Can Mariners make a trade; GM’s wonder

The Mariners are in a race for a wild card spot. The divisional race where Seattle bests both the A’s and the Angels remains a lovely dream for those not living in reality.

The A’s, already with great pitching, added two starters in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. They want not only to remain in first, but to set up a strong rotation for the post season. The Angels strengthened their bullpen by trading for Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher,  and Huston Street.

Many feel the Mariners are now forced to make a trade to add a bat and a starting pitcher in order to compete in the divisional race. But there may be a problem as to whether Jackie Z, Mariners GM, will follow through.

Ken Rosenthal, Fox’s senior baseball analyst, who always wants the Mariners to trade away stars like Felix Hernandez ,as he pushed for a couple of years ago, has written that other GM’s have told him it is difficult to move Jackie Z  across the trade finishing line. Jack came to Seattle with a reputation for making trades in Milwaukee, thus the nickname Trader Jack.

But there is a perception in Seattle, rightly or wrongly, that every trade the Mariners make is a bad one. Mariner fans remember all the bad ones, never the good ones. Of course, there are more bad ones to remember and I won’t go over all those here; there is no reason to depress people in summer.

So maybe Trader Jack is reluctant in light of the history in the haunted Northwest to hit the trade accept button on his laptop.

But the Mariners need a right handed bat in left field and a starting pitcher, a good one, to give them three solid starters for the post season. Remember the famous football quote, “You play to win the game.” So make the moves to put you in a better position to win the game. Bring me the arm of John Lester. Bring me the bat of Marlon Byrd. Push that button Trade Jack.

Mariners magic number is three

Heading into the Mariners final game before the all-star break they have a 51-43 record. Major league pundits, radio heads, TV heads, columnists,  and people who love crunching numbers say the Mariners can not sustain their winning ways. They point out the team batting average, on base percentage, and tell you they are lucky. One person said they were getting cluster hits. It is another way of saying they hit well with runners in scoring position.

But they keep on winning. And the statistic under W is the only number that counts in the end.

Here is a statistic for everyone to think about. The Mariners magic number is three. When the Mariners score two runs or less they have a 5-27 record. I would wager any team scoring two runs or less will have a losing record. But when the Mariners hit their magic number of three, as in three runs or more, they have a 46-16 record.

So if the Mariners score three runs, chances are they will win. Friday night against Oakland they won 3-2 and Saturday night they won 6-2. I am going out on a limb and say if the Mariners score three on Sunday they will sweep the A’s, a good way to head into the all-star break.

But . . .

The second half is another season. It is the drive to get into the playoffs. With Roenis Elias struggling, probably on an innings limitation, and with Taijuan Walker having control problems, the Mariners need another starter. I think the Price is right for Seattle. It has been reported the Rays are scouting Mariner players and the Mariner scouts are doing the same with the Rays, indicating a possible multi player deal.

Of course it good be all smoke.

But if the Mariners land David Price they have another magic three, as in King Felix, Prince Iwakuma, and David Price. That is a staff set for the playoffs. And if the offense can score three runs or more during the playoffs . . .

 

 

 

Sinatra “That’s Life” McClendon “Thats baseball” and July

Nobody sang “That’s Life” any better than Frank Sinatra, a song about not getting down in life, but persevering,  “I thought of quitting, baby but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it.”

Throughout the baseball season when the Mariners hit a bad stretch, such as their 13 game losing streak, or their five game losing streak, or when they have been shutout twice in three games, scoring two runs in the other, reporters ask Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon questions like, “Are you worried?” or variations of that question.

McClendon’s answer is always the same. “That’s baseball.”

It is a true statement. He always says it is a long season, this is just one stretch of it. Also a true statement.

“You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June”

For the Mariners they were riding low in April with a 7-13 record. But before last nights 2-0 loss to the Twins they had risen to nine games above .500 and have the best record in all of baseball since April 23rd.

“I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race”

And that is what the Mariners have down, they hit a bad stretch and bounce back. As McClendon say’s, “That’s baseball.” He is saying you don’t get too down,  and you don’t get too high. There are always good and bad stretches of baseball and don’t get caught up in either one. McClendon doesn’t  worry publicly, in fact when things are going well, he might nitpick wins, saying we have to get better. He does not get upset, maintaining a well balanced equilibrium during bad stretches. 

The song does end with  potential of a bad ending:” But if there’s nothing shaking come this here July
I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die, my, my.”

So the Mariners, to avoid dying this month, should shake things up with a big trade, bring in a bat or pitcher. Because “that’s baseball” too.
Read more: Frank Sinatra – That’s Life Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

ESPN writer trashes Mariners manger Lloyd McClendon and Taijuan Walker

What’s up with ESPN senior baseball writer for ESPN.com Keith Law?

In an interview with Brock and Danny on 710 ESPN Seattle Law said Mariner manager Lloyd is a bad manager. He said Lloyd “can’t manage a bullpen, can’t manage his bench and with a bad offense the Mariners should no be playing small ball (which is something they don’t always do by the way, as anyone who saw their four homer performance in Houston will note).

Law also said they never should have hired McClendon because he failed in Pittsburgh, so why give him a second chance when he is a loser.

There was a baseball manager who managed the Mets for five years compiling a 286-420 record, a .405 winning percentage. According to Law’s law this man should not have been given a second chance, but the Braves did, so to did the Cardinals, and though never winning more than 89 games in his nine years with those two teams, he had some success  in his 12 years with the New York Yankees, so much so, that Joe Torre was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Law’s opinion on losing managers not deserving a second a shot is inane, if not downright stupid. And for those who follow the Mariners on a daily basis it is clear McClendon has managed both the bullpen and his bench with success. Maybe McClendon is lucky, or maybe he knows what he is doing. Law also said McClendon is a cold personality. Sounds like Law has something personal against McClendon.

Law also said Mariners top pitching prospect should be traded because he is damaged goods, has changed his delivery and now throws too high in the strike zone and his curveball is garbage. It must be said that Law was once a scout and has worked in the Toronto Blue Jays front office. So he has credentials, but having credentials does not mean having intelligence, nor even knowing what you are talking about. It is an opinion. He is entitled to his. The jury is out on Walker, but I am willing to bet that Walker, barring injury, will have a good career.

When it comes to Seattle Mariner law, Keith flunked his bar exam.

What will Mariners do with Smoak and Hart

I had thought that Jesus Montero, Endy Chavez, Logan Morrison, or Stephan Romero would be sent to Tacoma to make room for Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Michael Saunders when they were eligible to return from their rehab assignment at AAA Tacoma.

Montero was sent down, as was Romero. Saunders came up, but so did Brandon Maurer, now a relief pitcher. Starting didn’t work for him, but he has been great out of the pen.

Things change though and a few things are keeping Hart and Smoak in Tacoma. One is that Chavez and Morrison both got hot; Chavez went from the .220′s to hitting in the .260′s and Morrison from .160′s to the 230′s. Meanwhile Hart in 33 at bats is hitting .273 with a homer and 4 rbis. Not bad, but Smoak is hitting .220 with a homer and 3 rbis in 41 at bats.

Besides Chavez and Morrison making big contributions there is one more reason why Smoak and Hart are stuck in Tacoma. It is the rule of  “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The Mariners are hot having won eight of ten. They are currently seven games above .500 at 45-38 and are in the wild card picture. The chemistry seems good, so why tinker  when there is no player who should be sent down.

Okay there is one and only one player. The Mariners currently have 13 pitchers and 12 position players on the 25 man roster. If they continue to keep 13 pitchers then only one player could be sent down and the only player not making contributions is Dustin Ackley. Batting .214 with 4 homers and only 27 at bats in 74 games, he is in a 2-28 slump and has not gotten a hit since June 22nd.

With Smoak floundering in Tacoma and Morrison hitting with Seattle that leaves Hart as a possible call up with Ackley-providing he still has options left-being sent back to AAA. He has been a huge disappointment since being the Mariners number one pick, second overall in the 2009 draft. (The number one pick was Stephen Strasburg). Ouch! That hurts like a 100 miles per hour fastball plunking your elbow.

 

 

Two reasons why Seattle could get into playoffs

It is constantly brought up that the Mariners hitting has been woeful, yet they are six games above .500. Yes their .301 on base percentage, 28th in baseball is awful, but their batting average has climbed to 23rd at .243.

But there are three parts to a baseball team; hitting, pitching, and fielding, and two much attention is focused on hitting, as if that was the only key to winnings. I say “Bah, humbug.”

The Mariners are 4th in baseball with a 3.25 earned run average and 2nd in runs allowed per game at 3.45. Since the Martiners score more than four runs per game they have a + run differential and the reason for the 3.45 per game, besides good pitching with the top bullpen in baseball, is that they are 3rd in fielding percentage at .987 and their 39 errors in 80 games is second fewest, the Reds with 32 are the best.

This is why I get irritated with so called talking head baseball experts on TV and radio who say the Mariners will  fall out of the wild card race because of lack of hitting. Why is so little focus given to pitching and defense when over the course of 162 games that will win you games.

Many thought Denver would beat Seattle in the Super Bowl because they had the best offense in history. They forgot what an excellent defense can do, especially when you are faster and tougher. And I always harken back to the 1963 World Series because the Yankees with their power hitting team would destroy the Dodgers whose offense consisted of base stealing Maury Wills. But the Dodgers swept the Yankees because good pitching-Koufax and Drysdale stops good hitting. 

If the Mariners pitching and defense holds up they will make the playoffs. Since their eight game losing streak they are 36-24 and when they find their fifth starter, whether Taijuan Walker or through a trade, maybe both, Seattle will only get better.

As an aside I have three e-books on sale this weekend for.99; one is about the 1911 New York Giants based on a true story. You can read about the three books here. http://thequilltheewordthelooniness.wordpress.com/

 

The curious promotion of Brandon Maurer and Dustin Ackleys future

With Taijuan Walker making his Tacoma starts on the same days as Erasmo Ramirez made his for Seattle one could surmise that when Walker was ready, he would be called up and Ramirez sent down. In his last start Walker pitched a complete game shutout against Oklahoma City. Ramirez was sent to Tacoma, but Brandon Maurer was called up for bullpen duty. Curious, but there are three scenarios for this promotion.

One is that knowing Ramirez was going to be sent down they brought up Maurer for an extra arm in the bullpen until Walker is called up to start against Houston. A very likely possibility as the only member of the bullpen with an ERA north of 3.00 is Charley Furbush at 3.75 and he is a left handed pitcher. There is no one for Maurer, even striking out four in two innings against Boston, to displace anyone in Seattle’s bullpen, one of the best in baseball.

Another scenario is that Seattle wants to see Walker make another start. There is no need to rush him. If he makes two, even three starts in a row he would be called up. It could be that Maurer will pitch again in relief Friday against Cleveland, then get the start against Houston. Since his demotion from the Mariner rotation where he was dreadful with a + 7 ERA he has been getting work out of the Tacoma pen, so how far can he go as a starter.

A third scenario is that Maurer is being showcased for a possible trade and there might be a team or two looking for a reliever and Seattle is showing off  Maurer’s arm that can throw a fastball in the high 90′s.

All three are possibilities that make sense.

It would appear that Michal Saunders will come off his rehab stint in Tacoma. I speculated in my last blog that Endy Chavez would likely go back to Tacoma. But Seattle, if he is not out of options, should send Dustin Ackley and his .220 batting average along with 4 homers and 27 RBIs to AAA. Those are terrible numbers for a power position. I had not considered him a s a possible player sent back to port, but the Mariners are better off with Chavez in left, James Jones in center, and Saunders in right. Chavez is not a power hitter either, but at least he has been productive in the leadoff spot. If Ackley still has options left, the Mariners should exercise it.

 

Mariners soon to make three roster moves

Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, and Corey Hart are all on rehab in Tacoma, but at some point they will be return to Seattle and three players will either be sent to Tacoma or released.

Since Cole Gillespie and Stefan Romero both bat from the right side and M’s need batters right handed bats, they are likely to stay, though Romero batting .204 could find himself in Tacoma when Saunders returns. The outfielder most in danger is Endy Chavez hitting .224. He is one of those bench players who always seems to find different ways to contribute and that could keep him in Seattle. Tough call either way for Jackie Z and Lloyd McClendon. 

Logan Morrison would have been the odd man out with Smoak’s return. Morrison was hitting .164 in 61 at bats, but Monday night against Boston went 4-4 with 2 homers, raising his average to .215. With McClendon, if you are hot you play, so Morrison would DH when Smoak returns. Smoak is batting .208 with 7 homers and 29 rbis. He is an excellent defensive player at first, but for every hot week he has, Smoak has three weeks of abject, rally floundering futility. He is a favorite of Jackie Z which means Mariner fans will suffer through the 2014 season. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and if he is resigned Mariner fans should boycott Safeco Field.

When Hart returns that means Jesus Montero will head back to Tacoma. Montero is 4 for 14 with a homer. He is the fallback should Hart struggle when he returns. Hart was hitting .209 with 5 homers an 17 rbis in 37 games. As an injury plagued player that makes Montero an important bat to keep warm with the Rainiers. Even if send down, he is likely to return.

Jackie Z and McClendon have some difficult decisions to make. Chavez, Montero, and who?

Is there a conspiracy against 19th century baseball

When Clayton Kershaw pitched a no-hitter I kept hearing it was the 22nd no-hitter in franchise history. The information is wrong. It was the 25th.

The difference of three is found in the 1880′s. The Dodgers, known as the Brooklyn Athletics in 1884, had the franchise’s first no-hitter thrown by Sam Kimber on October4th. Play was stopped after ten innings in a scoreless game. But it was a no-hitter.

The other two no-hitters were thrown by Adonis Terry, one on July 24, 1886, in a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Browns. His other no-hitter was in May of 1888, a 1-0 win over the Louisville Colonels.

Franchises are sold through time and the sale of a franchise in the 1880′s is no different than one sold in the 20th century. Nicknames may change, but the franchise is the franchise, even if it moves from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Ownership has been passed from hand to hand beginning in 1883 when George Taylor, Charles Byrne, Joseph Doyle, and Ferdinand Abel financed the first Brooklyn nine. Today the baton has been passed to Magic Johnson and a large investment consortium.

Yet for some reason there is a prevailing attitude to be dismissive of the past when it is in the 19th century. The rules may have been different, but it was still baseball. Of Cy Young’s 511 wins 257 came before 1900, but they are still counted among his 511 wins.

Years ago they changed the rules for no-hitters eliminating the no-hitters for pitchers who pitched 8 innings and lost because the pitcher was on the road team, thus no reason for playing the bottom of the 9th. But it was a complete game. They also eliminated those that were rain shortened. Even though it was a legal game, it was not a no-hitter.

Discrepancies are often found in researching or analyzing baseball statistics and when they are the 19th century gets short shift for some reason. I wonder if in the 23rd century-provided  the world is still existing-and baseball has changed its rules, will present statistics be getting the short shift. Could it be that every athlete is on some kind of performance enhancing drug and there are now two separate record books. One for pre 22nd century baseball when substances were banned, but players used them anyway and one for post 22nd century baseball when everything was legalized.

Never happen you say. I thought the same in the 1960′s regarding marijuana. But guess what?

In the end, as in the beginning, the Dodgers have 25 no-hitters. Put that in your hookah.

 

Words baseball players need to eliminate

A sore spot for me is hearing baseball players, and, in truth, athletes in every sport being interviewed and beginning every answer with the phrase ‘I mean.’

The reason it bothers me is that they say ‘I mean’ before they say anything to begin with.  The phrase should be used when something is said which is confusing to the listener, so then one says, “What I mean is . . “

Why not just say what you mean without telling people what you mean? Is it that difficult?

Question: “In the third inning you made a great catch in the gap nearly crashing into the fence. How were you able to avoid the crash, make the play, and this is your first game in this park?”

“What I mean is I measured my steps from the warning track to the fence before the game. So I mean I kept that number in my head.”

Can’t someone just say, “Before the game I measured the steps from the warning track to the fence.”

I mean really!

Since all athletes do this I have a feeling they go to some private school were they are indoctrinated into ungrammatical catch phrases. I know today’s educational system is failing, but I mean, are you kidding me?

There is another word used especially with baseball players and it is overused to the 9th degree and that word is ‘grind.’

“The baseball season is a grind.” “You have to grind out your at bats.” “He has a sore leg, but he’s going to grind it out.” “This is the part of their schedule which is going to be a grind.”

Let’s get this straight. The only grinding is done by lap dancers, like the ones near Safeco Field. I mean, not that I have been there. I am going on the grinding I hear while standing outside looking at the posters.

Mike Blowers, color commentary for the Mariners on the TV side, uses that word every game. I think he gets residuals for using the word. I like Mike. He is a good commentator, although he talks about pitch counts way too often. “Felix has thrown 42 pitches already, and we are only in the sixth inning.”( I am using exaggeration for dramatic effect here.)

I mean I like Mike and all, but watching every Mariner game on TV is a grind.

 

 

 

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