Tag Archives: Ken Griffey Jr

The Rebuilding Process, Year 5

One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.

This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2 Year 3 Year 4

Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.

    THE BLUEPRINT

2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm
Summary: Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager.
Grade: A+

2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix)
Summary: Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5.
Grade: B-

2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent
Summary: Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick.
Grade: B

2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record
Summary: Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall.
Grade: A

2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs
Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales.
Grade: ???

I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated

“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”

Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.

If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?

Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.

Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.

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The Most Important Reason to NOT Trade Felix Hernandez

A decent argument can, and has been made (almost weekly) for trading Felix Hernandez. I think we’ve all heard the basic elements of the discussion, but let’s review.

Trade Felix:
Felix is the most valuable chip the M’s have, and the likelihood of competing for a World Series before his contract expires after 2014 looks bleak (thanks to Tex and LAA). The national assumption is Felix will land in a big market the next time he hits free agency, because one can only handle so much rain, lack of offense, and of course, losing. And oh by the way, the Mariners offense is not so hot if you’ve tuned in this past decade, and there aren’t many top tier bats in the pipeline to change this. Speaking of top tier prospects, the M’s do have them, but they are pitchers. This side says trade your best asset to acquire offense (Pineda for Montero part 2), rather than stay this depressing course.

Do Not Trade Felix:
The argument I hear for not trading Felix mainly comes, naturally, from Mariner fans. This side says to be successful, you need an ace, which Felix is, and trading him for 1-2 MLB ready players plus a handful of prospects is not equal value. Furthermore, re-signing Felix may not be impossible based on his steadfast comments about the city and organization, and his desire to be a Mariner. Check out his comments from just two days ago:

“I’ve got two more years to go on my contract,” said Hernandez. “It’s not my decision. But I would love to stay. I love Seattle. I love the organization, and the city. I would be disappointed [to be traded],” Hernandez added. “I don’t think they will do that. I love them. And I think they like me, too.”

Lastly, what’s the rush to trade him now? Whether Seattle can contend before 2015 remains to be seen, but if two years from now the team is still struggling, and a trade must be made, Felix will still demand a nice package in return.

If you just consider the main points of each side, from 30,000 feet trading Felix looks logical, and inevitable. The trade Felix side has a compelling case. But let’s land this plane in Seattle, and dissect the lesser discussed, but most important reason the M’s should not trade Felix Hernandez: The Mariners needs an ace, yes, but more importantly, they need a face.

As a long suffering Seattle sports fan, I (and the other Good Guys) have insight and a pulse of the sports community that national writers and transplant Seattleites just don’t have. This town has seen too much losing, both in the record column, and in seeing it’s homegrown stars depart at the peak of their career. This list is long, headlined by the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Durant, Rashard Lewis, Joey Galloway, and Steve Hutchinson. These are the superstars that began their pro career in Seattle, then for various reasons left in their prime, leaving fans wondering what if? The other list is short, most notably Edgar Martinez, Ichiro, Shaun Alexander, Walter Jones, and old timers Steve Largent and Fred Brown. Adding Felix to this list would mean so much more than a couple prospects that may or may not become MLB players.

Losing Felix via trade or free agency would not only hurt on the baseball diamond, but the morale blow and symbolic loss would be felt for years. To this day I wonder what Kemp and Payton could have been had they stayed in Seattle another 5 years. Or those mid-90’s Mariners that had the best core in baseball, could Jr., A-Rod and Randy have brought Seattle a World Series? I tend to think yes. The Mariners especially can ill afford to lose a superstar, given its history of doing so, and also its current public relations state. Felix has made clear time and time again his desire to be a Mariner, and he backed his words by signing a 5 year extension. The Mariners owe the fans to put up a fight to keep Felix in Seattle past 2014, rather than trading him. He is too unique, too special, too important to this city, both in the short and long term. He is the king, our ace, our face.

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The Rebuilding Process, Years 1 & 2

    Year One

Following the disastrous 2008 season, the Mariners blew up the team, hired a new general manager, and eventually a new manager as well. Seattle was officially entering into a commonly used sports cliché, “rebuilding mode.” Jack Zduriencik wasted no time cutting bad contracts, bad draft picks, and basically any dead weight that Bill Bavasi had left behind. Entering the 2009 season, expectations were low, but excitement was building thanks to a new fresh regime. Last year’s team overachieved by most standards, thanks to a terrific record in close games, a reinvigorated team chemistry, and numerous players having career years. Needless to say, the Mariners seemed way ahead of schedule, finishing with an impressive 85-77 record. It felt like the rebuilding process might have come and gone in just 1 year.

    Year Two

Jack Zduriencik followed up the ’09 campaign by shedding the rest of the dead weight, and with new money to spend, Seattle acquired Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, and a couple other role players. A year after expectations were low and playoff talk was not even on the radar, suddenly the 2010 season began with renewed hope and fans were encouraged to “Believe Big.” We all know how this year has unfolded. The close game fortune from last year is gone, the Griffey reunion lasted a year too long, and instead of career bests from numerous players, we are witnessing career worst performances by many. The rebuilding process we had hoped might last just 1 year is still in process. For a moment, Zduriencik saw a shortcut out of rebuild mode, but that crack was quickly closed. It was a risk worth taking, because legitimate shots at the playoffs don’t come often. A failed attempt, such as what we are seeing unfold, is upsetting, but probably won’t set the team back much. Cliff Lee is sure to be traded shortly, and the package Zduriencik gets in return will likely outweigh the 3 prospects that Seattle sent to the Phillies for Lee, and once the 2010 season is buried, Zduriencik will continue to build.

The bad contracts have been shed, the foundation has been laid, and despite this lost, tumultuous, depressing season, the Mariners are probably still on track to accomplish the long term goals that were set back in November, 2008. The high expectations heading into 2010 can easily distract us from the big picture, and while there is a lot to be frustrated about at the current moment, when looking at the full view, it’s really not that bad given where this team was just 2 years ago.

-Dan

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Wrapping up the Day

I’m exhausted.  At 4 o’clock today I was headed back from a movie with my brother and it was just a normal day.  Now, it’s close to midnight and one of the most mentally draining baseball days I can remember.  I know, getting wrapped up in sports to the point where it makes you tired could be considered dumb.  I’m sure that’s what my mother, and countless other humans, would say but sports do that to me.  The day Locker decided to stay and Lee rumors started to fly was tiring.  The Huskies basketball team was exhausting for many reasons all year.  And it’s hard for me to come away from a home Husky football game without being a little drained.  This day may have trumped all of those experiences though.  Lets take a look at what all happened:

  • At 4:22 UW recruit, Cody Kessler, committed to USC.  He is a highly rated quarterback and it wasn’t very surprising to see him pick the Trojans.  He was a USC guy all the way and it’s nice to see kids go with the school they’ve always dreamed of going to.  It would have been nice to have him but, oh well.
  • At 4:36 I received a text from Joe that read, “Just read that Griffey is retiring today.”  Confirmation came a few minutes later. 
  • Around 5:30 I watched Armando Galarraga get screwed.
  • At 6 I watched the Top 10 Griffey Moments on FSN.  I’d seen this several times but, needless to say, this time was different.  This time I knew there wouldn’t be any moments to add to this list.
  • At 6:30 I watched That 70’s Show.  It’s the greatest show ever and was needed to take the edge off.
  • At 7:00 I turned on the Mariners and watched them win their first extra-inning game of the season. 

That’s a busy schedule and I think a justifiable reason for the exhaustion (along with still being tired from Sasquatch! Music Festival). 

Thoughts on these events after the jump. Continue reading

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A Spark or Just False Hope?

This last week has been one of the most frustrating weeks I can remember as a sports fan.  Since last Friday’s win at Tampa Bay, the Mariners’ had gone on a 5-game losing streak in which they lost 4 of those games by one run.  Two of those games were walk-off wins and this 5-game skid doesn’t even count the 8th inning collapse in Baltimore last week.  We could see that the M’s were playing better than they had during their 8-game losing streak but the results weren’t there to prove it.  Unfortunately for this team, results are all that matters.

On top of this, 5-star recruit Terrance Jones ended his recruiting roller coaster by signing with Kentucky Wednesday.  I’ve watched a Husky football team go 0-12, I watched the ’08 Mariners and I’ve watched so many other Seattle sports teams collapse but this was my mountain top of frustration.  These were my teams.  The 2010 Mariners were supposed to remind Seattle that it was truly a baseball city.  The 2010-11 Husky basketball team was going to be the one who finally made it to the elite eight, led by a mix of experience and great young talent.  But on Wednesday night, the lights were shut off on these hopes.

Then came Thursday.  I don’t watch the Mariners because I think they’ll make the playoffs.  Sure, I hope they’ll make the playoffs but I watch the M’s because they’re my team.  Same goes for the Huskies.  Because of this, I faithfully took my place on the couch and turned on yesterdays afternoon game.  I didn’t expect to win but I watched anyway, again because they’re my team. 

The game went like so many had before.  The Mariners’ kept it close but looked as if they’d come up just short.  But, this time they had a rally that didn’t end in disappointment.  With one swing of the bat by the most respected man on the team (yes, Griffey is the most respected player on that team) Mariner fans were allowed to do something they hadn’t done in a while.  Smile. 

The question is whether this was a spark or just a good moment in a disappointing season.  The frustration of this week is still lingering even with the relief that yesterday brought.  Terrance Jones is still a Wildcat and the Mariners are still 8.5 back in the West.  But instead of the room being pitch black Griffey stumbled around to plug a night-light in.  Yesterday, he was the hero and I couldn’t think of a better way for this team to win than to mob the teammate they look up to the most.  But now, it’s a brand new day.  This team needs a winning streak and needs it to happen soon or this season will be all but over by July.  Today is not a must-win but it’s pretty dang close.  It’s time to see if this was a spark or if the room is still black. 

Andrew

A few random notes after the jump Continue reading

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The Worst Case Scenario? Pretty Close…

Following the ridiculous 6-5 loss to Baltimore on Thursday, I was listening to Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN, and Dave Cameron from USSM was on the show. Cameron said the pre-season likelihood that the M’s would have finished the first 34 games at 13-21, would have been about 7-10%. This number is not a scientific fact, but anyone who knows a thing about baseball can look at the roster Seattle assembled, paired with the weak division they play in, and conclude that a 13-21 start would have been tough to imagine. Is this the worst case scenario? Well, of course it’s not the absolute worst case. That would be a winless team with multiple injured starters, a manager soon to be fired, and a clubhouse that is fist fighting. But this is pretty close to the worst possible scenario I could have thought up back in March. Here are 5 reasons why the M’s are where they are. (And sorry, this gets a little lengthy)

1) Bad luck (aka sucking in crunch time)
Last year, the M’s made hay in 1-run games. Despite giving up more runs than they scored, the M’s won 85 games, which by most standards, was an anomaly. The odd that Seattle could have racked up 85 W’s last year was slim when the year began. It was a pleasure seeing my team hang on in close games and show grit time and time again. This year, the Gods have not been so kind in similar games. In fact, in 9 of Seattle’s 21 losses, the M’s either led or were tied going into the eighth inning. That is a staggering result. If the Mariners could have won even just 4 of those 9 games, we would be talking about a 17-17 team heading into the Tampa series. The worst part is that in most cases, one minor miscue has been the difference between a win and a loss. The Byrnes whiffed bunt. The Johnson passed balls. The poor execution of bases loaded in extra innings. Those are the type of missed opportunities that has defined this team through 35 games. If you care to look at just how those 9 gut wrenching games played out, take a look at the quick summaries Shannon Drayer put together-http://www.mynorthwest.com/category/mariners_blog_articles/20100513/Too-Many-Tough-Losses

2) Slow start offense
In addition to the close losses, the Mariners are not hitting. Figgins, Kotchman, Griffey, Lopez, Bradley, Moore, Johnson and Jack Wilson are all off to slow starts. Typically you assume a few regulars will start slow, but it’s hard to win when all but 2 starters are hitting around .200 or lower. The offense is without a doubt the biggest reason the M’s are sitting where they are.

3) The Bullpen
The Mariners have a solid bullpen. I’d bet as many as 4 of our relievers could be closers on some major league teams. But despite good overall stats, some untimely blow ups have resulted in numerous losses. Lowe, League and Aardsma have combined to give up 6 home runs. That’s not the astounding number though, as 6 home runs between 3 relievers in mid-May is not unreasonable. What is astounding is that all 6 of those home runs were either game tiers or game winners, and all came in the 8th or 9th innings. Ouch. Often times home runs are not all the pitchers fault, because even perfectly executed pitches can be hit 400 feet by major league hitters. A lot of the bullpen’s failures are just plain bad luck. That’s just baseball. The bullpen is not a major concern for this team.

4) Off the field issues
The Bradley fiasco and the Griffey nap have been the two biggest off the field incidents thus far. The Milton thing was almost to be expected, considering his past, while the Griffey thing has snowballed from a minor issue to headlines on ESPN. That whole thing is just weird. You could include injuries in this category I suppose, to Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe, and Jack Wilson.

5) Inconsistency
The problem with this team is similar to the problem with my golf game. If I’m driving and putting well, my irons and chipping are failing me. If my short game is on, my drives are erratic. For the Mariners, the offense, starting pitching, and defense was great on Thursday. The bullpen was not, and so despite playing well in 3 out of 4 facets of the game, that one poor area bit us hard. It seems like that’s how it has gone all year. We just can’t play well in all aspects, and even when we play well in 2 or 3 areas, the 1 that we suck at ends up costing us the game.

Reason for hope after the jump! Continue reading

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Game Recap — 5/11/2010

Nothing like seeing Baltimore on the schedule to cheer up a blue Mariners fan. They are really bad. And yesterday, we looked really good. It appears the team is rallying around the Griffey story and if that’s what it takes to come together, then I’m all for it.

The quick analysis is Cliff did his thing, the Tacoma bats continued their hot hitting, and the M’s took care of business in efficient fashion. Speaking of those Tacoma bats, Langerhans, Wilson, and Saunders combined to go 5-11 with a homer, 2 RBI, and 9 total bases. I especially love seeing Michael Saunders play well, because left field is a position of need for the M’s. If his early success continues, we may look back and point to his call up from Tacoma as the turning point in this season.

Cliff Lee is fun to watch. I love his first pitch strikes. I love how fast he works. I love that he doesn’t walk batters. I love his cool demeanor. I love you Cliff. Now, please engage in the following conversation, because I’ve had this dream a couple times already.

Jack Z: Hey Cliff, thanks for coming in, take a seat.
Cliff: Whats up?
Jack Z: Well, I noticed your contract is up at year’s end and, well, let’s see if we can’t figure something out to keep you a Mariner a little while longer.
Cliff: Hmm, I usually don’t do this type of thing mid-season, but I sure love being part of baseball’s best 1-2 punch. Awe heck, let’s bang something out.
Jack Z: Perfect. How about 3 years, 52 million.
Cliff: That is generous, but 55 million has a better ring to it. Deal?
Jack Z: Deal! Now, excuse me while I go get you some bats. I hear Mauer is available, let’s see what Minnesota thinks of Rob Johnson.

Then I wake up from my dream.

Some more quick notes and hero/goat after the jump! Continue reading

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Thoughts About Griffey Napping, Hitting Coaches, and the Mariners Management

Note:  This is a few more words than I intended.  Sorry.  This is just my opinion and doesn’t reflect any of the other author’s thoughts on this subject.

The entire M’s blogosphere has had an interesting 2 days.  With the firing of Alan Cockrell and a story surfacing of Griffey taking a nap, I have read countless posts about what all of this means.  Naturally, I don’t think there’s enough stories about this so I’ll have to add one Good Guy’s take on it.  (That sentence was sarcastic if you didn’t catch on.) 

First, I’ll start with Griffey napping.  If you haven’t heard the story you either hate sports, are a Martian, or don’t have access to the internet.  If this is the case, I have no idea why you would read this blog but here’s the basics of the story:  Griffey was going to pinch-hit for Rob Johnson late in a tied game but instead was taking a nap in the clubhouse.  Several players told this to reporter Larry LaRue.  Yes, this is bad but I tend to think that it’s not nearly as bad as people are saying.  To be honest, I don’t really care.  Here are a few reasons why I don’t care:

  1. Griffey would have gotten out.  There’s hardly a doubt in my mind that the Griff-dawg would have rolled a ground ball to the second baseman or struck out.  It’s not like we were going to send Albert Pujouls up to the plate; Rob Johnson has a better on-base percentage than Griffey.  Sure, you could play the what-if game and say, “Griffey could have come in, got a hit and would have won the game for us” but baseball, and life for that matter, aren’t about “what if’s” which lead me to my next point.
  2. The Mariners didn’t win.  If the Mariners had won this game no one makes much of a story about this.  Seriously.  All of these so-called “off the field” issues that have been reported in the last few weeks would hardly be an issue if the Mariners had simply won a few more ball games.  Griffey missed one at-bat, it didn’t lose us the game.  Eric Byrnes not talking to reporters and riding out on his bike did not put us on the losing streak.  His missed suicide squeeze but the events afterwards did nothing to physically alter the baseball games that followed.  Milton Bradley did not put us on that losing streak either.  His situation is a little more tricky since he’s not playing right now but his off the field antics have nothing to do with the performance of 8 of his other teammates who are playing.  Scapegoats come up when you’re not winning and this is what is happening right now.  All of these guys screwed up some in handling their situations but it hardly affected this teams performance.  Blame it on slumps, blame it on poor execution but think twice before blaming all of this 3 off the field antics.
  3. If you take a step back this situation is kind of funny.  Griffey looks like an old man at the plate and now is found sleeping in the clubhouse during games.  I like to laugh and picturing this cracks me up.  Take a few deep breaths and stop taking things so seriously if it doesn’t at least make you chuckle.  Have you watched this team?  They put me to sleep too.

I’m not saying what Griffey did isn’t wrong.  People don’t go to work and fall asleep on the job because it’s wrong; Griffey was wrong for doing this.  But, if you’re going to be upset with something, and there are lots to choose from on this team at the moment, it seems like you should pick something better than a guy taking a nap. 

If Griffey ends up getting cut or retires it won’t be because he fell asleep, it’ll be because he can’t really hit the ball right now.  Eric Byrnes was not cut because he didn’t talk to reporters and rode off on his bike (which is also hilarious by the way).  He was cut because he couldn’t hit, wasn’t a very good fielder and didn’t contribute to this team.  As much as the media has made it seem that Byrnes was cut because he didn’t talk after a game, that’s not the case.  He was cut because he sucks. 

Our management isn’t dumb enough to cut people because they screw something up off the field.  They know it’s a business and that the results on the field is what ultimately matters.  Yes, they care about their employees and that is shown in the way they’ve handled some of these situations but it’s about on-field results.  Continue reading

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