Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Maybe He Was Just Resting His Eyes

  • Nap-gate continues for the Mariners:

This ain't good.

Widely expected to contend based on their pitching and the burgeoning "genius" of their GM Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners are not only faced with a popgun offense that has them floundering at 13-19, but they're dealing with an in-house controversy as to whether Ken Griffey Jr. was sleeping through a game rendering him unavailable to pinch hit.

The contretemps have fostered an atmosphere of disarray with the Mariners; damaged the clubhouse control of manager Don Wakamatsu; embarrassed Griffey; and forced a team that didn't need more aggravation in a trying season to hold team meetings based on crisis-control rather than an attempt to right the ship on the field.

Who knows what really happened?

This ESPN Story is detailing the gradually rising crest of the situation. Griffey and Wakamatsu are adamantly denying that Griffey was sleeping; the two unnamed younger players who told the tales out of school have undoubtedly been called out (it couldn't have been that hard to figure out who they were) and told to zip it; and they're a team under siege, faced with the reality of outrageous expectations and premature designations of brilliance laid on their GM.

Zduriencik and Wakamatsu knew the reality of bringing Griffey back----presumably against their better judgment and desires. One of the hardest things a manager has to handle is the declining superstar player. (Nod to Mike Francesa for his accurate take on the difficulty on such a situation in general----I haven't heard what he's said about Griffey in particular.) Even harder than the declining superstar player is the shot superstar player. If Griffey still exhibited his quirkiness and diva-like tendencies, but could still play it would be one thing; but he can't.

His bat is slow and he can't catch up to a good power fastball; he's not able to capitalize on a mistake unless his planets are momentarily aligned; and as the current disaster indicates, he's not a positive force in the clubhouse unless he's presiding over naptime. He's functioning based on reputation.

In short. Griffey is a detriment to what they're trying to build.

Here, in a nutshell, is how bad the decision to bring Griffey back was: while I've mentioned Jim Thome as a more palatable option at a lower price and with greater guaranteed production, the Mariners would've been far better off signing Barry Bonds instead of re-upping Griffey. At least Bonds would walk and could probably still hit after two full years away from the game.

For a team that has as little margin for error as the Mariners, this is the last thing they needed. Milton Bradley and his baggage were bad enough; but the narrowness of the pitching-and-defense philosophy; the shortness of the starting rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee; and the slow start have combined to contextualize the turnaround from 100 losses in 2008 to 85 wins into what it is rather than a media/stat zombie creation that had no basis in objective reality.

That Mariners roster in 2008 should not have lost 100 games. Injuries and subpar performance demolished a team that had been picked by many to win the AL West into a nightmare. Everything that could've gone wrong, did go wrong. On the other side of the coin, a rebuilding club from 2009 tried to win and reload simultaneously. Zduriencik was aggressive and smart from the time he took the job all through the acquisition of The Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee. His trade for Milton Bradley was a worthwhile gamble as it got the horrific Carlos Silva contract out of town. His dispatching of the contract of Bill Hall for Casey Kotchman made financial sense.

He's also done some questionable things.

Chone Figgins has been a disaster. Obviously, given his career history, he's not going to hit .188 for the whole year, but the Mariners are going to be paying a limited player whose game is based on speed (an attribute that is going to decline) for the next four years.

They can't score and the back of the rotation is a mess. If Zduriencik gets credit for the good things, he has to get blame for the bad things.

Then there's Griffey. It hasn't been leaked exactly why Griffey was brought back for another year, but deducing the reasoning based on Zduriencik's cold-blooded management style, it's obvious that he was forced to re-sign Griffey by ownership. He had to know that a team with the offensive holes of the Mariners needed better guaranteed production for their DH and that Griffey was not the answer. Now, instead of just dealing with his slow bat, they're in the midst of containing a rapidly spreading wildfire because of him.

This team is at a crossroads. They can forget about the Wild Card. They're in a winnable division with other struggling clubs, but under their current construction, can they reasonably expect to right the ship and contend for the division title? And how long is Zduriencik willing to wait before throwing his hands up in the air and putting Lee on the market again to move forward for 2011 and beyond?

We won't have to wait much longer for an answer because what they've done hasn't worked. Zduriencik is aggressive and decisive. Coldly looking at his club will determine their prospects for 2010; it doesn't take a genius----real or imagined----to see into the future as to what's going to happen and it's going to happen sooner rather than later.

  • Viewer Mail 5.12.2010:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Evan Longoria and Brian Fuentes:

I think the 209 will welcome Longoria "properly" next time he's in town.

As for Fuentes, I get that feeling from most closers. I think Francisco Rodriguez has lost that aura, and I'm not completely sold on Papelbon, but I believe most closers or potential closers should work on building that kind of aura, because if they can win the psychological battle, they're one step ahead.

I can't help but think of Pedro Martinez in his Red Sox heyday as he sent his "messages". One such incident in particular involved Brady Anderson as he refused to move out of the way of a Tim Wakefield knuckleball and took his base. When he got the opportunity, Pedro appeared to be saying to Anderson, "Okay, you wanna get on base via HBP? Here you go," and drilled him in the back with a mid-90s fastball.

K-Rod isn't on a level with Mariano Rivera or even Jonathan Papelbon, but you can trust him for the most part; hitters know they have to face four pitches he'll throw at any time and he's mean. Fuentes, despite the four All Star appearances has always been somewhat shaky; it shouldn't be forgotten that in the Rockies magical run to the playoffs in 2007, Fuentes had lost his job as closer to Manny Corpas. He had a big year in 2008 as he was about to become a free agent, but his trustworthiness is lacking, especially for a team with title hopes.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the 209; the Mets; and the Nationals:

And don't forget the 312... I mean, we do run the country and all (see Obama, Emmanuel, now Kagan, etc).

I see what you're sayin' on the Mets streakiness... but whadya say about the Nats?! Wow! They've been bankrolling my entire operation this season... not to mention keeping me interested in our nation's capital. They've been gettin' it done on the hill and at the plate.

The impending "area code war" is gonna get ugly. Very ugly.

The Nationals are intriguing----they can hit----but I don't know about their starting pitching and Jim Riggleman is blowing out the bullpen early. Who knows? If they're loitering around the Wild Card race and bring up Stephen Strasburg, there's no reason they can't hang around.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes the Angels; and the Ken Griffey Jr./Keith Hernandez stories of dueling naps:

I watched that Angels-Rays game last night and was sure the Angels were gonna blow it. But they held on. As for the napping, I thought the video of Hernandez was hilarious. The story about Junior? Not so much.

It takes a toll on a team to have to worry about games regardless of the score, not just mentally but physically as well; there's no time to relax and say, "yeah, we got this thing won". Your closer can't be blowing 3-run leads in the ninth inning.

To equate the Hernandez story to Griffey was ludicrous at the start.

Barry Moranville writes RE my book:

Your 2010 baseball book is boffo. I enjoy commentary like yours (your's[?]) far more than the sabre stuff and the soft character-based profiles of players like "Baseball Digest." Your knowledge of baseball overall is impressive, and your dig out the nuggets for your readers: like Pedroia has a big mouth. I didn't know that until I read (am still reading) your book. Now if A-Rod gives Pedroia a slide like Joe Dimaggio gave Pesky in '49, I'll know why. It was Pesky, wasn't it? Halberstam's Summer of '49 said DiMag got even for the BoSox roughing up Rizzuto if my poor old memory serves me.

I'm an Athletics fan and am basking in the reflected light after yesterday's Bradensturm cleared out some bad air. It's interesting to wonder what, if any, effect the trouncings absorbed by the Rays and Yankees will be. In the long run, not a jot I'd guess.

I saw my first major league game at Griffith Stadium in '50. I was in the Air Force, and I could get in free in uniform. So I got to see Joe DiMaggio patrol (as they used to say) centerfield. On the first ball hit to center, he loped toward it, and I thought "Get on your horse, man." He got there of course (sneaky speed), and I felt like a fool.I saw games there through the '53 season; the record books can tell you all the players I saw. Sorry I never saw fellow-Iowan Bobby Feller. The books won't tell you that I saw the Brooklyn Dodgers at Griffith, exhibition game one year. In my very humble estimation, they were better than the Yankees. But the Yankees prevailed in those years. You could look it up.

Keep up the good work. I'll try to write a praiseful review of your book on Amazon.

BTW Rabbit Maranville is up the tree and out, so I've got the blood but no direct descent since the 19th Century. The name has undergone many changes since it arrived on these shores as de Maranville.

The only thing I can say when I get an above-and-beyond the scope of kindness message like this is thanks.

And for the record, I didn't pay Barry; nor did he serve with my father in the USAF. I was stuck halfway between surprised and relieved when Barry told my that he hadn't heard of my father's exploits. The man was worse than me! Or better, depending on your point-of-view.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

Listen to my Podcast appearance with Sal at SportsFanBuzz from a week ago Friday----Prince on the Podcast link.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

My resolve has never been stronger....don't underestimate my power.


Jeff said...

This Griffey situation saddens me. He was -- during his prime -- my idol. I wanted to be him.

Now he's fat, slow and stubbornly sticking around the big leagues... and for what? To be a soft platoon DH who doesn't have any edge?

Sad. Very, very sad.

She-Fan said...

Baseball must be off to a slow start, because Nap-Gate is right up there with Dallas Braden/A-Rod in terms of non-scandals. Still waiting for something juicy to happen - maybe even involving "juice."

Jennifer said...

Griffey Jr is a player who is past his prime and has a club that's clinging to him like a life raft on a sinking ship. And I am so glad ESPN's top notch coverage is all over this important story. At least you can get some mileage out of Dallas Braden's nonstop mouth and his hard core 209 image.