Mariners Musings

Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White

Friday, November 07, 2003


I've found my new all purpose swear word. Let's see, press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. PST, which (if my math is correct) is 4 p.m. EST, so another two hours.
|| Peter @ 11/07/2003

The big day

Is the suspense killing you yet? Me neither. I do have a nasty impatient streak and am beyond ready to get this over with already. John Hickey says the trio's down to two. Larry Stone says there is just one. Here's Stone's scariest comment:
"One of his [Bill Bavasi's] first big moves [as GM of the Angels] was signing Bo Jackson. One of his final moves was signing Mo Vaughn to a six-year, $80 million contract."

Ouch. That's a bad sign. A very bad sign. Edward Cosette last week commented amidst the Manny Ramirez Waiver Saga, "I'm still of the thinking that Theo Epstein is smarter than I am and smarter than the Boston media and that he's working the baseball chess board like a Garry Kasparov, thinking 5 to 10 moves ahead." I try to replace "Bill Bavasi/Benny Looper" and "Seattle media" into that statement and I get this deflated feeling, like that feeling I get when I wake up in the morning thinking it's Friday only to find out it's really Wednesday, sometimes Tuesday. I just wish I could have Edward's same unwavering confidence in the turkeys running what I call "my team." Is it really too much to wish for?

As much as everything in my being resists linking to anything on the YES Network, I've recently been pointed to the columns of Steve Goldman. His comments on Don Mattingly as hitting coach of the Yankees I find excellently apropos of the Mariners situation with Paul Molitor:
Walt Hriniak and Charlie Lau both were noted hitting coaches despite being mediocre hitters themselves. Joe DiMaggio coached without distinction, as did Mickey Mantle. Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams probably understood the mechanics of hitting as well as anyone who ever held a bat, but their intense personalities handicapped them as teachers. A coach's good name and on-field accomplishments offer no guarantees.

Rod Carew, a career .328 hitter and owner of seven batting titles, was the hitting coach for the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers, the team that set the record for strikeouts in a season. Carew himself had great bat control and struck out only 67 times per 162 games, but he could no more teach sluggers Richie Sexson and Jeromy Burnitz to hit like him than he could learn to hit like them. The same thing is true of Mattingly [or Molitor]. His name and his accomplishments probably will give him an air of authority, but the rest is up to his pedagogical skills.

A good hitter does not make a good teacher, but that's not to say Coach Molitor won't be. I'm just not hanging my hopes for the second half of 2004 on a new marquee name hitting coach. There's plenty more good stuff there. I could quote the whole thing, but that'd be a bit excessive. Just follow the link.

For the first time ever, the Hall of Fame is allowing fans to nominate the finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award. The Frick award is "presented annually to a broadcaster for major contributions to the game of baseball." Past winners include Red Barber, Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck, Vin Scully. Last year it was Bob Uecker. Now go vote and vote now for Dave Niehaus. We get to submit one ballot per day until December 1. I've heard the complaints about Niehaus and to those critics I say: "Have you ever tried to listen to any other team's play-by-play team?" I listened to nearly every Mariner ballgame in the spring and summer of 2002, spring training included. The sound of Dave Niehaus waxing poetic about my Seattle Mariners made an absolutely unbearable workevening bearable. God, I miss that. He is the last of a dying breed in the tradition of the classic baseball radio men. And you don't need me to tell you that Dave Niehaus is Seattle baseball. So show the guy some love and get him on the ballot.

And from somewhere out of left field, this is good for a laugh (thanks, Ryan). I just wonder where I can find that Country Church album. It really makes me ponder what ever happened to Tino. You can actually sample Devastatin' Dave's mp3 here. And good times were had by all.
|| Peter @ 11/07/2003

Thursday, November 06, 2003

3 is the magic number

As if they're some sort of unholy trinity, Larry Stone is reporting the M's GM candidates are whittled down to three: in-house man Benny Looper, the Tigers' assistant GM Al Avila and Dodgers' director of player development Bill Bavasi.

If they choose Looper, I'll yawn and dig in to play another season of second guessing the GM.

If they choose Avila, I might break spontaneously break into sobs. The assistant GM of the Tigers? Okay so he's been there just a year. It's amazing what a happen-chance championship in Florida has done to the reputations to anyone remotely associated to the organization now since its inception. Suddenly every front office executive with "Florida Marlins" on his resume is golden. "Hey, we've got this guy who got coffee for the guy who had an office next to the guy who scouted Josh Beckett back in '99. How 'bout him?"

If they choose Bavasi, I swear, I will be too frightened to second guess the general manager. That picture could give nightmares. Does he really look like some cyborg from a sci-fi B-movie in real life?

Oh yeah, and John Mabry will not be back next year. Just allow to be the first to say: "Well, crap."
|| Peter @ 11/06/2003

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The worst Mariner pitchers of all time: Part II

20. James Baldwin 2002

Only one pitcher appears on this list from the Safeco Field/Bryan Price years. His name? James Baldwin. Whether this a credit to the tutelage of Price or the pitcher friendliness of Safeco Field, I have yet to decide. But James Baldwin was bad.

One of the greatest days of my life was the day my 16-game plan season tickets arrived in the mail during the dark winter of ’01-’02. I believe it was ticket plan C. It should have been called the “James Baldwin Plan,” because, I swear, Jimbo made an appearance in every single game I attended in 2002. If he didn’t start, he came in from the bullpen. I should have asked for some sort of refund.

The right-handed 30-year-old Baldwin arrived as a free agent as a part of Pat Gillick’s grand scheme of improving upon the historic 2001 season. Coming off a strong 2000 campaign with the White Sox followed by elbow problems the next year, Baldwin was slated to fill the #5 slot in the rotation. Hey, we’ve all got dreams. Baldwin appeared in 30 games, 23 starts and went 7-10. Yeah, just 7 wins on a team that won 93. In 150 innings, he allowed 179 hits (10.7 per 9 innings), 49 walks (2.9 per 9 innings), 88 strikeouts (5.3 per 9 innings), 26 home runs (1.6 per 9 innings) and 88 earned runs (5.28 ERA). At least he threw strikes. But then again, it would have been nice if some of those strikes had stayed within the confines of Safeco Field. Think about that a moment.

He signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City “Send Us Your Veteran Pitchers” Royals last winter. And while the Royals did send 15 different pitchers to start games, they were wise enough to cut Baldwin before sending him to the mound in Kauffman Stadium. Baldwin was picked up by the Twins and made just 10 relief appearances. He’ll be lucky to get even that next year.

19. Diego Segui 1977

Just like Jim Colborn, Diego Segui is another example of an aging veteran sent to pasture in the Kingdome. It seems the Mariners needed some warm bodies to fill out the bullpen of their inaugural team. The contract of the 39-year-old right-hander was purchased from the Padres just following the 1976 season, though he hadn’t pitched in the majors since ‘75. Segui lasted just one year in Seattle. And that’s a good thing.

Segui filled the role of middle relief/swing man for the first-year Mariners. He pitched in 40 games, made 7 starts, saved 2 games and went 0-7. In 111 innings, he allowed 108 hits (8.8 per 9 innings), 43 walks (3.5 per 9 innings), 91 strikeouts (7.4 per 9 innings), 20 home runs (1.6 per 9 innings) and 70 earned runs (5.68 ERA). His ratios aren’t horrible, but teams still scored on him like they knew they wouldn’t get another chance to. And they didn’t, as Diego found one year in Seattle one year too many and retired following the 1977 season.

18. Dave Fleming 1991-1995

Ah, what could have been. The Mariners selected Dave Fleming in the third round of the 1990 draft and the 21-year-old left-hander made his debut August 6, 1991. The rookie made 3 starts in 9 appearances with an underwhelming 6.62 ERA. He made the team in ’92 as the #4 starter and led the team in starts (33), wins (17), complete games (7), shutouts (4) and innings (228.1). He recorded a then team record 9 consecutive wins. I’d like to see his pitch counts for the year. Unless your name is Mark Prior, leading your team in complete games and innings pitched in your early twenties is not a good thing. Just ask A.J. Burnett. In his last game of 1992, Fleming experienced pain in his shoulder. It was the beginning of the end. He began the 1993 season on the disabled list and never returned to form. He had an average season in ’93: 26 starts, 4.36 ERA, but fell off a cliff after that. In 1994, he started 23 games with a 6.46 ERA, and in 1995 made just 7 starts in 16 appearances with a 7.50 ERA before getting traded to Kansas City. One good season, one so-so, two truly horrible ones. He never pitched again after 1995.

So in five seasons with the Mariners, Dave Fleming went 38-31, making 92 starts in 107 games. In 578.1 innings, he allowed 642 hits (10.0 per 9 innings), 229 walks (3.6 per 9 innings), 289 strikeouts (4.5 per 9 innings), 63 home runs (1.0 per 9 innings) and 304 earned runs (4.73 ERA). While it’s easy fantasize where the Mariners could be today with a healthy Dave Fleming (he is still just 33) and to point the finger at manager Bill Plummer for abusing such a young talent, Fleming’s K/BB ratio wasn’t close to the range that predicates future success. He kept the ball in park, which was important in the Kingdome, but he walked too many and struck out too few. Ah, what could have been. Today, he’s a fifth grade school teacher.

17. Odell Jones 1979

The Mariners acquired Odell Jones from the Pirates in a six-man trade in December of 1978. Just prior to the 1980 season, the Mariners sent him back to Pittsburgh for cash and a player to be named later. Just one year was all they needed.

The 26-year-old right-hander started a career high 19 games with Seattle in 25 appearances, and he went 3-11. In 118.2 innings, he allowed 151 hits (11.4 per 9 innings), 58 walks (4.4 per 9 innings), 72 strikeouts (5.5 per 9 innings), 16 home runs (1.2 per 9 innings) and 80 earned runs (6.07 ERA). Jones biggest problem was keeping runners off the bases. Hits and walks will raise an ERA in a hurry. He pitched pretty much exclusively in relief once he left Seattle.

16. Bob Galasso 1977, 1981

Bob Galasso was picked from the Orioles in the expansion draft of 1976. As a 25-year-old, he put together an 0-6 record and 9.00 ERA despite just making 7 starts in the Mariners inaugural season. The Mariners released him following spring training of the next year. After a stint with the Brewers, the Mariners thought to give the then 29-year-old right-hander a second pass to start the 1981 season. He responded with a 4.83 ERA in 31.2 innings of relief. He made one start and saved one game that year.

Combining his two stints in Seattle, Galasso made 24 appearances, 8 starts and went 1-7 with 1 save. In 66.2 innings, he allowed 89 hits (12.0 per 9 innings), 21 walks (2.8 per 9 innings), 35 strikeouts (4.7 per 9 innings), 10 home runs (1.3 per 9 innings) and 52 earned runs (7.02 ERA). He kept the ball within the strike zone but somehow managed to always find the bat, though, and keeping runners from touching home plate was a bit of a problem. Galasso did not pitch again in the majors after 1981.

Tomorrow, #11-15...
|| Peter @ 11/04/2003

Woo hoo!

Edgar's coming back!
The agent, Willie Sanchez, said in a phone interview that Martinez, who turns 41 in January, has decided "definitively" to return for his 18th major-league season. In fact, Sanchez has begun negotiations with Seattle officials on a contract. (Stone, Times)

But then there's the shocking kicker... he might not come back to Seattle.
"There's an area (financially) they want to come in at," Sanchez said. "We don't totally agree with that. We're getting closer. We're closing the gap."

What?! I don't even know what the Mariners are offering Edgar, but whatever it is, it's not enough. That the Mariners are playing hardball with Edgar is absolutely ludicrous, though not surprising. Sure, he's a 41-year-old, injury plagued player with absolutely no value whatsoever defensively. But he's Edgar Martinez. If Edgar ends up finishing career anywhere but Safeco Field because the front office is cheap, it will be the Mariners' greatest loss... ever. Greater than Griffey. Greater than A-Rod.

I've already braced myself emotionally for the inevitable loss of Mike Cameron. I'm ready for it. I don't think I could take it if Edgar left to play for another team. I don't know if I could ever cheer for the Mariners again. Then again, I'm sure I'd cope somehow.

And in other news... Yankee GM Brian Cashman is off-limits. Moneyball hero Paul DePodesta still has not been contacted. The ineptitude being displayed by the Mariners in their GM search would be humorous if I didn't consider the Mariners my team. Instead I'm embarrassed that they seem to have no plan whatsoever, no strong leads after a month, and the winter GM meetings start next Monday. Pathetic.

The continuation of the "worst pitchers" series has been put on hold. I have the next section done. I saved it on a disk and put it in my bag last night to post when I got to work this morning. Pulling out of the driveway this morning I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. A mile down the road it hit me: "The disk!" I pulled over and searched my bag to make sure I had. Sure enough, there it was. But when I sat down at my desk and hour later, it was nowhere to be found. I'm guessing it slipped out of my bag and sitting in the front seat of the truck at the train station. So it will have to wait until I get home this evening. Stay tuned.
|| Peter @ 11/04/2003

Monday, November 03, 2003

The worst Mariner pitchers of all time: Part I

Start a discussion of the greatest Mariners of all time and even the most casual fan can throw out names like Griffey, Edgar, A-Rod, Big Unit. But who is the the worst? KJR took a shot at this idea earlier in the year. There are some great names in the list, but really now, let's take an educated approach to this. Comparing pitchers to hitters is a little like comparing apples to oranges, so this week, barring any earth-shattering news, like say the front office actually names a GM this week, I'll be offering my opinions on the Top 25 worst pitchers to ever don a Mariner uniform, counting down five each day. Playing time counts. It's one thing to be awful and not play. It's quite another thing be awful and remain in the rotation for the entire year. Bobby Ayala doesn't make the cut (he posted a 2.86 ERA in '94 with above average ERA's three of his five years in Seattle and only had one truly horrible season). No Jose Mesa (his ERA's in Seattle are just a hair below league average). No Allen Watson, who pitched 3 innings and walked 3 and allowed 5 homers before being shipped back to New York. No Giovanni Cabrera. We won't even go there. But here's where we will go.

25. Clay Parker 1987, 1992

Clay Parker attended Lousiana State on a full scholarship for football and also played baseball as a walk-on. The Dallas Cowboys offered him a contract, but Parker picked baseball when the Mariners chose Clay in the 15th round of the 1985 amateur draft.

Parker made his Seattle debut at the age of 24 with a cup-of-coffee callup on September 14, 1987. He appeared in 3 games, starting one and finishing another. In 7.2 innings, he allowed 15 hits, 4 walks and 9 earned runs for a 10.57 ERA. He gave up 2 home runs but did strike out 8 batters.

That December, the Mariners shipped him along with Lee Guetterman and Wade Taylor to the Yankees in the trade that brought Henry Cotto and fellow bad pitcher Steve Trout to the Mariners. He would spend time in New York, Detroit and Oakland before signing again with the Mariners as a free agent in December 1991. In the 1992 season, Parker saw action in 8 games, 6 as a starter. He pitched 33.1 innings and allowed 47 hits, 11 walks, 6 home runs and 28 earned runs. He did strike out 20.

Following the ’92 season, he retired, making his career Mariner line 41 innings in 11 games, an 0-2 record, 57 hits (12.5 per 9 innings), 15 walks (3.3 per 9 innings), 8 home runs (1.8 per 9 innings) 28 strikeouts (6.1 per 9 innings) and 37 earned runs (8.12 ERA). But at least he seems to be content with that.

24. Matt Wagner 1996

The Mariners made Matt Wagner their 3rd round pick in the ’94 draft. Two summers later he made his major league debut June 5, 1996 at the age of 24. He pitched in 15 games, starting 14 and went 3-5. In 80 innings, he allowed 91 hits (10.2 per 9 innings), 38 walks (4.3 per 9 innings), 15 home runs (1.7 per 9 innings) and 61 earned runs (6.86 ERA) whilie striking out 41 (4.6 per 9 innings). Wagner was one of several young starter casualties of the pre-Bryan Price Lou Piniella years.

He was traded immediately following the World Series in ’96 with Trey Moore and Chris Widge to Montreal for Jeff Fassero and Alex Pacheco. However, Wagner never pitched in the major leagues again.

23. Paul Spoljaric 1997-1998

Pat Gillick has been scorned throughout baseball the past two years for not making trades at the summer trade deadline. Mariner fans, especially, seem to have forgotten how reactionary a general manager Gillick’s predecessor, Woody Woodward, was at the deadline. Paul Spoljaric is one prime example. On July 31, 1997, Woodward acquired middle relievers Spoljaric and Mike Timlin from Toronto for young outfield prospect Jose Cruz, Jr. The left-handed Spoljaric pitched 22.2 innings in 20 appearances, posting a 4.76 ERA. The Mariners won the pennant that year but were eliminated by Gillick’s Baltimore Orioles in a 4-game ALDS. Spoljaric made 2 appearances in that series, allowing 4 hits but no runs in 1.2 innings.

In 1998, he pitched in 53 games, including 6 starts and posted a sorry ERA of 6.48. That winter, as the Mariners had sunk to third place, Spoljaric found himself again traded, this time to Philadelphia for Mark Leiter. Thus, his career Mariner line is 106 innings in 73 games, a record of 4-6, 109 hits (9.3 per 9 innings), 70 walks (5.9 per 9 innings), 116 strikeouts (9.8 per 9 innings), 15 home runs (1.3 per 9 innings) and 72 earned runs (6.11 ERA). While he certainly could blow the ball past a batter, control was not exactly his strong suit in Seattle. Woody Woodward sacrificed a promising young left fielder for this excuse of a middle reliever.

Completely unrelated to his Mariner career, yet humorously notable, while with Toronto in 1999 Spoljaric suffered a black eye from the Twins’ Christian Guzman when Guzman charged the mound after Spoljaric threw a pitch over Guzman’s head. It seems Spoljaric was a bit peeved at giving up 7 unearned runs in one inning and resorted to the if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-then-kill-‘em strategy.

22. Jim Colborn 1978

While Paul Spoljaric is an excellent example the Mariners’ incessant need in the mid-to-late nineties to sacrifice prospects for bottom of the barrel middle relief, Jim Colborn is the example of the journeyman sent to Seattle to end his career. He debuted in 1969 with the Cubs and then pitched for the Brewers and Royals. The Mariners acquired the 32-year-old right hander on June 1, 1978 from the Royals for DH/OF Steve Braun. The Mariners then resigned him as a free agent that winter but released him at the end of spring training just prior to the start of the 1979 season and Colborn thus ended his major league career.

Colborn appeared in 20 games, making 19 starts, and posted a record of 3-10. Hey, these were the 1978 Mariners. In 114.1 innings, he allowed 125 hits (9.8 per 9 innings), 38 walks (3.0 per 9 innings), 26 strikeouts (2.0 per 9 innings), 21 home runs (1.7 per 9 innings) and 68 earned runs (5.35 ERA).

He never was much of a strikeout pitcher, but in his final season he could hardly strike out a batter to save his life. And any pitcher who serves up nearly as many homers as he records strikeouts is in serious trouble.

21. Tim Leary 1992-1993

Tim Leary was the second overall pick in the ’79 draft by the Mets and Comeback Player of the Year in ’88 when he went 17-11 for the World Champion Dodgers. He was a mere shadow of that former potential when the Mariners acquired the 33-year-old right hander and cash from the Yankees in August of 1992 in exchange for minor leaguer Sean Twitty. Luckily for the Mariners in this case, nothing became of Twitty. Leary went 3-4 down the stretch with a 4.91 ERA in Seattle. He made 27 starts for the Mariners in 1993 going 11-9 with a 5.05 ERA. In the great injustice that are won-loss records, Erik Hanson made more starts than Leary, posted a 3.47 ERA but went 11-12. Leary became a free agent following the season and signed with Montreal.

In his thankfully brief Mariner career, Leary appeared in 41 games, making 35 starts, and posted a record of 14-13. In 213.1 innings, he allowed 249 hits (10.5 per 9 innings), 88 walks (3.7 per 9 innings), 80 strikeouts (3.4 per 9 innings), 24 home runs (1.0 per 9 innings) and 119 earned runs (5.02 ERA). Leary was another pitcher with control problems, issuing more strikeouts than walks. That he was the number three starter on the team is a testament to the sorry state of Mariner pitching for the era.

#15-#20 tomorrow...
|| Peter @ 11/03/2003

Odds and ends

The initial deadline for naming the new general manager has come and gone. As we wait in beleagured anticipation for the decision, the Mariners have named Paul Molitor as their new hitting coach. Now we know the guy can hit (any chance he can still play third base?), but whether he can coach is something he has yet to prove. If bringing in Molitor, though, is what it takes to convince Edgar to come back another year, then it may just be the most significant acquisition of the winter for the Mariners.

If you're the charitable kind (and I am), Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion offers a plethora of info on donating towards the relief in southern California.

Now I've had the great pleasure of living vicariously through the eyes of a Cub's fan this year thanks to Christian Ruzich and his Cub Reporter. Christian is overseas on business but has learned he won't have a house to come home to thanks to the fires in his city of Cuyamaca, CA. He's got a Paypal donation button on his site, and I'm sure investing in his blog will not be a priority for him in the coming months. Christian, you're in my prayers, buddy.

And lastly, Laura Cassidy offers a touching tribute to Elliott Smith in the Seattle Weekly that I thought was worth passing on.
|| Peter @ 11/03/2003