Two Grown Men Fight Over Ice Cream Sandwich

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians

The title perfectly summarizes this post. Two grown men fought over an ice cream sandwich Thursday night at a minor league baseball game in Boise. Even worse, they were both Mariner employees.

Jesus Montero has found a new low. I would call it rock bottom, but I thought he’d found that countless times in the past. No, not banishment to the minor leagues after drastically underperforming, not getting suspended for PED use, not even showing up to camp 40-pounds overweight. Jesus Montero’s latest transgression involves attacking a Mariner scout, armed with a bat and an ice cream sandwich.

I’ll give you a brief recap. Jesus Montero is currently on a rehab assignment with the Everett Aqua Sox. In Thursday night’s contest against the Chicago Cubs’ Class A Short Season affiliate, the Boise Hawks, Montero was reportedly being heckled throughout the game (even though he was coaching first base). This isn’t out of the ordinary, other than the fact that the heckles were coming from Butch Baccala, the team’s national crosschecker. Even that’s not too crazy. But, according to reports, Baccala decided to take it back to high school, and had an ice cream sandwhich sent down to Montero, taunting his weight. What a dumbass.

Montero, obviously not taking too kindly to this, stormed out to where Baccala was sitting, firing curses, threats, spit, and eventually, the ice cream sandwhich. Montero, armed with a bat, was eventually restrained by the coaching staff.

If this was any other Mariner season, I would not have been surprised at the events that unfolded Thursday night in Boise. But in the success of the 2014 Seattle Mariners, I have completely forgotten what idiotic acts typically highlight a Mariner season.

Jack Zduriencik has restrained from commenting on until he can gather more information on the happenings.

Baccala blatantly denied antagonizing Montero, sounding like a teenager who’s clever joke sounded better in his head than it did on Twitter.

“Of course I wasn’t,’’ Baccala said. “Why would I? I work for the Mariners. I’ve worked my ass off for the Mariners. Why would I do anything to hurt anybody? That wasn’t even close to the intention.”

This is obviously not good for anybody involved. Baccala has likely seen the end of his time with the organization, and Montero has excluded himself from any hope of getting a September call-up.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Mariners Extend Jack Zduriencik

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Coming into the 2014 season, Jack Zduriencik’s future as the general manager of the Seattle Mariners was quite unclear. The Mariners had just completed their fourth straight losing season under his tenure. The “Can’t Miss” prospects that he specifically hand selected to build the franchise around, had suffered major injury, proven incapable at the Major League level, or just gotten fat. It surely seemed, that unless the Mariners could pull off a miraculous season, 2014 would be Zduriencik’s last.

But miracles sometimes do happen.

At 71-59, the Mariners have already matched their win total from last year, and sit just four wins away from their highest mark since 2009. Seattle not only has a chance of clinching a wild-card birth, they also are just 6 games behind the Angels and Athletics in the AL West, and play 13 games between the pair in September. The Mariners are on the verge of their first playoff birth since 2001, and a lot of the credit goes to Zduriencik himself.

When GMZ inherited the team in 2009, there was little (besides Felix of course) for him to build around. One last year of Adrian Beltre, an aging Ichiro, Jarrod Washburn, Jose Lopez, and Russell Branyan highlighted the roster. Somehow, that team won 85 games, but it was obvious that such success would not be sustainable. A gutting of the team, and a long rebuilding process unavoidable.

From 2010 until present, the Mariners, under Zduriencik, have been rebuilding, resulting in some not so great winning percentages. Many fans have been frustrated with Seattle’s GM, accusing him of not being able to build a team at the Major League level. His prized prospects, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, and Danny Hultzen, haven’t turned into what we thought they would, and rebuilding has taken longer than many anticipated.

But with the busts, you have to also consider the successful moves he’s made. Jack is responsible for drafting an MVP candidate, signing an MVP candidate, and keeping an MVP candidate in Seattle. The trio of Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and Felix Hernandez is (in my extremely biased opinion, but also WARs opinion) the best trio in baseball. And there are many others that show promise. Dustin Ackley looks as if he may have finally found it. James Paxton is already a stud. Mike Zunino looks like a future gold glove winner, while providing insane power at the plate. Chris Taylor has been very impressive in his short tenure with the big league team. With loads of talent still working its way to the Major Leagues, we can expect the Mariners to keep getting better, year after year.

Are the Mariners better off now, than when Jack Zduriencik first started with the club in 2009? That’s an easy yes, even for the most avid Zduriencik opposer. This team and fan base are just now starting to see the rewards of a long rebuilding process. Signing him to a multiyear contract was a wise move for the franchise, and should lead to success for time to come.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Finding the Mariners’ Big Bopper

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A little more than a week has passed, and I’m still elated that Austin Jackson is a Mariner. He’s one of my favorite players in the game (alongside Matt Carpenter and Jonathan Lucroy), and his well-rounded skillset could not be a better fit for Seattle. Certainly, it speaks volumes about the team that Jackson, 27, is considered a veteran in the Mariners clubhouse. This team is so young with so much nuance to learn. To imagine Jackson theorizing about plate discipline with his new teammates makes me plain happy.

Now, as Dustin Ackley convinces us he’s “fixed” again, and Michael Saunders returns from the DL (plus Chris Taylor producing professional at-bats), the Mariners lineup is quickly shaping up. Yet leave it to Mac to say what everyone is thinking:

“We still don’t have that big bopper in the middle of the order.” – Lloyd McClendon, August 4th, 2014

While this statement might hurt Kendrys Morales’ feelings, it’s clear that Team Mariners still greatly desires the power bat. Barring a waiver-trade, though, there’s nothing else the Mariners can do this year to land a “bopper”. All signs point towards 2015.

As everyone knows, the 2015 free agent pool isn’t too inspiring. We might bring back Kendrys, but does he even want to play here? And is he really a “bopper”? Then there’s Nelson Cruz, who’s first two months of 2014 were red-hot. But since June 1st, Cruz has an OPS hovering around .650, which makes you wonder what’s going on.

Other names like Melky Cabrera, Josh Willingham, and Billy Butler are interesting–albeit somewhat flawed–free agents this winter. Players assumed to be available via trade include Matt Kemp, Alex Rios, and of course Marlon Byrd. Again, each name comes with a large asterisk.

So where exactly is this “big bopper” coming from?

I’m not trying to sound derisive. I’m thoroughly curious about how Jack Z plans to fill those shoes.

The Mariners refused to part with top prospects this trade season, which suggests they’ll be hesitant this offseason, too. I suppose ears are always open, but only if a serious “bopper” is in play. (Cue Giancarlo Stanton delusions.)

Is targeting free agents a better strategy, though? How many hitters are going to volunteer to come to Seattle, even if the pay is nice? Being a winning team certainly helps. But I bet it’s harder to bring Melky Cabrera to Seattle than it appears.

Now, I could go back to the idea of trading for Matt Kemp. Nobody in the Mariners blogosphere likes that idea, because hey, he’s only hit 6 home runs in 20 games since the All-Star break. (Sorry, had to.)

What I really hope for, is that Jack Z pulls a “big bopper” that nobody is thinking about. I mean, who the hell knew Austin Jackson was in play? Otherwise, it’s hard to see how this task meets a desired conclusion.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Austin Jackson and the Road to Serious Baseball

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If there’s one narrative to emerge from this year’s hyperactive trade-deadline frenzy, it’s that the big boy teams aren’t fooling around. The Oakland Athletics went “all-in”, and the Detroit Tigers called their bet. At this moment, most hardcore baseball fans are perhaps more excited for the AL Championship Series than the actual World Series.

The Mariners, like 27 other baseball teams, folded. Sure, we took advantage of the trade season. And we left the door open for 2014— the door to “well, you never know”. But we didn’t get lost in the illusion of premature success. The Mariners clearly knew this was not their moment. And whomever thought otherwise be damned.

“Look, we spent a lot of time to get a young team on the field that is producing pretty well. They’re not there yet. But to give up pieces that are going to be part of this thing going forward didn’t make sense. I wasn’t willing to do it. That’s just the way it is. We’ve put too much into this.”  – Jack Zduriencik, July 31st, 2014

For months, Jack Z practiced the art of negotiating. He couldn’t publicly declare that he had no intention to move his key prospects. That’s business. But for him to comment hours after the deadline, declaring how deeply he believes in the young talent he’s scouted and drafted for the past five years, well, that’s just music to the ears. By avoiding an unbalanced move to acquire elite pitching, the Mariners effectively punted. We won’t score this time. But hey people, this isn’t the end of the fourth quarter. For this team, we’re still in the first quarter.

And yet in the midst of all the trade hysteria, Jack Z landed a fantastic baseball player that perfectly fits the vision of this team’s future. The Mariners outfield situation was a stubborn problem with no good solutions. Players thought to be available—Marlon Byrd, Josh Willingham, Drew Stubbs— all came with caveats that seemed largely pointless to the wider outlook of this club. Yet all of us were prepared to swallow a less-than-ideal move, simply for the sake of “we’re winning, we gotta at least try to get some outfielders and right handed bats”.

When the news hit—a cluster of tweets popping up like popcorn, just as the trade-deadline clock buzzed— an enormous smile attempted to lift my head into the clouds. Austin Jackson? We got Austin Jackson? Holy shit! Austin Jackson is freakin’ really good, and he’s coming from a contending team. And we’re only giving up Nick Franklin? Taijuan Walker stays in Seattle?

When you consider the needs of the Mariners, and the budget they operate in, you simply cannot design a better candidate than Austin Jackson. I could fire off all the ways in which he’ll make this club immediately better, but let’s leave that for other articles.

Instead, let’s focus on the bigger picture. Austin Jackson slides right into the future of this team. As a player entering his last year of arbitration, the Mariners will no doubt negotiate a contract with him. Currently, Oliver projections have him at around 11 WAR for the next five years. With the price of wins at roughly $6 million a pop, we can imagine Jackson being offered something in the vicinity of a 5-year/$60 million contract. For the Mariners, this is close to perfect. Our outfield prospects are all a few years out, so we’re dependent on the market for help. (Years of drafting middle infielders and pitchers left a shortcoming in outfield talent. Not coincidentally, in this year’s draft, the Mariners top 3 picks were all outfielders.)

Today, the Mariners just got a lot better. They were already good. And next year, we don’t lose a single player. All our talent will be back, sans the duds. But also, James Paxton will be with us. Taijuan Walker will be with us. D.J. Peterson could very well be our Opening Day first baseman. And yes, Austin Jackson will be in centerfield.

Jack Z, your design looks fantastic. You’ve taken this team and turned it into something I can legitimately have pride in. The Mariners are on their way to playing serious baseball. You might not hear it much, but seriously: Thank you.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Mariners Make Moves at Deadline, Don’t Mess Everything Up

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Ah, it’s finally over. Non-waiver trading has officially closed, and no, Jack Zduriencik did not sit idly by. The Mariners managed to pull off two win now moves, and yet, somehow, some way, have not hindered their future.

The morning started off with a very small trade, as Seattle added Chris Denorfia for Abraham Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen.

Denorfia has been less than stellar at the plate so far this year, hitting .242/.293/.319 with a wRC+ of 76. However, he has been very good defensively, posting a UZR/150 of 23.8 in right field.

While this trade seems fairly menial and unimportant, there is reason to be excited:

  • Gone are the days of starting Endy Chavez in the outfield five times a week.
  • While Denorfia hasn’t been good at the plate this year, he has a solid track record, hitting .275/.335/.397 with a wRC+ of 106. He’s always been consistently around those numbers, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him improve here in the second half.
  • In his career, Denorfia is hitting .301/.367/.443 against lefties. He’s a great platoon option.
  • He’s only owed around a million dollars for the rest of 2014, and becomes a free agent in 2015. The Mariners won’t be tied down to him at all.
  • Seattle gave up very little to acquire him. Abraham Almonte is bad. Stephen Kohlscheen is a middle reliever. Even if Denorfia is terrible the rest of 2014, there will be no large regrets in the future.

Basically, there is no downside to the Chris Denorfia trade.

But the big trade came later. With the deadline looming, reports that the Rays, Mariners, and Tigers had agreed on a three-way deal materialized. Bits and pieces slowly leaked through, but in the end, the deal sent David Price to Detroit, Austin Jackson to Seattle, and Nick Franklin, Drew Smyly, and Willy Adames to Tampa Bay.

This is an absolutely genius trade by Jack Zduriencik. Austin Jackson fits a lot of needs the Mariners had:

Right-handed? Check.
Center fielder? Check.
Leadoff hitter? Check.
Better than current outfielders? Check. Check. Check.

Austin Jackson is a huge upgrade over James Jones in center field, offensively and defensively. He’s had a down year at the plate overall, hitting .270/.330/.397 (which, for the Mariners, is still amazing). But in July, Jackson is hitting .343/.386/.505 with a wRC+ of 147. The Mariners are getting a hot hitter, with a career track record that suggests he will have improve in the second half.

Defensively, it’s been an odd year for Jackson, posting the lowest UZR/150 of his career. From 2010-2012, Jackson was an elite level defender, but the past two seasons he’s slipped. That being said, defensive metrics are still unreliable. Jackson’s low UZR is caused by his four errors this year, a trend that is unlikely to continue. Yes errors are bad, but they are often not the fault of the player (especially outfielders). Losing a ball in the lights, poor communication with other fielders, bad weather conditions etc. Jackson is a great defender, and a huge upgrade to Jones in center field.

This also isn’t just a one year move for Seattle, either. Jackson is under club control in 2015, eliminating another need in the offseason.

The only player the Mariners had to give up to acquire Austin Jackson was Nick Franklin. Ultimately, Franklin was the third option at short stop for Seattle, behind both Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. There was no real place for Franklin with the Mariners, and acquiring an experienced outfielder for him is a great move by Zduriencik.

So in short, no the Mariners did not add an elite bat today. But they added cheap, reliable upgrades, and got top for their prospects. Seattle improved their club today without having to move Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, or or D.J. Peterson, and that’s a beautiful thing.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Delusional Trade Talk

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Trade deadline fever is now upon us. And when a fever hits, like, 104 degrees, people just start hallucinating. In the picture above, we see a fan telling a Mariners reporter that a couple $10 million players can be had for, well, basically nothing.

While this Mariners fan isn’t realistic about the price of acquisitions, he’s not entirely off-base. Both Byrd and Colon aren’t worth much more than what he’s suggested, not when you factor in their contracts and age. But this is another angle of the delusion: Teams in “sell-mode” are making batshit crazy demands.

Last I heard, not only was Marlon Byrd demanding his 2016 option be vested (he’d be 39 years old), but the Phillies were demanding Brandon Maurer plus Gabriel Guerrero or Austin Wilson.

Amazing.

If that’s not irritating enough, there was yesterday, when Fox Sports dropped a hit-piece on Jack Zduriencik. Filled with anonymous sources, GMZ was accused of being a difficult negotiator and not pulling triggers. As a student of politics I can tell you this: 1) Question the motive of this sort of piece 3 days before trade deadline. 2) Know that reporters will always publish this sort of bullshit, even when they know they’re being played. It’s called page-clicks.

Of course, reporters play up all trade rumors. It’s Christmas season and they’re selling Christmas trees. But it’s gotten so bad that the respectable Ken Rosenthal actually wrote a piece suggesting the Cubs could trade for David Price. Yes, the Cubs! The same team that traded their ace pitcher one week earlier.

As for the selling teams, their delusions are nothing less than shakedowns. They’re like drug dealers holding drugs in front of drug addicts. Give me your watch. Give me your necklace. Give me your gold tooth. It doesn’t help that in these days of the second wild-card slot, roughly a half-dozen more teams are in the market to upgrade. To say I sympathize with GMZ is an understatement.

And yes, bloggers have the fever, too. They’ve got the fever bad. I’m still irked that the most popular Mariners blog site scoffed at the idea of acquiring Matt Kemp

New rule: No scoffing at any outfielder with an OPS over .700 until we have at least one outfielder of our own with an OPS over .700.

These writers act as if plenty of good options are swinging in the breeze, just waiting for that imbecile Jack Z to grab them. C’mon GMZ, why haven’t you traded Nick Franklin for Starling Marte yet? What the hell is the matter you?

I can’t do anything about teams or professional reporters being delusional this trade season. But for any fellow bloggers or Mariners fans reading: Please, understand this is multi-billion dollar sports industry. Nobody is giving anything away on the cheap. This isn’t your fantasy baseball league where amassing a roster of All-Stars is possible. Lower your sky-high expectations and be realistic.

Here, have a glass of ice water.

Now, what were you saying about a trade for Giancarlo Stanton?

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Re-examining a Matt Kemp Trade

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This morning, a fellow Mariners blog site (rhymes with Vookout Vanding) posted an article condemning a hypothetical Matt Kemp trade. While I respect anybody’s opinion, and certainly understand the risk Kemp presents, I feel the article ignores our problem of acquiring right-handed talent in Seattle, while projecting a nearly worse-case-scenario outlook for Kemp.

The three persuasive arguments against Kemp:
1) His contract is far too expensive.
2) He is a high-injury risk.
3) His defense is bad, and his offense isn’t superstar caliber.

I’m going to re-examine these points. While I agree with all of them, there are additional elements that should be considered. These types of things aren’t simply one-dimensional. Also, the reality of difficulty that exists in bringing quality right-handed bats to Seattle must be addressed. I will add that as a fourth category.

The Expensive Contract

Excluding this year, Kemp is owed $107 million over the next five seasons. Meanwhile, Fangraph’s Oliver projections put Kemp amassing roughly 12 WAR in those five years. Since market-value is currently about $6 million per win, that puts Kemp’s contract at a value of $72 million. (And while a blogger might dispute Kemp’s future 5-year value being 12 WAR, I’m gonna go ahead and use Oliver’s projections as they seem more reputable than a kid with a laptop.) Therefore, Kemp’s contract is $35 million over market-value. This number would be reflected in any deal.

High-Injury Risk

There’s no doubt that Kemp’s injury history is concerning. And while there’s not a single player in the game who doesn’t have injury risk, we simply can’t expect Kemp to be healthy for a full five years. Further, Kemp will never be the five-tool player he became famous for. But that doesn’t mean he’s lost all value as a ballplayer. He can still contribute, as he’s offensively proven this year in LA.

Also of note: As Mariners fans watch Corey Hart’s struggles to return from an injury-induced year off, we see the perfect example of how intricate a hitter’s timing is. Hart still hasn’t found it. Yet in Kemp’s return, his offensive production is above average. He’s not the All-Star hitter he once was, but his 2014 performance does suggest that Kemp’s coordination, eye, and instinct hasn’t deteriorated in his lengthy absence from everyday playing.

Defense

It’s pretty hard to make a counter-argument against Kemp’s poor defensive showing. But then, right-handed power hitting outfielders with good defense metrics don’t exactly grow on trees. One would hope that Kemp could offer a serviceable right-field, which doesn’t seem impossible. There’s always the DH slot that can be utilized, with smart management using platoons and match-ups appropriately. Mind you, our current RF righty options are Hart and Stefen Romero. We have no stellar outfield prospects coming up anytime soon, and the free agent market this offseason is light. So yes, Kemp is not perfectly ideal, but as they say in politics: “Don’t compare someone to the almighty, compare them to the alternative”.

But Seriously, Who Else?

The objective is to find a good, offensive, right-handed outfielder. But a big problem lies within getting a truly good player of this kind to come to Seattle. This is a pitcher’s park. If you’re a good righty bat, you have little desire to play half your games in Safeco. If we do find such a bat in free agency, we will certainly overpay to entice them here. And that’s assuming such bats even become available. In an era with pitching as the dominant force, hitters become even more valuable as assets. Teams are far less inclined to let these players walk away to free agency. Currently, players like Josh Willingham and Marlon Byrd are touted as better options than Kemp for the Mariners. While their contracts (or future contracts) are less pricey than Kemp’s, both of these players are over 35 years old. They have injury concerns themselves (what 35 year old doesn’t?). And their power cannot be assumed to last into their late-30’s.

Now, for the Mariners, the lack of offense in our outfield has no ideal short-term answer. Even our celebrated 2014 Michael Saunders should be put in context— he’s never really been that good at the dish, besides this nice current campaign, which is only 219 plate appearances… Looking out at available options, Matt Kemp is yet a risky and costly answer in a limited pool of risky and costly answers. The real question is: Will Matt Kemp give us more production than Dustin Ackley or James Jones or Endy Chavez? I’d think so.

Lastly, the argument that we should overpay for someone other than Kemp doesn’t really work. Because, who exactly are we getting? If there’s a better answer, then sure! Sign me up! It’s just that one hasn’t presented itself. If Jack Z is sitting at a table with an option for Kemp or for a better player with less risk, by all means, go for option B. But to rule out Kemp for being expensive and risky, while all other options are seemingly expensive and risky, well, that’s just a lousy argument.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

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