Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Lightning 6.13.2010

  • The worst team in baseball (in context):

Picking on the Orioles, the Pirates or the Astros is easy; but when examining the individual circumstances more deeply, you can find some semblance of justification to offer a lukewarm explanation for their struggles.

Somewhat insulting in a back-handed defense similar to, "he's too stupid to have been involved in this", you can look at the Orioles and chalk up their 17-45 record to youthful failure and misjudgments of veterans; the Pirates are the Pirates----they're consistent in their combination of misery and ineptitude; and the Astros record is awful but they have talent on the roster with some decent pitching talent and movable bats.

Such caveats are not applicable for the woeful Seattle Mariners.

It's far worse when taking into account the expectations that surrounded the club; and that GM Jack Zduriencik was referred to as a "genius" so often in the off-season that I can't help but wonder why he was wasting his time in baseball and had yet to solve the credit crisis while simultaneously winning the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq and building a rocketship for a mission to Mars.

GM of the Mariners? He set his sights far too low and I'm not talking president of the United States; I'm talking worldwide despot ruling over all of us like Marcus Aurelius in both efficacy and competence.

I'm as guilty as anyone for overestimating the Mariners, but the genius stuff? I'm innocent in that regard. Here's what I wrote in my book (still available!!!):

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is the newest of the anointed “geniuses” for his aggressive trading; reliance on both stat zombie and scouting tenets; and utter fearlessness in making moves. Zduriencik has been a keen eye of talent for many years now in the 1990s with the Mets and especially with the Brewers in the early part of this decade. He’s undoubtedly energized the Mariners with his wheeling and dealing. But is his rebuilding of the club worthy of the overused designation of “genius”?
Bringing back Ken Griffey Jr. was a move of sentiment rather than on-field production, but it’s likely that the decision was forced on him by ownership. The trade for Cliff Lee fell into his lap; the signing of Chone Figgins is a questionable one considering the amount of money they’ll be paying a mid-30s speed player by the time it’s winding down; his signings of Eric Byrnes and Corey Patterson would’ve been ridiculed if it was anyone other than Zduriencik making them.
Getting Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva was addition by subtraction and a worthwhile risk for a talented yet troubled player.
While it’s trendy to look at the flashy moves Zduriencik made, in reality, there are many questions about this Mariners team and Zduriencik received undue credit for a team that had everything go wrong in 2008 and turned it around in 2009 based on little more than better health and better luck. He’s a smart GM and a good executive; but the “genius” label is highly premature.

Full disclosure, I also picked the Mariners to go 86-76 and contend for the playoffs.

You don't hear the stat zombie lust for Zduriencik any longer as the Mariners have been the season's biggest disappointment/disaster. Everything that could've gone wrong has gone wrong and the accolades that were ridiculous as a matter of course have either ceased or, like much of the stat zombie rhetoric, been revised after the fact.

Ignore it and it doesn't go away.

The Mariners are awful. Constructed badly, top-heavy and rife with players who are limited (Casey Kotchman; Jack Wilson); headaches (Milton Bradley); overrated and overpaid (Chone Figgins); and selfish (Ichiro Suzuki). The vaunted pitching has been ravaged by bullpen failures, a short back-end of the rotation; and a lack of offense. They've come back down to earth after a 2009 in which everything went right----something for which Zduriencik deserves almost no credit, but received it anyway.

Soon we're going to see what he's made of as he puts Cliff Lee on the block----and contrary to popular belief, it's not fait accompli that he's A) going to recoup what he gave up to get Lee; and B) will have teams lining up, hat in hand, asking and generously acquiescing to Zduriencik's lofty asking price.

Thinking logically, with the number of starting pitchers who are going to be available and contractually long-term members of the interested clubs, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt will be in greater demand than the Stone Cold Killer, Lee. Putting aside how good Lee is, are you missing out on much by turning attention to Haren or Oswalt? Presumably, they'd extract a toll close to what Lee would, but both would be guaranteed members of the trading club for years to come.

Lee is either a rental or a player who'll cost prospects and a chunk of cash for an extension. I don't know if the market for Lee is going to be as strong as others do considering the logistically attractive alternatives.

Zduriencik was 100% right in making the Lee trade, but there was always the risk involved that he'd have to trade Lee; he couldn't have accounted for the availability of the likes of Haren and Oswalt interfering with his plans; but this is where he is now and he needs to act fast to salvage something.

What now for the Mariners? The contextualized worst team in baseball?


Clear it out. Make the best deals possible and address the weaknesses. The season's lost. Bag it. Immediately.

  • More on the beauty of instant analysis:

I said weeks ago that one of the best things about Twitter was the way in which the media experts just "say stuff" without having time to think about them and redact or retract. It's the spontaneity that provides fodder to tear into their supposed expertise.

While discussing the Orioles and Cliff Lee, I remembered two applicable tweets from yesterday. One from The Blocking Machine himself, Jon Heyman; and from Ken (The Amazing) Davidoff.

First Heyman regarding Bobby Valentine and the possibility of taking over the Orioles:

if bobby valentine is watching these abominable orioles, how could he possibly want to sign on?

What job is Valentine supposed to wait for?

Are the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals or Dodgers jobs going to open up to him while their teams are jockeying for playoff position? No. He's not going to have ready-made/win-now jobs waiting for him.

The possibilities that have been floated for Valentine aside from the Orioles are the Marlins and the Mets. The Marlins are an intriguing option for Valentine----young, talented and, with a tweak here and there, ready to win; their current manager Fredi Gonzalez's contract is up after 2011 and the Marlins have openly flirted with Valentine while denigrating the job done by Gonzalez.

The Mets were only going to bring back Valentine if they had no other choice, and by no other choice, I'm talking a nightmarish season similar to that which has befallen...the Orioles. That hasn't happened.

So that leaves an itchy Valentine with the Orioles or the prospect of waiting until the season is over and hoping for a more appetizing job to present itself. Despite the catastrophe into which their season has degenerated, the Orioles have a load of young talent. None of the veterans they signed to try and expedite improvement have contracts that are long-term and ponderous; and they have money to spend on players Valentine would feel he needs to compete quickly. The desperation to let him have legitimate say-so in player personnel----long one of his greatest desires----make the Orioles a good landing spot for Valentine's ego and managing acumen.

Scoffing at the Orioles job in a throwaway tweet with all that in mind? Nice work, Blocking Machine.

Then there was this nugget from Ken Davidoff as Joe Blanton was getting pummeled by the Red Sox yesterday to the tune of 9 earned runs and 13 hits in 4 innings:

To think, the #Phillies could've kept Cliff Lee and just non-tendered Joe Blanton. Good grief.

No one's mistaking Blanton for Tim Lincecum and I disagreed with the 3-year, $24 million extension the Phillies gave him; but to suggest that his poor start is due to him being a pitcher who was a non-tender candidate is the epitome of second-guessing.

It wasn't Lee or Blanton; Blanton was independent of Lee; the Phillies made the Lee decision to acquire Halladay and try to maintain the farm system. I thought it was a mistake, but it has absolutely no connection to Blanton.

Blanton is a pitcher who, historically, is a workhorse from whom you'd know what to expect. He's been getting rocked, but if he'd performed as normal for his career, his failures would still be just as pronounced because the Phillies aren't scoring. Hanging around in games, giving up 4-5 runs and winning because of his durability has always been Blanton's game. Eventually, he'll begin pitching to his normal production.

I find myself in an odd position defending the Phillies for the misinformation and rampant criticism that's getting worse as the losses mount. The same brilliant baseball minds who claimed the Phillies were unbeatable are focusing on perceived mistakes; but the mistakes I felt they made have little to do with this cold streak. No one could've thought the Phillies would stop scoring, but that's what's happened. As I said days earlier, they should've kept Lee and traded for Halladay; but Cliff Lee doesn't hit.

It's good that these little snippets are on the record and we see that the media is just as knee-jerk and inept as the talk show callers and deranged fans; it's the beauty of the speed with which information is disseminated and it's forever there for your reading enjoyment.

  • Now that's a broadcaster:

Whether or not it's an intentional separation or a scheduling conflict, it was a pleasure to watch the Fox Saturday Game of the Week and not have to listen to the insipid banter and smarmy byplay between Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

In the Phillies-Red Sox game, McCarver was teamed with old pro Dick Stockton and for once, there wasn't an agenda-driven announcer trying to push his own self-created and network enabled "brand" down everyone's throats. I've always been a fan of Stockton. He does his job professionally and doesn't take the cheap shots that are resplendent in their conspicuousness when Buck and McCarver are going through their litany of schtick.

If Fox is looking for a viable short-term, placeholding replacement as they groom the next big broadcaster for the top duo in big games, they can't go wrong with Stockton even if he has to be teamed with McCarver.

  • Viewer Mail 6.13.2010:

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox:

Jerry Reinsdorf loves Ozzie and is incredibly loyal to him. Reinsdorf is like that. Ozzie has always had that going for him. I really don't think Ozzie wants to go anywhere just yet, and I really don't think Kenny wants to fire him. I think the players will bear the full brunt of this shake-up.

Reinsdorf has been very loyal and reluctant to let his GMs fire managers after losing Tony La Russa due to the egomaniacal whims of then-GM Hawk Harrelson in 1986. I don't think Williams wants to make a change either. The only way it happens is if it's a mutual split and Guillen wants to go elsewhere; he'd get another job and Joey Cora deserves a chance to show his wares as a manager----presumably, he'd be the replacement.

The team's playing better, so maybe they'll hold off on any drastic moves with the players and manager.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the White Sox

I can't imagine White Sox baseball without Ozzie. I just can't do it. Kenny would be gone before Ozzie and I don't see that happening.

They've bickered so many times and no one's been fired or resigned; but this appears to be a genuine rift that both men are acknowledging. That said, Reinsdorf likes and trusts both men and he'll presumably do everything to get them to work it out and move forward together.

  • RSBS Podcast:

I was a guest earlier yesterday with my Street Boss, Jeff at Red State Blue State and his crew for their podcast. It was an adventure and should be ready for your listening pleasure in a couple days.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


She-Fan said...

I can't believe the Mariners have turned into such a mess. I honestly thought they'd contend in their division this year. And I agree - why shouldn't Valentine take a job with the O's? It would be a challenge to turn a formerly proud franchise around.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Please Orioles...sign Valentine! Because a Marlins team with Valentine managing it in the same division with the Mets really really scares the hell out of me.

Jeff said...

What's the glamorous appeal of a Bobby Valentine anyway? I have nothing against the guy, and for all I know he's a great manager... but it's not like he's Bobby Cox or Tony LaRussa good in terms of results, right?