type.

But here's where he out-thought himself.

First off, Vidro wasn't cheap. He cost two players plus $6 million per year in cash -- not to mention a vesting option for 2009. We've told you all along that the vesting option would not become a factor this year (once the M's fell out of contention) and it wasn't. Too much ink spilled on that one. There was plenty else to get antsy about with Vidro without having to nit-pick over a token contract clause. Only way it would have mattered was if he'd produced and the team contended. Then, as he approached the magic number of plate appearances, the team would have a painful choice to make between playing Vidro and sitting him.

Not once the team fell out of it. But where Bavasi might have helped himself was by simplifying things and simply sticking to the commonly held perception: that a DH is all about getting the guy most likely to rake home runs and extra-base hits with no defense required. And that they are generally easy to find.


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August 5, 2008 11:29 PM

Putz "closes" ninth

Posted by Geoff Baker

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You see J.J. Putz, above, striking out Nick Punto to begin the ninth inning. Putz held the 8-7 lead through the ninth and picks up the win. But since he blew the save opportunity in the eighth, he doesn't get credit for a save here. You can't create your own save opportunity, get it? Anyhow, a wild way for Putz to do what he's supposed to, retiring the side in the ninth. Walked Justin Morneau after that then yielded a double to Jason Kubel -- who had two homers already on the night -- to put runners at second and third. Putz then walked Delmon Young intentionally to load the bases, but pinch-hitter Mike Redmond flied out to right. A night that began awfully for Putz and looked shaky throughout still ends on a good note. But this could be a nervy last two months in the bullpen. Putz's four-seam fastball lacked command tonight and that's what Mike Lamb hit for that two-run double in the eighth.

Huge night for Raul Ibanez with five more RBI. Also for R.A. Dickey, who allows just three runs over seven innings. Oh yeah, that Jose Lopez fellow also wasn't bad.

Like I said, I think Ryan Rowland-Smith is going to be rejoining this team fairly soon. It's going to be tough to kick Dickey out of the rotation. Not when Miguel Batista has closing experience and lasted just three innings in a start last night.

"I'd like to think I’ve done a pretty good job making a case to stick in there,'' Dickey said. "I don't know how many starts I've had, but I've had five or six quality starts and given us a chance to win.''

Dickey says it's ultimately out of his hands. He's used to that. As a loyal employee, he'll go along with whatever the team, decides.

From these eyes, it's a no-brainer. He goes six or seven innings a night. End of story.

"I'd like to be part of the solution,'' Dickey added. "And I feel that I could be.''

This team has a lot of tough solutions to find. It should do itself a favor by going along with the easy ones.


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August 5, 2008 10:08 PM

Minnesota Twins at Mariners: 08/05 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A younger look to the Mariners tonight, with four guys in the starting lineup who were in Class AAA at the start of the season. That would be Wladimi Balentien at DH, Jeremy Reed in CF, Bryan LaHair at 1B and Jeff Clement catching. Oh yeah, wait. R.A. Dickey is pitching. Make that five guys out of 10 if you include hitters and the starting pitcher.

Tell you what, if these Twins hope to be serious playoff contenders come September, they'll have to learn how to hold a lead. Jose Lopez just doubled home a pair off Joe Nathan in the eighth to put Seattle ahead 8-7 as we head to the bottom of the ninth. What a wild ride. J.J. Putz is still out there. He threw only eight pitches in the eighth. Hang on, folks!

Jim Riggleman had plenty to say about today's moves before the game. Hear a lengthy clip from him about the DFA of Jose Vidro right here in which he talks about why the team waited so long to make the move. Also, how he was surprised no one picked up Vidro in a trade.

"I couldn't believe the phone wasn't ringing for someone to take Jose Vidro,'' he said.

Here is some more audio from Riggleman on why Brandon Morrow was sent down now. Just a day or two ago, Riggleman was stressing the need to see J.J. Putz notch back-to-back-to-back saves (never mind just back-to-back). Now, all that's been forgotten, so I asked him why there was such an about-face in thinking. He told me it had to do with the fragile balance between giving fans their money's worth (meaning not losing every night) and building for the future.

"Every night, our guys are trying to win and our staff is trying to win,'' he said. "But we're not going to win the pennant.''

No, they most certainly will not win the pennant or anything else. I suspect, as I wrote earlier, that the sudden change has plenty to do with the need to address the rotation. That Miguel Batista start of three innings last night, not to mention some other abbreviated outings, will likely necessitate the call-up of Ryan Rowland-Smith by his next turn in the rotation. Might Batista go to the bullpen? Perhaps. At that point, you'd want to option Morrow down in any event. So, there was little chance of Putz getting three straight (let alone two consecutive) save opportunities by Thursday or Friday. So, you might as well get Morrow down to Class AAA right now. Which the team has done.

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August 5, 2008 4:40 PM

Balentien tonight's DH

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Up above, a look at Ichiro and Jeremy Reed conferring in the outfield during today's batting practice, which is still going on. Can't blame Reed if he's asking "What does this all mean for me?''

It is getting to be a crowded outfield, now that Wladimir Balentien has been called up from Class AAA Tacoma following the DFA of Jose Vidro. We spoke to manager Jim Riggleman a short time ago and I asked him about the delays that have gone on in making this move. Asked him whether the injury to Jeff Clement had made him reluctant to jettison Vidro's healthy bat -- which had been hitting a bit better of late.

He flat out rejected that. Said this was all about Balentien.

"This is something we've talked about with getting Balentien here -- period,'' he said.

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OK, then. But again, if that's the case, why wait this long? Why not have called Balentien up on Aug. 1?

"He had been kind of hot and cold to tell you the truth,'' he said of Balentien, riding an eight-game hit streak. "He's been hot lately.''

Riggleman several times said he was surprised no one picked Vidro up in a trade. Makes me think there might have been something else going on behind the scenes. Perhaps there was a possible waiver trade to be made regarding Vidro (after the deadline) that fell through. Stuff like that happens all the time.

Otherwise, this whole Vidro and Balentien wait makes little sense.

Anyhow, Balentien is tonight's DH, batting seventh. Riggleman said there will be a rotation amongst the outfielders as to who will DH. Sometimes, Balentien, sometimes Reed and also Raul Ibanez. Riggleman said the DH thing won't happen a lot in Ibanez's case. Especially with him swinging the bat that he is right now. But he also mentioned that Ibanez has rarely had time off this year and that a DH stint here and there could give him a rest of sorts.

I caught up with Balentien just a few moments ago and asked him about going back down to Tacoma. He said it took him some time to get back in a groove again, but playing every day down there helped.

"It's hard when you aren't playing every day,'' he said. "It's hard to find your swing. But once I went down, after a few days, I had my swing back.''

Of course, Balentien had been playing every game for the M's before he kept swinging and missing at too many pitches.

"You need to make your adjusments quick if you want to come back to the higher levels,'' he said, nodding in agreement.

In other words, he can't slump like he did the last time and knows it. Rookie or not. He has to leave a positive impression.

Brandon Morrow will start in Tacoma tomorrow. He's on a 35-pitch limit, then goes into a regular five-day rotation, increasing each time as long as he feels OK.


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August 5, 2008 3:49 PM

Vidro designated for assignment

Posted by Geoff Baker

The Jose Vidro era ended today when the Mariners designated him for assingment. I just drove by him in the Safeco Field parking lot. I was headed in, he was leaving. The Mariners have 10 days to release, trade or demote Vidro to the minors -- a move he could refuse. Anyhow, he's gone.

Wladimir Balentien is back up.

Why did this take so long after the July 31 deadline?

My guess is it had to do with Jeff Clement's health. Clement was going to see quite a few DH at-bats. No use getting rid of Vidro if the guy who will take a lot of his at-bats is on-the-shelf. Now that Clement is feeling better, Vidro goes.

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August 5, 2008 2:22 PM

Morrow sent to AAA

Posted by Geoff Baker

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You may have heard the news that Brandon Morrow has finally been optioned to Class AAA Tacoma, where he'll be groomed as a starting pitcher. I got the news 20 minutes ago, but have been driving home from the North Cascades and unable to update the blog until now.

Tacoma reliever Jared Wells will take his roster spot, for now. I don't expect that to last much longer than a few days until Ryan Rowland-Smith is ready to make a big league start. Rowland-Smith pitched the other night, so he doesn't have to be called up right away. This way, the M's have a few days to figure out whatthey'll do with the rotation and who moves to the bullpen. Is it R.A. Dickey? Or Miguel Batista? Or neither? Will they bounce Dickey and Rowland-Smith around between starting and relief? The team has to figure this out. If Batista can only get one or two of his pitches over consistently, then maybe he belongs in the bullpen to compensate for the loss of Morrow's hard-throwing arm.

Thing is, if you know you're going to bring up a starter in the next few days -- whether it's Rowland-Smith or Ryan Feierabend -- then the discussion about J.J. Putz being able to go back-to-back-to-back becomes moot. Chances of the team getting that many save opportunities in a row are slim. You might as well make the move and bite the bullet now. This way, you'll get Morrow back for a start or two before major league teams start filling their rosters with AAA players come September. Morrow striking those guys out as a starter won't mean much as far as evaluating him for next year. You want him facing major leaguers a bit in 2008.

Here's what interim GM Lee Pelekoudas had to say:

"We have long viewed Brandon as a starter,'' Pelekoudas said. "He pitched his way onto the team in 2007, giving us an opportunity to acclimate him to the Majors in a relief role and, at the start of this season, we thought his greatest value to the team in 2008 was in the bullpen.

"However, as our season progressed and it became obvious we were not going to reach the goals we had entering this year, we began internal discussions on the best time to convert Brandon back to a starting role. We believe that giving him time to stretch out in Tacoma and then, hopefully, make some starts for the big league club before spending the 2008 off-season preparing to come to camp as a starting pitcher for 2009 is the best route for his development.''

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August 5, 2008 7:58 AM

Is Guillen M's man?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Plenty of you have written in since last week's latest episode involving Jose Guillen in Kansas City. Guillen has strongly denied an ESPN Deportes story that he is not on speaking terms with Royals manager Trey Hillman and wants out of KC. Some of you have mentioned a possible match for the Mariners, in which they could jettison the remaining salary of Carlos Silva in exchange for the final two years, $24 million owed Guillen.

The Mariners need some extra outfield power and Guillen's 16 homers, 73 RBI look -- on the surface at least -- to be a possible solution. His clubhouse presence was appreciated in Seattle. From what we saw in KC the brief time I was there last month, the young Royals were playing hard as well. Even if Guillen wasn't getting along with Hillman, that's not neccesarily a bad influence on the team itself. Only if they let it become one. Former Royals pitcher and current broadcaster Paul Splittorff agrees. From what we've seen, Guillen has driven in runs. More runs than any current Mariners player until Raul Ibanez went nuts in last night's seventh inning. He is producing.

But how well?

As of yesterday, Guillen's on-base percentage was at .295. That's too low. Too much like a whole lot of other Mariners have put up this season. His on-base-plus slugging percentage of .757 is also rather ordinary for a right fielder. To me, it's a lot more indicative of what might lie ahead than his 73 RBI. So, that gives me great hesitation. As good as Guillen was last season, and as strong a clubhouse presence as he was, his numbers matter as well.

The last thing this team needs is another Carl Everett. Guilen isn't quite where Everett was with the M's in 2006. But his numbers have fallen. Outside of his RBI total, which is dependant more on other runners ahead of him getting on-base than an OPS total.

That's my take. What's yours? For now, unless a further look at the numbers showed something more indicative of why his OPS is down 60 points from last year, I'd pass. You could get close to that production from Wladimir Balentien, I'd suspect, once he stops striking out every second at-bat.

On other fronts, let's see what happens with Brandon Morrow today. That start by Miguel Batista last night was discouraging to say the least. The M's could use another starting arm up in Seattle. Ryan Rowland-Smith looks to be about ready. Moving Morrow now so he can transform to a starting role and calling up Rowland-Smith to take his roster spot could be in the cards. This rotation needs more innings.


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August 4, 2008 10:58 PM

The Miracle at The Safe

Posted by Larry Stone

Well, I can't say I saw THAT coming.

In fact, I was crafting a story angle on the surprise resurgence of the Twins -- some of which I touched upon earlier -- when the seventh inning happened. That led to some mad scrambling to re-cast my story, which is one of the fun parts about covering baseball for a morning newspaper. That's the truth -- there's a big adrenalin rush when you have to furiously scramble to re-do your story right on deadline, which happens enough times a season to keep you honest.

Not surprisingly, the big talk in the clubhouse was about Raul Ibanez. No, he wasn't trying to match Fernando Tatis, the only player in history with two slams in one inning (1999, for the Cardinals, against the Dodgers). This quote, in fact, is classic Raul. I asked him if he was thinking about Tatis when he came up with the bases loaded again in the seventh after unloading his first grand slam:

"Actually, I was thinking the opposite,'' he said. "I was thinking smaller -- stay to the big part of the field and don't try to do too much. The likelihood of doing that (another grand slam) was not too great.''

OK, on to Batista. Yes, he was awful. With Ryan Rowland-Smith pitching six strong innings for Tacoma, you've got to think a change is coming. Riggleman was asked that very question after the game, and he gave a non-commital answer:

"We have been and will continue to monitor how he (Rowland-Smith) is doing. We want to get him up here, but we have no timetable on it. We'll keep discussing it.''

Seems to me they need to end the discussion on both Rowland-Smith and Brandon Morrow and make it happen. This is the time of year for examining the future. Mel Stottlemyre pulled Morrow into his office after the game, reportedly to go over some options of his eventual transition to the rotation. Before the game, Riggleman pulled back a little from his comments of Sunday. It seems he might have spoken out of turn when he said, rather definitively, that the team wanted to move Morrow into the rotation once Putz re-claims the closer job.

"I've been more aggressive talking about it than I probably should have,'' he said. "It might be soon, but it might not be as soon as I was alluding the other day.''


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August 4, 2008 6:28 PM

Mariners vs. Twins, Game thread, 8-4

Posted by Larry Stone


So it's Aug. 4, and the Mariners are finally playing the Twins for the first time this year. That's some bizarre scheduling. They play them nine times in the next three weeks, so they'll make up for lost time.

The fact that the Twins come to Safeco in first place in the AL Central is a testament to their organization. After losing Johan Santana and Torii Hunter (not to mention Carlos Silva -- insert your own joke), most people expected the Twins to be a non-factor. I can't remember where I picked them, but it sure wasn't for first or second. But they have developed a pretty good young rotation, one that figures to be much better if Francisco Liriano continues to pitch as well as he did yesterday. They have two superstars to build around in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, a great closer in Joe Nathan, and a lot of players who -- some of you are going to hate this expression, but I really think it's apt with the Twins -- know how to win.

Jim Riggleman was talking before the game about the "Twins way," and I think there's somthing to that. The current manager, Ron Gardenhire, learned under Tom Kelly, who was a brilliant teacher of fundamentals. Kelly won two World Series in five years before hitting lean times. Gardenhire told me today that he runs his team exactly the way Kelly used to, stressing fundamentals and effort and moving runners up and all those things that every team gives lip service to, but the Twins seem to be able to pull off. (And yes, they've had some great players, too. I recognize that). Whatever they're doing -- and give I give a lot of credit to frmer GM Terry Ryan, who retired after last year, and a was a master at drafting and acquiring young talent) -- they've been remarkably successful. This is Gardenhire's seventh season at the helm; he has four division titles in the previous six years, and could add another one this year. The Twins are doing something right.

Meanwhile, the Mariners decided to change Erik Bedard's throwing schedule, not because there's something wrong with his shoulder after 30 tosses yesterday. It's more because there wasn't. Bedard didn't throw today, as originally planned. Instead of going two days throwing, one day off, the Mariners switched to an every other day schedule this week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) and will re-evaluate after he throws Saturday.

"He's feeling so good, we don't want to increase the intensity,'' Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said. "We don't want to push it too hard and have it flare up again.''

Lineups

Orioles

Denard Span RF

Nick Punto 2B

Joe Mauer C

Justin Morneau 1B

Jason Kubel DH

Delmon Young LF

Brian Buscher 3B

Brendan Harris SS

Carlos Gomez CF

Glen Perkins P

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Willie Bloomquist CF

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jose Lopez 2B

Jose Vidro DH

Bryan LaHair 1B

Kenji Johjima C

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

MIguel Batista P

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August 3, 2008 5:55 PM

Putz on the comeback trail

Posted by Larry Stone

The best part of the Mariners' 8-4 win -- besides the occasional flyovers by the Blue Angels -- was probably an impressive outing by J.J. Putz, who needed just 11 pitches to get four outs. As I mentioned before the game, the Mariners are just waiting for Putz to assert himself and show he's ready to close again before beginning the process of making Brandon Morrow a starter.

Today was a huge step in that direction. Putz really sounded pumped after the game. He was particularly happy with a nasty split he threw to Nick Markakis that resulted in a ground out. For Putz to get back to where he needs to be, he needs to regain command of his split. As he pointed out, other teams know he hasn't had it, and they're able to sit on his fastball and slider. And with more than a month off, those pitches aren't at full strength yet, either. With a split back in the arsenal, Putz should start to progress toward last year's success at a faster rate. I noticed he popped a few fastballs at 97 mph, another good sign.

"To be able go out and execute the split today was a very, very big step,'' Putz said.

He admitted he's anxious to close again but said he completely understands why Riggleman is going with Morrow.

"I think today was a really big step in making that decision (to put him back at closer) easier for them,'' he said.

And how about Yuniesky Betancourt's four-pitch walk in the seventh? It was his seventh base on balls in 281 plate appearances this year. It was a big one, too, loading the bases with none out in a 4-4 game. Ichiro got the tie-breaking run across on a fielder's choice, and Raul Ibanez broke it open with a two-run single.

Combined with the Angels' loss to the Yankees, the Mariners crept to within 27 games of first place.


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August 3, 2008 12:31 PM

Game threads, Aug. 3, Mariners vs. Orioles

Posted by Larry Stone


Exciting development today -- an Erik Bedard sighting.

He re-emerged this morning to throw on flat ground for 30 throws, at 60-foot distance. Trainer Rick Griffin said it went well, and that he had no discomfort in his left shoulder -- an encouraging sign. But asked if there was any projection for his return. Griffin laughed and said, "We're projecting he'll play catch tomorrow."

Jim Riggleman also indicated strongly that Brandon Morrow will be transitioned to the rotation as soon as J.J. Putz shows he's ready to take overt the closer's role again. Riggleman said he thinks there's still plenty of time to make the move this season.

"You need a certain amount of time, but we're not at that point yet,'' he said. "How long did it take with Ryan Rowland-Smith down there? He's already ready. It doesn't take long. In two weeks, you can have him stretched out long enough to go five innings....We're not looking for Brandon to comeout here and go eight or nine innings.''

Lineups

Baltimore

Brian Roberts 2B

Jay Payton CF

Nick Markakis RF

Aubrey Huff DH

Melvin Mora 3B

Kevin Millar 1B

Luke Scott LF

Guilllermo Quiroz C

Alex Cintron SS

Daniel Cabrera P

Mariners

Ichiro RF

Jeremy Reed CF

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jose Lopez 2B

Jose Vidro DH

Bryan LaHair 1B

Jeff Clement C

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Carlos Silva P

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August 2, 2008 7:20 PM

O's at M's: 8/2 game thread

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

8:46 p.m. So I just looked it up, and the M's are the only AL team without an 8-game winner. Even more interesting, there isn't another pitcher (other than Bedard) who isn't three wins away from that mark. So Hernandez might be the only 8-game winner this season. Seattle had four 8-game winners last year. Even Horacio Ramirez mustered eight wins a year ago.

8:35 p.m. That was Hernandez's 100th pitch that Aubrey Huff delivered into right field to load the bases with just one out. But nine pitches later, Hernandez emerged without allowing a run, though you've got to think that's it for him. Sean Green's warming up as I type. If the M's are going to emerge with their first 8-game winner of the season, they'll need to get a couple in the bottom of the inning.

8:14 p.m.: At least from up here, it looked like Ichiro made the right decision throwing to third, but it's still a bold move by O's 3rd-base coach Juan Samuel to send Melvin Mora with Ichiro running in on Ramon Hernandez's base hit. Mora scored, but Kevin Millar didn't make it to third because of Ichiro's throw, limiting the Orioles to just a run in the inning. 2-1 O's. Credit Beltre for scooping up Ichiro's throw to get Millar in the rundown.

7:57 p.m.: 3 innings, 67 pitches. That's 30 in the last two, so if Hernandez can keep that pace, he could get into the sixth or seventh. He's looking good though, with a few strikeouts. And he made a sharp play on a grounder back to him, getting the runner at second.

7:36 p.m.: The Mariners get that run back, tying it at 1, but they do leave a couple on base after a couple feeble outs from the Joses (Lopez and Vidro).

One thing to watch for: Jose Lopez has a 19-game hit streak. So far, 0-for-1.

Felix Hernandez hasn't made it past the sixth since June 17 -- John McLaren was still the manager -- and with the pace he's on so far, he probably won't make it into the seventh today. It took him XX pitches to get through the first, going deep into the count more often than not. Adam Jones worked him good until Jones slapped a hit to left, and Huff worked a good walk. Then Melvin Mora poked a double past Bryan LaHair to bring in a run. So far, Felix has already thrown 37 pitches.

Could be a long night.

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August 2, 2008 4:19 PM

Betancourt likely returning tomorrow; Woods called up

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

Yuniesky Betancourt's out of the lineup again today, as he's still recovering from a sore right elbow. That elbow, manager Jim Riggleman said, probably hasn't been right for a while.

""Reflecting on the shortstop play in the last month, there was a lot of times where I felt like he's not playing the ball as well as he can ... Overall, I don't know that we've seen him at 100 percent out there with his arm."

Riggleman wants to get Betancourt back in the lineup for his defense. The shortstop's swing is another matter. He's hitting just .180 in his last 100 at-bats, and his average has dropped to .255. Someone brought up the possiblity of sending him down to Tacoma to work on his swing.

"Once he's back right, I'd like to see him go out here and play when he feels better with his arm," Riggleman said, later adding, "It's the offensive part of the game that's going to have to progress. I haven't really thought about him going down to do that ... It's something you could talk about, but it would be a last resort. We really wouldn't want to do that."

The Mariners called up left-handed reliever Jake Woods today to fill the spot vacated by Arthur Rhodes. Woods has been up with the big-league team three years running now, though his 2007 stint was only four games. Riggleman said Woods will be mostly used in long relief and as an early option against left-handers. Which means Cesar Jimenez will be the guy to face lefties later in the game.

Bryan LaHair's hitting seventh today. In his first 33 at-bats with the M's, he's hitting .333/.405/.515. It's a small sample size, but I don't imagine you'll find too many 33 at-bat stretches this season where the former first baseman bested those numbers.

I asked Jim Riggleman about LaHair's fast start, and the manager said LaHair's pitch selection has been important.

"The best thing he's done is he's gotten good pitches to hit, and he's taking the bad stuff," Riggleman said.

But Riggleman was wary about the sample size. And he did point out that LaHair already had a couple infield hits, and he joked that "if Bryan LaHair gets an infield hit, that's not something he's doing right. That's just happenstance."

Baltimore

1. Brian Roberts 2B
2. Adam Jones CF
3. Nick Markakis RF
4. Aubrey Huff DH
5. Melvin Mora 3B
6. Luke Scott LF
7. Kevin Millar 1B
8. Ramon Hernandez C
9. Juan Castro SS

RHP Jeremy Guthrie


Seattle

1. Ichiro RF
2. Jeremy Reed CF
3. Raul Ibanez LF
4. Adrian Beltre 3B
5. Jose Lopez 2B
6. Jose Vidro DH
7. Bryan LaHair 1B
8. Jeff Clement C
9. Willie Bloomquist SS

RHP Felix Hernandez

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August 2, 2008 4:08 PM

Same bull, different day

Posted by Geoff Baker

bison_2746.jpg

Yes, yes. I know it's not your typical bull. A bison, in fact. I'm actually up in the North Cascades for a few days. Flew home from Dallas yesterday and drove up here. Noticed that the blog had not been updated and that some of you were coming up with some rather interesting conspiracy theories (thanks for letting me out of the locked closet, Lee). So, here you go. An update thread.

The Mariners have added Jake Woods to the roster, filling the spot vacated by Arhtur Rhodes. Yes, that Woods, remember him? Just the lefty all of you were expecting, right? He's still only 26. I'll give you one thing, this team may do stuff we don't agree with. But it sure isn't predictable.

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August 1, 2008 10:07 AM

A little move, lots to analyze

Posted by Geoff Baker

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, it's time to look back at what was reasonably expected and what has transpired.

It became evident pretty quickly that, for all of the Mariners' tough talk after the firings of Bill Bavasi and John McLaren in June, they were not going to trade Ichiro. No matter how much sense it made at the time. Nor were they going to trade J.J. Putz at a time his trade value had dropped to its lowest point since he was still a minor league starting pitcher.

But this team had some intriguing options. A while back, we made a top-five list of the most likeliest Mariners to be traded. In the end, those players did indeed figure most prominently into trade discussions.

Here they were, in order of likeliest to be dealt:

Arthur Rhodes
Erik Bedard
Jarrod Washburn
Raul Ibanez
Adrian Beltre

Let's look at the five and see what lies ahead:

1. ARTHUR RHODES: He was the no-brainer trade of the group and the Mariners made out fairly well in picking up Class AA starting pitcher Gaby Hernandez for him. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman admitted yesterday that the team had known since spring training that a healthy Rhodes would likely be traded if Seattle fell out of contention. No surprises here. The Hernandez haul was good, but not overwhelming. Relievers often command their highest prices at the deadline, rather than the off-season when they are more abundant. Think back to last summer when teams wanted Wladimir Balentien or Jeff Clement for a righthanded veteran set-up man. Remember how the Texas Rangers scored three Red Sox prospects, including major league starter Kason Gabbard, for closer Eric Gagne? A decent minor league starting pitcher seems like it would be about the going rate for a 38-year-old situational lefty. When teams want to take a shot at winning, knowing how fleeting a playoff berth can be, they are often ready to give up more than seems worth it for relief pitching. The worth is all in the post-season, not in the one-for-one value of the players.


Continue reading this post ...


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