The trade the Mariners should not have made

The trade that caught people off guard who follow the Mariners was trading catcher Wellington Castillo a little over a week after acquiring him from Chicago. Jack Zduriencik said Arizona needed a catcher so shipped him away for Mark Trumbo. I thought Jack’s job was to fill needs for the Mariners, not other teams. 

Seattle desperately needed a back up catcher because Jesus Sucre hits worse than Zunino and they wanted a bat with a little bit of power. Castillo filled that need. Jack said so himself. He was happy with the trade. Then he trades him away for a player they did not need.

What was Jack Zduriencik thinking? You fill a need then you go back to a void. It would have been smarter to bring up Jesus Montero after the trade for Castillo and keep Jesus up.

Montero came to Seattle in a trade with high expectations, but failed. He did not take the game seriously and was suspended last year as well. But when he came to training camp this season he was unrecognizable. I could not believe the transformation. He  was in the best shape of his life. He has a wife and a child and has dedicated himself to his family and to becoming a solid major league player. Thus far he has torn up the Pacific Coast League, but has only gotten ten at bats with three hits and two walks with the Mariners this year.

As hard as Montero has worked and as productive as he has been at AAA he deserved more of a chance, but Jackie Z is content to keep him in Tacoma. Jack should have taken a page from Seahawk coach Pete Carroll. He signs players who are hungry to prove themselves and gives them a chance, like Richard Sherman, like Doug Baldwin, like Jermaine Kearse, and so on.

Meanwhile Trumbo is batting .228 with 3 homers. Castillo came into the getaway game with Arizona batting .227  and hit two homers off Felix Hernandez, giving him 10 on the season. Since the Mariners needed Castillo he should have stayed and Montero could be belting out hits with Seattle instead of watching Trumbo flail at pitches a foot off the plate. Thanks Jack.

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Seattle Mariners Fernando Rodney does it again

Seattle Mariners Fernando Rodney gave a up a game tying 2-run homer in the 8th today. This has been happening a lot lately; July 7th to Yoenis Cespedes in the 8th (game tying) and two days later to Kole Calhoun, again in the 8th (not game tying). On July 19th Mark Teixeira, again in the 8th (game winning homer).  And Sunday the 25th to Ezequiel Carrera in the 8th (game tying).

Here is the problem.

I do not remember if  the famous quote came from Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, or Taylor Swift. No matter I can’t remember the exact quote anyway. But it has to do when someone tries  something and it fails, yet the person keeps doing the same thing in the same way expecting a different result. Lloyd McClendon keeps putting Rodney in the 8th inning and he keeps giving up home runs in close ballgames.

In his last eight games he has pitched 6.2 innings, 7 hits, 2 walks, 8 runs 7 of which are earned.

Lloyd! You’re not going to get a different result. Stop using him in these situations. Pitch him in mid innings when you are losing and nothing matters. Expecting success from Rodney when he continues to fail is a fool’s hope.  Being loyal to veterans has its limits and the idea is to win games, keep the confidence of the team up. When players continue to see game winning and game tying home runs thrown by any pitcher in crucial situations they may not say it, may not show, but inside a little of them gives up. The fans certainly have.

McClendon told his players in his first spring training with Seattle that he has a family to feed and he needs to win games and the players who give him the best chance to win plays. Maybe Lloyd forgot he has to feed his family.

But the way things have gone for Seattle, Jack Zduriencik, the Mariner’s GM, and McClendon may both be gone next season.  The problem is the higher ups in the organization care more about profit than winning. It will be interesting to see what happens in the offseason.

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Why the Mariners should trade Fernando Rodney and JA Happ

Forget that the Mariners are 8.5 games from the Wild Card. They would have to pass nine teams to get a wild card slot and that has no chance of  happening; none, zero, impossible. Nor can they climb out of the cellar and pass all teams in the West for a division title. They are dead in the water with no paddles to row to shore. So it is time to unload some players at the trade deadline.

One player to unload is Fernando Rodney, a great teammate players will say. But fans are not on the team. Despite what people think Rodney has not failed as closer as he is 16 for 20; rather it his how he has pitched. He has given up 41 hits in 37.2 innings along with 17 walks. Seven home runs allowed does not help his cause either; nor his .279 batting average against and 5.73 earned run average.

Rodney will be a free agent next season and he will not return to the Good Ship Mariner. Carson Smith has claimed the closer role for now. He will have the job next season or the M’s will sign a free agent (Tyler Clippard and Sergio Santos are free agents) or make an off season trade for one.

So who would want Rodney with those numbers listed above?

The answer is any team in contention for post season play because pitching is always wanted. He would not close but be an arm in the 7th or 8th innings.

Because of his poor numbers he will not bring much in return, but does it matter. He will not pitch for Seattle in 2016 so most any player in return, like a back up catcher will do.

JA Happ could bring something a little better in  a trade than Rodney. Happ is a lefty starter and will be a free agent next season. He is a one year stop gap just as Chris Young was in 2014. He is 4-5 in 18 starts with Seattle, posting a 4.12. Since the Mariners are out of the running, lefty Roenis  Elias can be recalled from Tacoma to take his spot in the rotation.

It is time to get something for these guys.

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What should the Mariners do in second half

I always get irritated listening to Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon in his post game interviews, when all to often I hear him say “We have to get better.” No kidding. But how Lloyd? Any ideas? After the Mariners last game before the break, Lloyd finally said that he had been giving the players some rope, but it hasn’t worked, and “we have to make changes.”

Change players? Be more demanding of players? Choke them with the rope?

They will not win the division, nor will they be a wild card; both avenues are blocked by multiple teams, and not all teams ahead of them are going to go south at the same time. Not being close to the scene I can not blame McClendon. At least not entirely. I do believe it is a managers job to get a team ready to play, to play consistently fundamentally sound baseball. The way the Mariners have played it does not look like they care that much. The enjoy playing the game, but despite players protestations, they don’t’ seem to have the fire to win. Players say what people want them to say.

If Lloyd gets part of the blame, Jack Zduriencik, the general manager, gets some blame for not being able to scout non-pitchers in the amateur draft. Kyle Seager was a find, but Dustin Ackley and to this point Mike Zunino have been a bust. And their shortstops Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are only holding the job until 21-yeard old Ketel Marte, switch hitting shortstop, is ready. According to an article on MLB.Com, Marte was to be brought up at the end of May, but an injury shelved him.

It could be that Marte comes up when the Mariners realize they must see if he is their shortstop for 2016.  That is one thing they should do. Another is trade Trumbo to a contender for a relief pitcher. Find a backup catcher. At the end of the season, on fan appreciation night, have two dollar hotdogs and a fan ballot on whether to fire or keep Jackie Z. But the best thing is to get Paul Allen to buy the team.

My fictional account of the New York Giants and Charlie Faust in 1911

 

Felix Hernandez has three and a half years of no run support

I did not do the math, but I trust 710 ESPN Seattle who gave out the information. The sports talk host said Felix had 118 starts where the Mariners had given him one run of support.

At this writing Felix has 319 starts, so 118 starts equates to 37% and with Felix averaging 34 starts in his career, three years would be 102. That leaves 16 starts. So for three and one half years Felix has had one run to work with and that means a lot of stress innings trying to hold the opposition close while waiting-and 37% of the time waiting in vain-for his team to score runs.

I do not know what pitcher has had the worst run support in his career, but King Felix must be at or near the top. And consider we are talking only run for three and a half years. What about two runs?

To go out and pitch the way Felix does requires great determination and desire knowing he can’t afford any mistakes every five days, week after week, month after month, year after year. And Felix never complains, never carps, never bitches, remaining as positive as Seahawk coach, Pete Carroll. The difference of course is that Carroll has reason to be optimistic, Felix has none.

Perhaps the closest pitcher to Felix, if not surpassing him for frustration, is Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. He pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators from 1907-1927, one of the worst teams of that era (like the Mariners). Walter won 416 games, 110 by shutout, a major league record never to be broken. He shutout the opposition in 26% of his wins. And his record in shutouts has set records. Consider that 38 of his 110 shutouts were 1-0 scores, a major league record. And he was the losing pitcher in 65 shutouts, a major league record, and 26 of those were 1-0 games. His record in 1-0 shutouts was 38-26. Sixty-four games of 1-0 duels is also a record. 110-65 in overall shutouts. And not all of his career was in the dead ball era.

Walter got to the World Series in 1924 and 1925 when he was 37 and 38. I doubt Felix will pitch that long. And the way the Mariners fail to hit year after year, Felix, like Ernie Banks, may have a Hall of Fame career but no World Series.

King Felix meet Seattle Mariners General Montgomery

For those unaware of Mike Montgomery he will be 26 on July 1st. He was the first round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in the 2008 amateur draft, 36th overall. In 2012 he was traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent James Shields to the Royals. Tampa was not happy with his development and this spring were trying to convert the left handed starter to a reliever.

But then the Rays traded him to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez at the end of training camp, March 31st of this year. The Mariners needed a starter at triple A as insurance should one of their Major league pitchers get an injury. When James Paxton went down, Montgomery got the call, making his major league debut against the New York Yankees June 2nd, allowing one run in six innings.

Tuesday night at Safeco Field, pitching against his former organization the Kansas City Royals, Montgomery pitched a complete game 4-hit shutout striking out ten, walking nobody. It evened his record at 2-2 with a 2.04 ERA. In 35.1 innings he has allowed 26 hits, 8 walks, struck out 22 and given up one homer. He also has shown the ability to get out of jams. The Royals had the bases loaded in the first, no outs, and did not score. In the second inning they had runners at first and second, no outs, and Montgomery struck out the side.

The thing is there was nothing in his unremarkable  minor league career to indicate how well he has pitched at the major league level. Before his promotion, he was 4-3 at Tacoma with a 3.74 ERA. He had pitched 53 innings in his nine starts, not quite six per start. But the batting average against was .240. His entire minor league career shows a 46-50 record with 4.24 ERA in 159 starts and 5 relief appearances. More remarkable is he had only two complete games in his 159 starts and not one shutout. Not one, none, zip, never happened. His shutout of the Royals was his first professional whitewash.

They say-and we know who they are-that lefties develop later and it could be the Mariners have a steal and for once another organization, or in Mike’s case, two, are the ones getting fleeced not the Mariners. Seattle has lost Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo to name but three they should have kept. 

The Mariners currently have five starters doing well, though Felix in June has struggled. The King will not come out of the rotation, so it will be interesting what happens when Iwakuma and Paxton are once again healthy. Who leaves the rotation and where do they go? Tacoma? Unlikely. Bullpen? Stay tuned. But General Montgomery in command of all his pitches doesn’t look to be going anywhere.

Two reasons why Mariners can’t win

Dateline: Twilight Zone

Reason number one of why the M’s can’t win is that they can’t beat Houston. They are 1-7 against the Astros with 30% of the homeruns the Mariner pitching staff has given up being hit by the Astros. They beat Felix 10-0 Friday night with the King allowing eight first inning runs. Houston pounds the M’s like they are playing their double A affiliate. They abuse Seattle so badly the M’s need to ask PETA for shelter.

Reason number two is the recent batch of bats came from the wrong company. They have been using plastic wiffle ball bats. It is no wonder they can’t score runs. Okay, the truth of the matter is that Safeco Field has been found to be on an old Native American burial ground and they are playing under a curse. There is another theory brought up by the Ancient Mariner who believes there is an albatross around Jackie Z’s head.

Okay, to be serious, the number two reason is that Jackie Z, Seattle’s GM, does not like contact hitters or those who can get on base. He has built a team of hitters who don’t hit. The scouting department does an excellent job of drafting and developing pitchers, but they are a disaster when it comes to developing hitters. When Seattle traded for Mark Trumbo, they gave up nothing they would miss, but they got another all or nothing hitter, one who strikes out almost as often as Mike Zunino.

And why was Justin Ruggiano let go instead of Richie Weeks? Ruggiano can play the outfield and was at least batting over .200. Weeks was batting in the .160’s at the time of the trade and can not play defense. It is not a coincidence that Weeks and Jackie Z both have a Milwaukee Brewer connection. It is playing a favorite rather than doing what is best for the team.

The rumor was that Jackie Z was trying to pry outfielder Ben Revere from the Phillies this past week. The Phillies reportedly wanted to Taijuan Walker of James Paxton. That was wisely rejected. Ben Revere is another batter with a poor on base percentage. There is no trade that can help Seattle. They are stuck.

Wait til’ next year is the new battle cry.

 

Umpire Tony Randazzo screws Mariners again

Last August umpire Tony Randazzo ejected Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon on consecutive nights. The reason for running Lloyd out of the game the second time night was lame, as my blog at the time points out. Here is a link to that blog, though you will have to scroll down to find it:

http://ballsandstrikes.mlblogs.com/page/5/

Randazzo and Lloyd have a history that goes back years. And it’s not a good one.

But lets be honest. There are bad cops, bad politicians-okay they’re all bad-bad lawyers, bad doctors, and yes, there are bad umpires. Some carry personal grudges onto the diamond.  Last night it started when Brett Gardner on a full count, checked his swing-well according to Randazzo who was umpiring at third- but Gardner had taken two steps towards the Yankees dugout (even he thought it was a strike), then stopped when he heard the umpires call, tossed his bat, took off his arm pad and walked to first. Replay shows, according to  my eyes and the eyes of many, that he did not check his swing. It should have been a strikeout. It was  important because later in the inning A-Fraud Rodriquez checked his swing and the first base umpire said it was a ball on another full count. This was too close to call; it could have gone either way. The Yankees scored a run that inning, one that had they not got, would have given the Mariners a win instead of losing in extra innings.

Mariner catcher Mike Zunino objected and was tossed from the game and Lloyd had enough. He stormed out of the dugout to first, got ejected, then made a tour of the umpires, heading to home for a brief bark, then on to third to chew on Randazzo’s  ear. Stone-faced Tony to his credit stood his ground with courtly stoicism.  I think he knew Lloyd had a beef. I also think that Lloyd was already gone and he was glad of it.

I don’t care what the umpires association would say if anything. Nor do I care what Randazzo might say. It is political posturing. Umpires are human. They can dislike players, dislike managers, and they can give a favorable call on a close play to those they like and give an unfavorable call to those they don’t and who is going to be the wiser.

Granted that checked swings are in the eye of the beholder; it is a judgment call made in second. But it is not coincidental that Randazzo all to often gives Lloyd and the Mariners the dark side of the close calls.

Signs the Mariners will not make the playoffs

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said after 50 games he would know what kind of team he had. They have played 51 and are three games below .500 and twice of late have failed to rise above that mark. They are not a playoff team at present and most likely will not be. Even with over 100 games to play there is no sign they will get better.

In 2014 the M’s hit .244 next to last in the American League. After 51 games they are hitting .236 and only the Brewers .227 average is worse. Their .297 on base percentage is 28th in baseball. On the positive side they are slugging at a .396 clip, 16th in baseball. But since they are 28th in runs it means most of the home runs are solo blasts.

They are also 5th in baseball in batters striking out. That means not putting the ball in play; at least fly balls and ground balls have the chance to advance runners. Mike Zunino is striking out at a 42% clip. He is batting .183 and while I would loved to see him begin to hit, no team can carry a catcher, no matter how good is defense, if he is an offensive liability. An occasional home run does not help. Hitting below .200 for two consecutive seasons will bring into question of what to do with him in 2016.

Currently the Mariners have three hitters above .500. Nelson Cruz .333, Kyle Seager .277, and Seth Smith .262. Robinson Cano keeps swinging at balls out of the zone is batting an un-Cano .246. Dustin Ackley can catch the ball, can not throw it home, and is hitting .185.

Ackley and Zunino are the new Justin Smoak. Whenever Smoak got on one of his rare one week hitting binges, Mariner broadcaster Mike Blowers and others would bring out the old line, “it looks like he has it figured out now.” Of course Justin would go into a hitting funk lasting a month, then another brief fling of hitting brought out the tiresome cliché. When the 2015  season started and Ackley was hot, the cliché came out again, “it looks like Dustin has it figured out.” Wrong! When ever Zunino has a two hit game, we hear it again. Enough already. Neither has it figured out-as yet.

When the season started the Mariners wanted either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor to take the shortstop job. Neither has. Taylor, now in Tacoma, couldn’t hit, and Miller’s throws to first are not unlike a Fernando Rodney experience. And now Miller is not hitting.

Last season the Mariners got by with the best pitching in baseball, but that is not the case this year. Iwakuma is disabled and it is questionable whether he will return to his former self. James Paxton on the DL with a finger strain weakens  the starting five and the bullpen has been inconsistent. Danny Farquhar, now in Tacoma is being stretched out to become a starting pitcher. It is a fail safe move in case Mike Montgomery, starting tonight against the Yankees, is not the answer with Paxton gone. So much for Mariner depth, the illusion of spring. The bullpen has been charged with 13 of the 27 losses.

The truth is there are no signs this is a playoff team. A weak hitting catcher, no shortstop, no left fielder, lack of hitting, too many players striking out, no depth in starting pitching,  and an inconsistent bullpen are not signs of a playoff team. Wait till next year.

 

 

Three reasons why Mike Montgomery should replace James Paxton in the rotation

James Paxton is on the disabled list, so reason number one is that Seattle needs a starter and Mike Montgomery has been starting for Tacoma in Triple AAA. The second reason is that, like Paxton, Montgomery is a lefty. The third reason is that he has not started since May 26th, so he is rested. Naturally if Tacoma starts him before Tuesday he is not the answer.

Montgomery has no major league experience. He started his pro career at the age of 18 in 2008 when he was drafted out of high school by Kansas City. He has pitched in 164 minor league games, 159 were starts. he has only two complete games and his won loss record is 46-50 with a 4.24 ERA. His strikeout to walk issue is good and he does give up many long balls. Of course pitching at the major league level is another matter. His numbers are not overwhelming. But who else do the Mariners have to start with Paxton sidelined?

Mike Blowers has suggested Dominic Leone. But he is a relief pitcher, not likely to last three innings and his pitching this season has been ineffective. He was called up, but why start him? You will be taxing your bullpen, something Lloyd is loath to do. An ineffective reliever starting against the New York Yankees makes no sense. 

It has also been suggested that Jack Zduriencik, Mariners GM, may be calling around trying to make a trade. I doubt being in a vulnerable position as the M’s are, any team will help Seattle and the asking price for a short term fix undoubtedly would be too high.

It is funny in retrospect that this past spring everyone said the Mariners had a lot of depth. But they really don’t have depth. They had one proven starter in Tacoma, Roenis Elias, and he was called up when Iwakuma went on the DL. Now Paxton is out. One more pitcher going down and the Mariners may be doomed.

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