And All is Well

628x471

The sky is no longer falling, Mariner fans.

Sunday’s series finally against the Nationals began with a reoccurring theme from the past three days: Washington jumps out to an early lead on solo homers by ______. When Bryce Harper‘s fourth inning home run cleared the center field wall, it really did feel like the game, and honestly, the season.

The Mariners, once again, were in a place of no momentum. They had just been embarrassed by the worst team in baseball, their ace had a career worst night, the was bullpen gassed after a week of overuse, and now the Washington Nationals had just hit their tenth home run in the three game series.

But I should know better than to doubt these Seattle Mariners. Whether it’s snapping an April 8-game losing streak, or rallying for five, two-out runs in the ninth inning against the Red Sox, these Mariners do not quit. Dustin Ackley‘s fifth inning, three-run home run gave the Mariners a lead they would not relinquish.

Sure, a three game sweep at the hands of the best team in baseball would not have been damning. It’s conceivable that they could have gotten hot down the stretch, and snuck into the playoffs.

But instead, the Mariners sit ready to pounce. With both Detroit and Oakland losing on Sunday, Seattle sits just 0.5 games behind the Tigers, and just 4.5 games behind the Athletics. The Mariners travel to Oakland Monday to face the struggling A’s in a three game series, and could make up some serious ground in the playoff race.

So no Mariner fans, the season is not over. In fact, it’s just starting to get interesting. Sit back, and enjoy meaningful September baseball, for the first time in God knows how long.

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Seattle Mariners All-Time Team: Designated Hitter

Kendrys+Morales+Seattle+Mariners+v+San+Diego+Ljw1ZYb5Shql

Catcher: Dan Wilson

First Base: John Olerud

Second Base: Bret Boone

Third Base: Adrian Beltre

Short Stop: Alex Rodriguez

Left Field: Raul Ibanez

Center Field: Ken Griffey Jr.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Seattle Mariners’ All-Time Team: Ichiro

ichiro-suzuki-2

I haven’t posted one of these in quite some time, but I plan to finish what I started.

Ichiro Suzuki is simply one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball.

After an amazing nine year career in Japan, Ichiro decided to bring his talents to Seattle in 2001. That season, he hit .350/.381/.457, with 56 stolen bases, and 242 hits. Alongside winning Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, Ichiro helped lead the Mariners to 116 wins, an MLB record.

This was just the beginning of Ichiro’s tremendous career with the Seattle. In 12 seasons with the Mariners, he hit .322/.366/.412, with 483 stolen bases, and 2533 hits. Between 2001 and 2010, he was named to ten straight All-Star teams, won 10 straight Gold Gloves, and recorded 200+  hits (an MLB record). In 2004, he had one of the greatest seasons in history, hitting .372, and breaking George Sisler‘s single season hit record, with an astounding 262 base knocks. Had he played his entire career in the United States, it’s conceivable that Ichiro may have broken Pete Rose’s career hit record, as he’s recorded 4,102 base hits between the two countries. Even still, he has the opportunity to reach 3000 hits in the Untied States, sitting just 176 shy of the feat.

While it’s quite obvious Ichiro is one of the greatest slap hitters of all-time, he may have been an even better defender. While defensive metrics are a fairly new stat, Ichiro owns the best defensive WAR among outfielders with at least 6000 innings, as well as the 5th best ARM rating. His 10 Gold Gloves are fourth among outfielders, only behind Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr. (another All-Time Mariner).

Ichiro’s amazing defense, alongside his unique offensive approach, make him one of the best Mariners’ of All-Time, and a future Hall of Famer.

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

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.

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Mariners Extend Jack Zduriencik

130213_felix_signs_lg

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.

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Finding the Mariners’ Big Bopper

photo (1)

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.

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Austin Jackson and the Road to Serious Baseball

jz

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.

### 

Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 282 other followers