The baseball season needs to be like the soccer/football/futbol/calcio season

Baseball, in an attempt to remain relevant in everyone’s eyes (despite the fact that the postseason is currently going), recently revealed the prospect of two expansion squads entering the field, and the subsequent changes that would accompany it.

Most importantly, if baseball expands, that would mean that the Seattle Mariners would be joined by two new teams to one of the most futile stains in all of baseball–the few, the sad, the ones who haven’t made the World Series.

One of the key aspects of the expansion plans involve restructuring the divisional makeups, leaving us with 16 teams in each league, and four teams in each division. That would immediately have implications on the playoffs, and all around, the whole thing could become a giant mess.

As it stands now, the Wild Card is a necessary evil to making the playoffs work, otherwise you are constantly rewarding a team like the 2005 San Diego Padres with a chance for offseason greatness, over the likes of many more, better teams (three in fact!). SPOILER: If your system rewards the Padres, the system is broken.

What if we could get rid of the necessary evil/Padres? What if we could get rid of all evil in the world? That is right. I’m talking about a soccer system, the sport of unparalleled virtue and moral cleanliness. I’m talking about making every single game count, not just the ones your No. 1 and No. 2 starters make. I’m talking about constructing a team that is built to win throughout the entire season, not just in October.

In the past 20 years, the overall regular season champion has only won the World Series four times. It is even more rare for the World Series to include the overall top two teams in baseball.

This is an opportunity like no other. Abolish the playoff scenario that so many of us are addicted to, because the end of the season dramatically would become that playoff race. In seven of the past 10 years, including this season, the top two records in MLB have been decided by two games or less.

The entire experiment would be an exercise in equity and fairness. Rather than have the NL West be murderers row while the Washington Nationals (thanks for not making the World Series) and the Chicago Cubs are busy padding their stats against the cellars of their divisions, this inventive system would level the playing field.

This could happen in a multiple of ways:

  • Each team plays each team five times: two home, two away, and ONE NEUTRAL LOCATION (why I have no idea) (So Spokane can get some games Go Zags)
  • Each team plays each team six times: three home, three away.

The overall season length remains relatively the same, if not a bit shorter (whoops the owners probably don’t care for that). If anything, the playoffs no longer somehow drag into November, because people only care about October baseball, not November baseball. The rest of the atmosphere would remain the same. If you are a garbage team, you can still play spoilers for those that are in the race for the top. The glory is there for the team that is truly the best team in baseball, not the team that just happens to have Madison Bumgarner on it. Baseball isn’t broken yet, but its not like it is completely fixed either.

Perhaps you are sitting there, and thinking (because you are a well-informed, global, multi-sports viewer), hold on a second! How can we even discuss the idea of a soccer/football/futbol/calcio table without even broaching the subject of relegation. Well that, my friend, is an issue that is too complex to approach in this blog post. The discussion of how to improve baseball is far from over. We are just getting started.

 

Injuries helped make the 2017 Mariners stupid

2017, in a weird way, was one of the worst Seattle Mariners’ seasons in recent memory, and that is saying something. This is a squad that has seen two 100-plus loss seasons in the past decade, and hasn’t (as we are all quite well aware) made the playoffs since 2001.

At the end of the year, the Mariners finished the 2017 season just 78-84. Despite a couple of futile flirts with playoff potential, it was never really in the cards. The Houston Astros ran away with the A.L. West for the next 100 years by mid-May, and the Mariners were left flailing for that second wild card spot with 18 other teams. And flail they did.

Seemingly, this should have been a more exciting team than the 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, or 2013 Mariners. And yet, they weren’t. It wasn’t that the squad was hard to root for. We all rooted for those sorry loser Mariners teams from yesteryears. No, this squad had something going on with it.

Let me tell you about one of my friends. We will call him Jason, because that is his name. Jason is an Athletics fan. Baseball season works like clockwork with Jason. He begins his year complaining about how he doesn’t know more than seven players on his squad, and the year ends with knowing only two players on the squad. Jason still dutifully roots for the Athletics every year, but he is left scrambling at the end as to reasons why he should root for them, outside of sometimes that is just what being a sports fan means.

Because of injuries this year, the Mariners more resembled the Athletics than any other team in the majors. Every player who could possibly get injured seemingly got injured, and in came their replacements, who oftentimes also got injured. In the end, we were left cheering for a squad made up of players who made pacts with the devil to avoid the disabled list and a whole plethora of AAA+ guys.

Bear with me here, cause this part gets a little bit long.

  • April 2: Drew Smyly, Shawn O’ Malley, Steve Cishek, Shae Simmons, Rob Whalen, and Tony Zych placed on the DL
  • April 11: Jean Segura placed on the 10-day DL
  • April 26: Felix Hernandez and Mitch Haniger placed on the 10-day DL
  • April 29: Evan Scribner placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 5: James Paxton placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 6: Evan Marshall placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 10: Hisashi Iwakuma placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 14: Ryan Weber placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 16: Robinson Cano placed on the 10-day DL
  • June 3: Jean Segura placed on the 10-day DL
  • July 30: Mitch Haniger placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 5: Felix Hernandez placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 8: David Phelps placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 19: Jarrod Dyson placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 22: Tony Zych placed on the 10-day DL

Don’t worry about correcting me. I’m sure I missed a few disabled list trips in there, but the Mariners were so plagued by the injury bug this year, it was nearly impossible to have any knowledge of all nine faces that would appear on the Safeco Field board each day. And all of this isn’t even including ol’ free-wheelin’ and dealin’ Jerry Dipoto, who traded with such a ferocity that Billy Beane was impressed. Dare you get attached to a single player; because that just increases the odds that player is shipped out.

Now granted, it seems a bit odd to be critical of someone who is actively trying to make his team better by averaging 100 trades per calendar year, but at the end of the day, it is objectively a bit hard to see how the Mariners ARE actually better. The overall core of the team is still relatively same, although, there are some interesting new pieces in the mix. Many of the issues are still the same from the start of the 2017 season: dear lord we need some starting pitching and what the hell is a farm system anyway?

But the injury bug further exasperated Dipoto’s general managerial method he has displayed so far from a straight up fan perspective. There were plenty of people who found things to root for on this squad, and good for them. But it was also just as hard to not root for this team if you (me) didn’t follow their each and every move this year because you (me) had no fucking clue who actually owned a Mariners jersey. Often times, in 2017, you (me) were hard pressed to pick a dog in the fight to root for because that dog was going to be D.O.A. the very next day. The Mariners had 16 different players spend a total of 1,372 days on the disabled list this season. Seriously, to hell with that.

There are a lot in the fanbase who are slowly but surely approaching their wits end and edge of sanity through the constant futility of a squad that is rapidly approaching its second decade without any semblance of October baseball. This year, perhaps it wasn’t entirely the Mariners fault, but things have to get better sooner than later, because 2017 really took a few years off of everyone’s lives.

A muted and quiet look at the Tyler O’Neill and Marco Gonzales trade

The Mariners traded Tyler O’Neill for Marco Gonzales. Is this good or bad?

Just before lunch on Friday, July 21, the Mariners shook their very foundation to the core, trading uber-prospect Tyler O’Neill for the St. Louis Cardinals’ leftover trash starting pitcher Marco Gonzales.

Or, as to be expected, this is how much of the fandom reacted, because that is what fans do, they react.

But now that we have had a little bit of time to do things, like breathe, eat, breathe some more, maybe even drink, we can take a look at the trade that Jerry Dipoto, self-proclaimed wildest of the wild out in the west, just processed.

Let’s start with the good:

Marco Gonzales went to Gonzaga. I also went to Gonzaga. This is a good thing.

Now the legitimately good, Gonzales can throw many pitches decently, and he can throw a change-up rather well. He is a high-volume strike-throwing kind of guy, which he tends to both feast and famine on. His numbers are completely unremarkable in AAA, but he has the potential to be an end-of-the-rotation kind of guy. Perhaps even a No. 3 in a horrible year where everyone gets injured (and then your team is bad so who cares). Gonzales gives up quite a few fly balls and infield fly balls. He will probably be alright in Safeco Field, particularly if ol’ Manfred siphons the juice out of the baseball

Perhaps the most important piece of this puzzle is Gonzales is not a short-term rental. Gonzales was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft. He is under team-control for eons.

Of course, nothing the Mariners do is ever good, and there are some definitive bads to look at. Let us take a look.

Tyler O’Neill was one of the more exciting prospects in a farm system that is as exciting as the proposed idea of a sequel to Suicide Squad. Most recently, O’Neill has been on an absolute tear in the minors, hitting /330/.432/.723 with 11 home runs in 94 at bats. He is still striking out as if his life depended on it, but there was at least enough offensive firepower to help offset all of that. O’Neill is only 22 years old, and overall has (had) one of the higher ceilings in the farm system.

So at the end of the day, it looks like the Mariners traded a high ceiling outfielder for a low ceiling pitcher. This has the makings for a bad trade, and people were quick to condemn Dipoto for it. That said, maybe making a boring ass trade is exactly what this squad needs.

The Mariners have a very limited window to make the playoffs with the pieces in play they have at the moment. Eventually, Felix Hernandez’s arm is going to fall off. Eventually, Robinson Cano will no longer be worth the $124 million he is due each year. Eventually, Nelson Cruz will regress to some version of Nelson Cruz where he is not worth the money. Eventually, Kyle Seager will be worth more as a bargaining chip on a flailing team than the starting third baseman. If you are looking at what area of the current squad the Mariners need to bolster to make any semblance of a playoff run, it is starting pitching. Gonzales fits that bill.

Secondly, perhaps we view this trade in two ways: 1) Jerry Dipoto and a lot of other GMs don’t have much faith in O’Neill, and this is all the Mariners would get for him; 2) Jerry Dipoto really believes that the current Mariners outfield is sufficiently established enough to compliment the rest of the pieces of the team. In both cases, O’Neill becomes a highly expendable player.

There is valid criticism in saying that just because he is a highly expendable player doesn’t necessarily mean he has to be traded. The trade becomes a bit more confusing because Gonzales will start his Mariners career with the Tacoma Rainiers, and if that was always going to be the case, why not wait 10 days to pull the trigger on this? Maybe you can get something else out of the No. 2 prospect in the M’s farm system.

What the trade, for me, seems to establish is Dipoto views the window of opportunity to win as something worth pursuing, and pursuing quickly. Time is never on your side in these sorts of scenarios, and having Gonzales as a back end rotation guy bolsters the Mariners for next season much more quickly than having O’Neill loiter around the farm system does.

The timing of this trade is odd, there is no getting around that. This would be a classic trading from an area of strength for an area of need if it wasn’t a 22-year-old exciting outfielder for a 25-year-old rather bland pitcher. There is a chance that this trade bites the Mariners in the ass later in life, but this will probably not go down in the history books as “worst trade the Mariners made in the 2000s.” That list is too long to even crack.