Sweet Merciful Cthulu Please Let the Mariners Sign Tim Lincecum

Don’t do it for me, do it for yourself, Mariners. And me.

It is important, when advocating these kinds of things, to be intellectually honest. Tim Lincecum did not step on a major league mound in 2017, and that was not because of injury. He has not thrown 100 big league innings since 2014, when Nelson Cruz was a Baltimore Oriole. He has not been anything approaching useful since 2013, when Jason Bay, Michael Morse, and Raul Ibanez were roaming Safeco’s green expanse.

It is not unfair to state that Tim Lincecum is probably finished as a major league baseball pitcher. If so he’ll leave the game with nearly 30 wins, half of which was accrued in 2008-2009, when he very well may have been the best pitcher alive. An excellent, Hall of Very Good kind of career.

Sadly, it’s 2018. If the Mariners, one of the 15-20 teams with scouts at Lincecum’s recent workout at Driveline (did you know that’s just down the road in Kent?) were to sign him the odds are extremely long he provides significant contribution to this year’s team. That’s how time, and baseball, work.

The Mariners have made it abundantly clear that they believe in Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Andrew Moore. That is fine, they certainly know more about pitching than my keyboard-bound butt does. But the Mariners do not have a monopoly on the skill of counting, and that I can do just fine.

Starting pitcher used by the Mariners:

2017 – 17
2016 – 13
2015 – 10

In the interest of fairness and deference to the team we should probably chalk 2017’s inflated number up as a bit of an outlier. Still, if we average out that sample size and adjust for 2017’s weirdness it is fair to assume the Mariners will need between 11-13 starting pitchers this year. Here are the pitchers the Mariners currently have I figure could start a game:

James Paxton
Felix Hernandez
Mike Leake
Erasmo Ramirez
Andrew Moore
Ariel Miranda
Marco Gonzales (Go Zags)
Sam Moll
Chase De Jong
Max Povse
Rob Whalen
Hisashi Iwakuma
Christian Bergman

I got to thirteen, but the same way a cinder block gets to the seafloor. I just kept sinking. While I and others have been howling for the Mariners to add actual major league quality starting pitchers for the last two winters, it’s clear that they simply will not be doing that any time soon. A Lincecum signing does not do anything to allay the concerns over the Mariners starting pitching, but it does do three things, which I’ll outline briefly:

1. It throws cantankerous, obnoxious, overly verbose jerks like me a bone. It says “Hey, we know we could use some starting pitching too. Here, have this. Now shut up already.” I’m sure the team, and probably you as well, would like it if I did that.

2. It does actually buff out the scant starting pitching depth without even a modicum of risk. If Lincecum is bad, if his fastball velocity isn’t sufficient to allow the split change to work as an out pitch, he’s cast aside in late March with no further loss to the organization. If he recaptures even a tiny bit of value, well, Andrew Moore’s career isn’t being hurt by another 2-3 months in Tacoma to start the season.

3. It’s fun, dammit. Everyone knows the story of Lincecum; his local ties, the Mariners famously passing him over for Brandon Morrow, and Lincecum’s subsequent explosion into a force of nature in San Francisco. Baseball moves shouldn’t be made with narrative and fan service in mind, but in the least enjoyable offseason I can ever remember baseball having, this would give us something to smile about. At least for a few weeks. We need it. I need it.

The Mariners have, for whatever reason, stood to the side as pitcher after pitcher has signed to short term, team-friendly contracts. They ignored the market last offseason, and they have done so again this offseason. The market has so cratered for mid to back of the rotation starting pitching that even Dipoto’s greatest pitching acquisition, Mike Leake, has a salary that no longer looks the bargain it once was. The team is projected by PECOTA to miss the 2nd Wild Card by a single game. There are fliers everywhere, including a skinny dude from Seattle, chucking balls into a net a half hour south of Safeco.

Do it, Mariners. Sign Tim Lincecum.

Ryon Healy Out 4-6 Weeks, Which Probably Doesn’t Matter

I don’t know what I expected

Happy Pitchers and Catchers! The verse/verse/chorus of the early baseball season revolves around the core tenants of Arizona: Men stretching in sunshine OH MY GOD SUNSHINE AND WARMTH WINTER IS NOT ETERNAL, crappy cell phone pictures of men stretching in sunshine, and anxiety over players showing up to camp hurt.

The Mariners, of course the Mariners, started out 2018 with bad news on that final front, as erstwhile starting first baseman and shave ice YouTube sensation Ryon Healy popped into Peoria with the news that his hand had a bone spur.

The surgery to remove that bone spur is expected to keep Healy from doing baseball-y things for 4-6 weeks, which puts the well-coiffed lad back in game action right around if not shortly after Opening Day.

It’s a frustrating start to Spring, after a frustrating offseason, but in and of itself it doesn’t look to have much an impact on the Mariners’ season. Missing Spring Training can and will require Healy to ramp up to speed quicker than normal, and he will indeed go a long period of time without swinging a baseball bat. That’s concerning, particularly for a player who gets most of his value out of swinging that bat.

Importantly, though, Ryon Healy at peak health was never projected to be particularly good in 2018. ZiPS has him at a positively Lind-ian -0.1 fWAR, while PECOTA pegs him just shy of a win. Any overwrought reactions to Healy’s injury are born through a combination of the Mariners, largely absent any offseason moves of actual consequence, having spent the winter touting Healy as one of their major acquisitions to an increasingly and bizarrely trusting fanbase, and the fact that the depth behind Healy is Mike Ford, a 25-year old with zero MLB plate appearances, and only 25 games above AA, and Daniel Vogelbach, who is not a first baseman.

Now, Mike Ford is an intriguing pickup, and exactly the kind of potential sneaky value Dipoto has specialized in in Seattle. See Ben Gamel, Nick Vincent, and on. If you want an Applebee’s steak at Denny’s prices, Jerry Dipoto is your kind of general manager. But for a team whose best/most expensive players creak with age, going into Opening Day with Mike Ford as your starting first baseman presents an unacceptable and unreasonable risk. Ford could very well finish 2018 as a better/more exciting/more fun baseball player than Ryon Healy, but it’s important to note that the lion’s share of reason for that is because being better than Ryon Healy is not a particularly high hurdle to clear.

Spring Training now figures to be a battle between Mike Ford and Daniel Vogelbach for the starting first base spot out of camp. I would put my money on Ford, as Vogelbach’s defense continues to be, erm, not good. Importantly, and primarily, the team shows no interest in bringing in, say, Lucas Duda or Logan Morrison, available free agents with major league track records who could allow the team to build depth, something they still lack to a comical degree at almost every position.

The insistence on standing pat with the way things are will be challenged and thrown into stark relief every time a player is lost to injury. And while it’s fair to assume that won’t happen as often in 2018 as it did in 2017 make no mistake, it will happen plenty, regardless of how Dr. Lorena Martin and her admittedly interesting high performance program do this year.

For a team that has repeatedly insisted its commitment to winning, it’s hard to figure out why the Mariners don’t at least seem to be trying to find some free agent bargains a la Duda, Eduardo Nunez (how is Taylor Motter on this roster?), and etc. However, for a team that knows 2018 is largely about shuffling deck chairs while keeping up appearances, whether to cynically depress wages and maximize profits, or to position itself for a run at next year’s monstrous free agent class, it makes sense to run out a roster where losing a one-win first baseman for Spring Training stands as major news.

The Mariners are one of those two franchises, and every day we get closer and closer to knowing which one.

 

The Ball and The (Ever Moving) Stick

What do we root for, when winning means different things to different people?

(Ed’s note: WordPress is not cooperating but we would like to note that this piece is co-authored by Nathan Bishop and Matt Ellis)

During last Sunday’s Super Bowl, we were fortunate enough to share company with many old and dear friends. One of those friends brought a baseball, for reasons he could not explain when pressed. As has been the case our entire life when occupying space in close proximity to a baseball, we held it in our hand. We did so for long enough that others felt compelled to press us on why, and we confess it was for reasons that, we too, could not explain.

For every baseball player, we imagine it is variations on similar themes: At some point, somewhere as a small child a parent, sibling, friend, or relative put a ball of some kind in that child’s hand, took five or six steps back, and told them to throw. Most probably, without knowing how they knew how to do it, wound back and threw that ball with a kind of innate force and velocity that belies all instruction and training. After that, maybe it was a stick swung at a softly lobbed rolled up pair of socks. Or a toy truck at a balloon. From that tiny genesis springs forth the game’s rivers of life: Little League, travel teams, youth showcases, scholarships, academies, weighted ball training, and professional careers that earn wealth the likes of which has ruined the lives of many a Mega Millions winner.

At the beginning, though, we believe it is important to remember it was just a kid, throwing a ball, and swinging a stick.

*****

We have some thoughts on billionaires, and while we understand you probably don’t want to hear them, we hope that you will extend us that same fair share of understanding when we say we don’t really care. So here:

We do not begrudge anyone on this planet whatever form of wealth or plenty they manage to acquire during their short time in this dimension. What we do believe is that the mindset, and the actions that spring out of it, that leads to the acquisition of the kind of wealth of, say, a Carl Pohlad are almost universally not only not aligned with the fundamental, collective good of our fellow man, but diametrically opposed to it.

We believe that the primary skill of a billionaire lies in one of two areas:

  1. The exploitation of one of the great flaws of our modern age, and that is that there is more profit in the acquisition and marketing of greatness than there is in simply performing greatly.
  2. Being the child of a billionaire.

We believe that many billionaires do not think of themselves as evil, and often legitimately do not understand why the 99.9% of this world’s population’s increasing dependence on their altruism for things like health care, space exploration, and clean water is viewed as a bad thing by many. We believe Mariners’ owner John Stanton had a childhood dream of playing in the major leagues, just as we believe he truly thinks living somewhere where you run into Jeff Bezos at the grocery store, and see the founders of Microsoft playing tennis qualifies as “a fairly normal life.”

We believe that John Stanton believes this, because we believe almost all people believe themselves to be good, even if that illusion requires the insulation of gated communities, security forces, and the support of your fellow twenty-nine baseball owners as you drive your team, no, the community’s team that you profit off of, to what may very well be their seventeenth straight season without a postseason appearance.

We have many more things we believe about billionaires. We originally were going to list all of them through this section, but there is no point. The views you share on wealth and whether or not the vast preponderance of it being held by a comically small few qualifies as proof of liberty and opportunity or a hollow pyramid scheme with those same words functioning as nothing but good #branding will not be changed in any meaningful way by what we say here.

This is, largely, how we got here in the first place.

*****

In short: in an attempt to understand, and critique, the current wave of labor disputes in the MLB, it might be time to look beyond the language of “collusion.” This is not to say the owners have not engaged, or are currently not in any way engaging in collusion. The so-called Gentleman’s Agreement for one, was quite literally the definition of collusion, and the concept has been frequently invoked by the MLBPA since its founding in 1966. Clearly, it retains some analytic precision for those actually materially invested in labor struggles (i.e. those of us whose role in Major League Baseball encompasses more than swigging beer on the couch while yelling at Danny Valencia Ryon Healy).

The image of a smoke filled room inhabited by anthropomorphic pigs in top hats and monocles laughing as they devise a secret plan might have worked for early Soviet agitprop propaganda, as they traveled the post-revolutionary countryside in an attempt to distill the essence of global capitalism to the rural, heavily illiterate peasantry. But there are a number of problems with this: first, there is the fact that large swaths of the rural peasantry already kind of implicitly understood that they were being screwed, and second, that this simple yet effective image reduces the complexities of global capitalism into a problem with a clearly attainable solution: just get the dang pig and his stupid top hat!

Marx–whatever you think of him–understood capitalism to be something much more complicated: a machine, globalized. A period in material history undergoing continuous development, one which does not rely on the inherent “human nature” of agents and actors but rather through the machinations of the gears and levers which delimit all that it can, and will be able to, do.* In the first of his three-volume, ten-bazillion-page study on capitalism, Marx outlines his reading of the labor theory of value, which stands effectively in contrast to other theories of value which might sound familiar to our popular American understanding of economics.

It gets way more complicated when you bring in value in use and value in exchange, and I realize this is a baseball blog, after all so I’ll keep this brief. In short, we are fooled when we look at something we want to purchase–say a fancy, shiny car or a game-used replica Dustin Ackley jersey at the Mariners team store–and think wow that looks amazing it must be so expensive. You put a down payment on a home for the lamborghini, and shell out hundreds on the jersey because that’s just what those things are worth. But why is a game-used Dustin Ackley jersey $300 dollars? (spoiler: it isn’t).

To Marx, the value in a given commodity is indexed to the labor required for its production, including the labor required to produce the conditions under which that commodity was able to be produced in the first place (the factory where they individually packaged Northwest-Green replica #13 jerseys to sit unpurchased on the shelf, or if we will, Safeco Field itself). You can see where I’m going with this.

If we take the labor theory of value at its face, and argue that we fundamentally ignore its discovery in place of other theories of value focused on the lure of the object itself, then the historical development of contemporary market capitalism is fundamentally the reason why this labor crisis is happening. The owners don’t need to collude if the market rewards them for shedding payroll. As millionaires, Major League baseball players may be miles away from the economic realities you and I inhabit, but they nevertheless are key laborers in the production of Major League Baseball’s commodities. And not just major leaguers–the entire labor force that actually produces value for the league and owners here encompasses the minor leaguers subsiding on Top Ramen and the Robinson Canós of the world.

But a refrain of this sort has started to emerge in recent discourses about our perplexingly slow 2018 offseason. In one sense, we would argue well-meaning critiques of the league do a disservice to the real struggle which needs to be fought for the future of the game and the players which produce its value. Some have argued a player strike would damage the public face of the fight, while others have rightfully critiqued the MLBPA for its relative silence on the plight of minor leaguers. But we are lying to ourselves if we think that dealing with a class of owners who seek first and foremost to maximize profit and “balance” spreadsheets (an obvious echo here to politicians bemoaning the spiraling deficit while public institutions are rapidly privatized–one which we mostly see through arguably because baseball is more fun than congress) is one in which we can de-link the brutal exploitation of minor leaguers and the Major Leaguers whose value is being siphoned upwards more and more as this CBA marches towards its inevitable explosion in 2020. You can’t: for the death of what little power labor currently has–power which needs to grow and expand downwards to cover the minor leaguerswill irrevocably be eroded once we start calling for players to make “the right grievances,” or to stop “complaining” about arbitration. They may be millionaires, but whose interest would such tactics truly serve?

Indeed, the structure of baseball since the institutionalization of its current form around the turn of the century is one in which the labor of the players versus the interests of the owners has constantly been in struggle. And while it is true that players today, thanks to the Marvin Millers and Curt Floods in history, have been able to regain some ground in this struggle of appropriation–the market is changing itself in response to the growing threat of labor power in much the same ways political theorists such as David Harvey have noted the entire global market began changing in the 1970s when faced with similar paradigm shifts.

No, rather than conceive of this large free agent class two days before pitchers and catchers report as the result of a backroom poker game between Thomas Ricketts and Arte Moreno, we should instead look to a number of historical, economic, and indeed on-field events as key constitutive factors in producing this backlog. We all praise Billy Beane and watched the movie, perhaps even read the book. We watched as Jack Zduriencik abandoned spreadsheets with disagreeable fonts and chased right-handed power hitters, and we begged for the man to look at the new data that was frustratingly available to seemingly half the league. Hell, we all did.

At the time, the stats revolution seemed like a positive development for fringe players possessing skills that the system had deemed useless, or at the very least, inefficient. But while the popular myth of moneyball narrativizes the fight of the tight-pocketed owner versus the #disruptor GM of #innovation, we should look back on this period of history with one single, operative question: whose interest did this revolution truly serve? Indeed: moneyball emerged in part as a response to a constitutive problem of an owner refusing to give his GM more money to field a winning team. It was, in effect, a capitulation that sought band-aids rather than antibiotics.

So while we can laugh at the absurdity of Albert Pujols being paid a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to be the worst player in baseball (and to be clear, it is funny), we should also remember he was being paid $200,000 in a season in which he earned 7.1 fWAR for the St. Louis Cardinals in a decade in which he was, arguably, one of the two best baseball players on the planet. The next season, Billy Beane infamously signed Scott Hatteberg and his fucked-up elbow for $950,000 and he immediately put up a season that ranks right up with the best of Pujols’ entire tenure with the Angels. We can point to this division, and we should also ask what it means that we fans can seemingly only conceive of “value” as a metric of on-field performance in the aggregate, rather than the amount of profit each player produces for the league, their teams, and the requisite owners.

But most of all we should remember that all three of these men–Albert Pujols, Scott Hatteberg, and John Stanton–arguably spent long periods of their childhood holding baseballs like the rest of us, dreaming first as fans, tossing them back and forth into makeshift gloves with glee, or swinging sticks in the air. All three of them, arguably, love the game and each want to “win” in their own way, and each feels they have (or had) something useful to contribute to the process. But “winning,” arguably, means something very different to two of these men than the other.

The Mariners want to win. But ask yourself what that word really means.

_______________________________________________

“But all methods for the production of surplus-value are at the same time methods of accumulation; and every extension of accumulation becomes, conversely, a means for the development of those methods. It follows therefore that in proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.” from “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,” in Marx, Karl. Capital Vol 1, pp. 799.

 

The Mariners Can Still Win The Offseason

It’s not too late baby, it’s not too late

In a world that seems increasingly able to spin news any which way it wants, it’s hard to figure out how to sell the Mariner’s offseason as anything short of a massive disappointment. Stuck with an aging core of stars, a thin farm, and an increasingly competitive division, the Mariners needed a decisive move towards contention in 2018, through the addition of major league stars in free agency, or 2021, through the sell off of their most valuable assets to replenish their farm system. Instead, the Mariners signed Juan Nicasio, and watched their coveted target Shohei Ohtani not only go elsewhere, but to the thrice-dammed Angels, their most bitter rival.

Please hold your applause.

In a typical baseball offseason, we would be near the finish line. The majority of stars would be off the market, a few holdouts and veterans looking to make a comeback would linger, and the Mariners would be stuck with a roster that both my back-of-napkin math and Fangraphs agree is about an 81-win team. But, this is not a typical baseball offseason. The combination of next year’s historically talented FA class, and baseball teams either full on colluding to depress wages or just thinking everyone else is colluding has led to a good old fashioned stand off, with no one seemingly willing to fire the first shot.

This has, potentially, created a good old fashioned market inefficiency, and one the Mariners can and should take advantage of. Baseball players want, and should get, every last dollar they can possibly extract from baseball owners, but they also want to know where they will play baseball, move their families, and live in 2018. While the dream of a Yu Darvish/Jake Arrieta top-shelf, huge money acquisition is probably still a fantasy, the Mariners are still a team with glaring holes in its rotation at every single level. From Lance Lynn to Bartolo Colon pitchers of every tier of talent and cost are available right now, waiting for someone to act.

On the most recent episode of The Wheelhouse, Jerry Dipoto’s official podcast, Dipoto stated that the team was focusing now on “who to invite to Spring Training”, implying that the team has moved on from the MLB free agency market. Typically executive speak should be taken as potential half truths, or smoke screens. Deception, bluffing, and coyness are all classic tactics of the free agency signing period. But in his third offseason we’ve seen enough to know that deception and bluffing are not the typical Dipoto way of doing business.

Jerry clearly feels confident and comfortable enough to be as open, honest, and transparent with the public as any baseball executive I can remember. Whether you feel that is a strength or a weakness is open to debate, but given the evidence we have to work with it’s reasonable to assume he’s telling the truth, and the team has no immediate plans to jump back into the FA market.

This is, in my opinion, a wild oversight. The Mariners are not selling, and if they aren’t selling they’re trying to compete. If they’re trying to compete they currently have a roster that is two full steps behind the Angels, and three to four behind the Astros. The grand vision for the offseason clearly went kablooey when the team failed to acquire Ohtani, but unique circumstances in this market may have allowed them an opportunity to sneak 2-4 precious wins through the backdoor while everyone else is sleeping.

If they can’t make it happen, fine. I can handle that. There exists no scenario I can foresee where the 2018 Mariners are anything but longshots for a playoff berth. However if they fail to act swiftly, and show the willingness to alter plans to fill glaring needs when the market potentially throws opportunities to do so into their laps, that shows not only a lack of execution, but a lack of vision. That I find unforgivable for, as you may have heard, the team that has the longest active playoffless streak in major North American sports.

That may sound harsh, and I’m clearly one of the bigger critics of the team and ownership currently regularly writing about the team. If I am wrong my request to the Mariners is the same as it has always been: Show me.

Not By Faith Alone

Some politics. Some religion

1) A “Christian” education, eh? Well that’s a hell of a thing to pursue from a very young age. Let’s take a look at the first grade course load:

Math
Reading
Science
Physical Education
The Study of the omniscient, omnipresent, eternal creator of all things past and present, The Lord, and the history of his interaction with humanity, including but not limited to the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, who was God but apart from God, while also fully human, and was sent to Earth two thousand years ago to live perfectly and die blamelessly, thus atoning for the act of original sin, which was performed by Eve in the Garden of Eden at the dawn of creation, and has been attached to every single human since, dividing us from our Creator. Only through Jesus’ death and sacrifice may we be in Holy Communion with our Lord once we die, otherwise you, young child, are dammed to eternity of hell and torment by the sin you contain within your soul.

Now, please turn to Luke Chapter 4……

2) You learn in that environment. You learn fast. Multiplication tables, grammatical structure, Ezekiel and Jeremiah are MAJOR prophets, Hosea and Obadiah are MINOR prophets, i before e, except after c…. It’s all part of the daily schedule. Wake up, head downstairs to the kitchen, crack a book, sharpen a pencil, and get to work. This is the ritual of your homeschooled education.

“Public school?”, they say.  “Well maybe when we were kids, but now we can’t have that. Did you know the Clintons banned prayer from school? Public school is good enough for them, but not for us. We’ll stay here. If you need friends, well, it’s almost Spring. Little League will start in a few months.”

3) There’s a little metal cross someone gave you for your birthday once, you don’t remember who. But some of your favorite baseball players have one too, and so you let it hang out of your uniform. It looks……cool………right? You stand in centerfield for entire summers, and as your team criss-crosses the country you hold that cross for every big pitch, in every big moment. The finish wears off, and you kind of give your right hand a little mini-Stigmata holding the damn thing, but it works often enough.

Plus you look cool. And there are girls in the stands. Maybe someday you’ll get up the courage to talk to one.

4) In college it’s more of the same. You could have gone to a state school on the cheap and been out in a few years with minimal debt but, again, there’s that implication that everyone is really hoping you’d go somewhere for that “Christian” education. So Bible college it is.

You’ve got questions now, a lot of them. But the answers more often than not point you towards a knowledge gap. You’re offered a big dump truck labeled “Faith” and encouraged to fill in that gap, but no matter how many times you try that, the gap remains. Maybe it’s just too deep to fill.

In the meantime, while it gnaws at you, you vote for George W., attend prayer meetings earnestly asking God to put a Republican in the White House, and make fun of the music majors in your department who seem like they might be gay.

You’ve got questions, but you’ve also got to keep up appearances.

5) While the school won’t let you watch cable TV, or spend more than 4 hours at a time a few days a week in the girls’ dorms (doors open, lights on, feet on the ground), even they won’t cut off the internet. Baseball was always your connection to the outside world, and the Mariners, weirdly, are really good. So you use the Mariners as your launching point for accessing the internet’s vast array of content. ESPN is your startup page. Edgar Martinez has 145 RBI. Life is good.

One day you get an email from a friend back home. “Check out this site. It’s just a few guys who love the Mariners, but they’re really smart, and they’re saying stuff I’ve never heard before.” It’s a blog post by a guy named Derek Zumsteg. He’s clearly smart, at least equally arrogant, and strangely not optimistic about the team, despite the fact that they’ve won 90+ games four years in a row.

6) The baseball world you loved is unraveling before your eyes. It’s all numbers, data, empirical evidence, and metrics now. RBI are……….meaningless? Bunts are not noble sacrifices of the individual for the greater good, but instead simply sub-optimal strategy? Pitcher wins are comically overrated?

As child, as a teen, hell as a Sophomore in the dorms you would have just pushed this all away. But now? Well you’re engaged now. You’re getting married in a few months. Adulthood is around the corner, and you’ve got a few hundred bucks in your bank account. It’s time not to just start asking questions, but to find some answers.

So you rabbithole sabermetrics; Moneyball, Bill James, the whole Smart Baseball Fan Gospel. You’ve got it, you’ve learned, you’re in the know. You come up for air, to look at your politics, your social beliefs, your religion. You thought you knew baseball before, and look at you now. You wonder what will happen if you take these newfound, shiny principles of empirical thought and data-supported beliefs to the other parts of your life. You’ve still got those gaps, but maybe now you’ve got tools a little more refined than an empty dump truck you have to wish full. You get to work.

7) You still have faith, of course. It’s not particularly revelatory to observe that life demands constant small acts of faith. Faith a chair won’t break, the car will start, you’ll make rent.

You have faith that the nurse setting your wife’s IV drip won’t accidentally mix up the levels, overdose her on Pitocin during labor and cause her uterus to contract and refuse to stop contracting. Faith, as you watch your child’s heart rate plummet and doctors spring out of nowhere to rush them both into surgery, that there’s only been one mistake, and that there won’t be another. Faith they can Fix This. Faith that the child’s scream you just heard is normal, and that your wife will survive too.

Sometimes faith is rewarded, and other times it’s not. We keep faith because we have to. We keep it because without it, we’re paralyzed.

8) The Mariners, a baseball team of little consequence who nonetheless was the mechanism through which you learned to think, to rationalize, to escape a life of narrowness, smallness, bigotry, and malice towards anyone who thinks, feels, or believes differently than you, are no longer good, and haven’t been since shortly after you got that first USS Mariner email. Somewhat poetically they are the ones asking for faith now; in them, in the future. Their general manager is a bright, earnest, handsome, well-spoken man. It’s easy to sit back, close your eyes, and let everything he says make you feel great about where the team is headed. It all just makes so much sense. It’s just sports, right? What’s the harm in it?

Faith is a personal choice, and one of the deepest, most vulnerable ones we can make. Your choice isn’t for all, and you’d never expect it to be. Others have more faith, newer faith, different faith. Your faith is, simply, yours. Your journey taught you a long time ago that many will ask for faith, and many don’t deserve it.

So, you wait. You question, wonder, agitate, annoy, and speculate. When the handsome man speaks, you don’t close your eyes and believe. You push back. You probably always will, now. You lived on faith for a long time, but no longer. Not by faith alone.

 

Alternate Arenas for Mariners Fanfest

Coordinating events on the quick for free, just call me your boy SG

There has been a lot of bad news out there lately. It’s been raining all day, I’ve had a few Amazon delivery delay emails, and apparently there is a new Star War I need to learn about to remain relevant at the dinner table. Naturally, as one does, I turn to the Seattle Mariners Twitter account as a beacon of hope for an otherwise terrible December 19th. What I learned was very unsettling.

What about my zipline? What about my uncomfortable photo opp with Mitch Haniger? How about the minor leaguer Q+A I planned on politely sitting through to ask Aaron Goldsmith a question about hair products? It’s all gone. In one fell swoop, the only reason to look forward to January or February was suddenly gone with the wind and/or the Stevehawks playoff hopes.

An announcement like this is enough to make it hard for me to want to stand up, look in the mirror and face the day, but I am learning at my advanced age, that for just about anything that could possibly go wrong, there is almost always a sweet, sweet, workaround. It is with my pleasure that I present to you:

ALTERNATE VENUES FOR MARINERS FANFEST

There are several factors in finding a suitable replacement for an event of such caliber. Tons of moving parts, and it’s really tough to nail down just one, so I’ve cobbled together a few options. Let me know what you think!

EMP – EMP! So cool! So modern! I went here for a work holiday party about three years ago. I think I saw Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar, Steven Tyler’s scarf, and I’m pretty sure that Billy Idol was serving me Manny’s on draft in exchange for my company mandated and strictly limited two drink tickets. EMP truly has it all. It can host a large amount of people and it’s conveniently located in the middle of the Queen Anne neighborhood. So you know parking will be great.

Pike Place Market – HEEYYYY, who wants to throw some fish?! Nothing better than getting your photo taken next to Taylor Motter and one of those giant brass pigs outside. Contribute to the gum wall as Dan Altavilla asks you what your favorite subject in school is! Have Jerry Dipoto help you negotiate a good price for that trinket to buy your aunt for her birthday. (JERRY D PRO TIP: Smash that trinket on the ground and you’ll find a fringey-back end starter inside. How do you think the Mariners got Sam Moll?) Sounds like a fun filled day to me.

The Space Needle – Think about it, you can make a real day of this. Start with your High-A standout Eric Filia at the bottom and make your way up the needle, all while meeting your favorite Mariner stars past and present. Drop a water balloon off the fourth floor with Norm Charlton, make eye contact with Dan Wilson half way up, fist bump with Ben Gamel near the top then, when you finally summit, zipline down with Joey Cora as he tells you that he was pretty close to being the manager and that he probably would have had a better handle on the bullpen if he had things his way. You can’t escape because you are in the same harness.

The Renton Landing – This is me being selfish because I live close and don’t want to drive on I-5 or take the light rail. Could be cool. We can go to TRENCHERS after.

The Proposed SoDo land for the SoDo Arena – Mariners, if my idea of not having to travel far was an intriguing one for you, you guys might like this one. There is a ton of land that they were going to build an arena on. Politics got in the way, and now they are just renovating Key Arena. I don’t want to get into it all right now, but this is opening up a TON of land. Plenty of room for activities. SoDo is a cool district. You can host the actual event in Showbox SoDo maybe have Sandfrog play. The rest of us can party at Hooverville across the street. Sounds like a nice and profitable idea.

Or, you know, we could all just go to Sluggers.

Mariners acquire Dee Gordon, Ohtani Bucks

There. The stove is on. Are you happy?

As the holy scriptures say, shooters shoot. While at times he resembles me during the last five seconds of pop-a-shot at the local arcade, Jerry Dipoto’s time as General Manager of the Seattle Mariners has had one constant: A total lack of fear.

Here’s the trade, as it was announced: The Mariners are (from what I have heard) trading Nick Niedert, one of the very few arms in the minor leagues with anything remotely resembling major league potential, and two other as of yet unnamed minor leaguers for Marlins 2B Dee Gordon.

Now, wait. Second baseman Dee Gordon?!? The Mariners have a second baseman. He’s pretty good! Well, yeah, this is pretty crazy. Dee Gordon has appeared in 685 games in the field in his major league career. Every single one of them has been at 2B or SS. But from what I’ve been told the Mariners are going to try and convert him to centerfield. It’s a huge risk, and its outcome is impossible to predict.

I’m not going to try and forecast Gordon’s performance as a centerfielder here. Position changes, particularly mid-career are fraught with peril and unknowns. For now I’ll simply point out that one of the most important aspects of good outfield play is foot speed, and only three players in baseball ranked higher than Dee Gordon in raw foot speed last year. Not coincidentally, all three derive a large portion of their value from excellent outfield defense. Dee Gordon is one of the fastest baseball players alive and, while a huge unknown, the raw ingredients for a quality major league centerfielder should be there. Hopefully he’s aware of the situation, and amenable to it, because with Robinson Cano and Jean Segura locking down 2B/SS for the ~$38 million remaining on Gordon’s contract through 2020, there’s nowhere in this infield to put him.

It’s a risk, a big risk, but one with big upside both in on field performance, and potential savings. The Mariners had no realistic replacement for Jarrod Dyson coming into 2018. Without him the last two months of 2017 saw the outfield, as a whole, collapse. Mitch Haniger is an exciting player, who can play center in a pinch, but he should never be an everyday player there. Gordon’s speed allows for the possibility of not only another year with a plus glove in center, but without the financial outlay needed for a premium FA a la Lorenzo Cain. This, theoretically, allows the team the financial flexibility to spend liberally to fill other needs like STARTING PITCHING GET STARTING PITCHING JERRY DO IT.

The second, and potentially even more consequential portion of this trade is the addition of still more international slot money to dump on top of the head of Shohei Ohtani. Combined with the $1 million received from the Twins last night, in exchange for C David Banuelos, the Mariners have almost doubled the amount of money they can pay Ohtani. As of this second, that amount (roughly $3.6 million) is more than any other team.

No one, and I mean no one seems to have any idea what Ohtani is thinking, or what his priorities are. While an optimistic reading of this trade would be that Ohtani had agreed to come to Seattle pending them freeing up enough money to satisfy him, I’ve heard from sources that confirm something like that, and sources that claim that’s not the case. Like I said, no one knows a thing with certainty here.

However, this deal wouldn’t be made if the Mariners didn’t feel they were at least one of the “finalists of the finalists”. From, again, SOURCE, the Mariners left their meeting with Ohtani feeling confident in their ability to sway him. If an extra $1 million up front was what was needed to cement the agreement, and Ohtani does indeed come to Seattle, then this trade is a no questions asked win of the highest order for the franchise.

Should they eventually miss out, it’s going to suck. However, Dee Gordon successfully converting into a centerfielder should hypothetically allow the Mariners the flexibility to trade for as much talent as they gave up to acquire him, if It All Goes Wrong.

The farm is further decimated, but it was already decimated. While continuing to gut your future for a few seasons of Dee Gordon is a questionable move, Shohei Ohtani may have more WAR in his rookie year than every member of the Mariners farm does for their career. Combined. He is the rare commodity worth the risk, and despite my long held preference for a total rebuild, this is a path I can get behind. Hall of Fame talent is Hall of Fame talent.

It was clear before, but this makes it even more so: The Seattle Mariners are going for it in 2018. The addition of Dee Gordon and (cross fingers) Shohei Ohtani changes the face of the franchise moving forward. Additionally, the team should still theoretically have the payroll space to add another starting pitcher. It allows us to dream, and that is all we’ve ever really wanted.