Episode 16 – Everything We Give You Is A Gift

A long overdue episode to discuss all the nothing that has happened

WELCOME, to a stealthy, surprise episode of Dome and Bedlam. When you never record, NO ONE EXPECTS YOU, and that is our recording philosophy.

David, Nathan, and Scott talk about the Mariners’ offseason, and the total absence of same. We also complain about the media luncheon, bad optics, and consider the possibility that Shohei Ohtani BROKE JERRY DIPOTO’S BRAIN.

But then, in a surprise twist, Scott shares a theory on Jerry Dipoto, and we spend the second half of the show talking ourselves into some good things about the team, and disappear down a beer talk and Tim Salmon minor league track record rabbit hole. In all, we consider this to absolutely be another one of our episodes.

Thanks as always for listening. We truly do appreciate you.

(Music credits: Bruce Springsteen, Caitlin Carey Feat. Ryan Adams)

The Soundcloud is here, and you can rate us on iTunes right here. Thanks again.

So You’ve Been Rejected

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Hello Seattle Mariners. I am publicly addressing you as anything that I say to you tonight won’t be any more humiliating than what has transpired this afternoon. So, I figured I could give you some unsolicited advice because when something like this happens, everybody comes out of the woodworks to tell you what they would do in your spikes.

There are a handful of ways to approach this, and there’s no right way to deal with rejection, but I can just tell you what has worked for me in the past. Move on, and move on quickly.

We get it, we’ve all been there before. This time it’s going to be different, we’ll change the game, we’ll make our intentions clear from the start, we’ll stick Nelson Cruz in the outfield more than once every 140 games, we’ll start going to church, etc. The fact remains, that you shouldn’t change who you are in order to fall in line to make somebody happy. You are setting yourself up for a lot more problems long term.

Use this as an opportunity to play the field and see what’s out there. This Dee Gordon that you just picked up seems nice, smart, charming, and willing to adapt to suit a very glaring, overlooked need. That seems nice. Maybe take a few meetings with some other eligible starters and see if they can’t help you along your way to self-improvement. Even if it’s just an invitation to Spring Training, it’s still something to help you get your mind off of him. Look at it as a way to really prioritize what’s important to you. As a ball club.

If there’s anything I know about you as an organization, it’s that you have never been haunted by your past and you’re always moving forward. So I know you’ll make your way through this. It seems scary right now, but I know we will end up stronger and smarter in the end.

At the end of the day, we are your friends and we want the best for you. You’re going to run into a lot of people reaching out for the next 7-10 days that will say this, but please know that I mean it when I say that if you need anything let us know.

A too-early offseason post

If you’re going through Hell, well, sometimes there’s just more Hell.

The 2017 MLB Playoffs are roaring, and while one team from the AL West has already advanced to the Championship Series, the Seattle Mariners have not. In fact, the Seattle Mariners are all mostly on vacation, I’d assume. Some might be taking on new hobbies, others likely have been told they are not Seattle Mariners anymore. Some will comment, years down the line, on how, “It didn’t actually rain that much.” Others still might forget they ever played in Seattle in 2017 (‘sup Jean Machi). With all that being said, and the season-past still not-yet-passed, let’s take a brief look at what the viewing audience might expect from the Seattle Mariners this offseason, juxtaposed with the subjective opinions of this author. Admittedly, I am not a professional baseball executive. I do, however, have a Masters Degree from the University of California, Davis, and that’s basically the same thing.

Let’s sum up 2017 in a few quick sentences here since we all saw it, unfortunately. The Seattle Mariners, in their second full-season under GM Jerry Dipoto entered the year with an offense projected to be towards the upper tier of the AL and a starting rotation that looked like its ceiling was somewhere near the middle-of-the-pack if you squinted. The bullpen, a mix of retreads, up and comers, and some known quantities was, well, exactly what every bullpen sounds like before the bullets start flying. Dipoto solved offseason questions at shortstop and in the outfield by acquiring Jean Segura, a cost-controlled Mitch Haniger, and trading for Jarrod Dyson. Mike Zunino bounced-back from an atrocious end to 2016, and despite an early demotion, finished the year as a top-10 catcher in all of Baseball. Injuries hampered the season, but were likely less due to luck, and much more to team design, as the team was built to rely on countless players on bounce-back years or on the wrong-side of thirty. In short, the Mariners finished 78-84, good enough for 4th in the AL West, in a season that they somehow managed to be “buyers” at the deadline.

The offense was as-advertised, if not a little under-performing. In the end, they were tied for 5th in MLB in team wRC+ (with the Twins and Athletics), and 12th in total offensive team fWAR. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager both experienced relatively disappointing seasons in respect to their 2016’s, Nelson Cruz fell-off somewhat but only just-so, and first base remained a disaster. The loss of Jarrod Dyson in centerfield, and Leonys Martin before him, forced several outfield reshuffles that exposed just how much “depth” had been built up at that position (read: not much). Mitch Haniger appears to be the real deal, as his WAR/600 extrapolates to almost a 4-Win player as a corner outfielder. Jerry in his postseason press conferences has expressed a willingness to open 2018 with Haniger as his Opening Day centerfielder. I am not as optimistic about the defense holding up there. Gamel and Heredia both appear to be what Mariners teams of yonder years have had plenty of, 4th outfielders.

The time has come for us to face the music: Felix Hernandez isn’t going back to 2014. As such, the rotation as it looks will be built around James Paxton, a fitting ace, with a penchant for injury, and thus exists just bellow bonafide Ace-dom. Acquisitions of Mike Leake and Erasmo Ramirez have tied in the back end of the rotation, but there’s zero organizational depth that should be relied upon for a successful (read: playoff(?)) 2018. The Mariners are left in a tough spot with their pitching. Felix is still on the books for $25M while providing, at his best, the quality of a 2-3 starter. Paxton is cheap, but can’t be relied on for 150 innings. So, left with the choice of Andrew Moore and a host of unknowns, they’ll likely have to spend. In comes the question mark named Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani will post sometime within the next few months and will be had by some team at a massive bargain if the hype is real. A player who appears to have more arm-talent than bat, he allegedly may have the chops to be a two-way player in the MLB. However, if he’s truly arm-first, my personal belief is that he and his organization would be better-off having him focus on pitching, and leaving the DH’ing to field players. Ohtani represents a real chance for the organization to extend the current window. They simply have to land him before dozens of other teams and hope he’s truly a 5-7 Win pitcher.

It all depends on how you view this organization, but per their words, they aren’t letting 2017 put them in sell-mode. The fact is this: anything tradable within the organization was either traded already or lost value over the past season. Edwin Diaz, Nelson Cruz, hell, even Kyle Seager, are all worth less now than they were this time last year. Moving large contracts like Cano or Felix would likely mean eating a ton of money, which the ownership hasn’t expressed a willingness to do. So here the Seattle Mariners are, stuck in the middle with an ever-aging roster and as close to zero in-house talent to improve them as imaginable. In all reality, 2018 might be the last chance this team has in creating a Wild Card roster in years. So, let’s go forward assuming this is the strategy of the front office. One last hurrah with this window.

The organization has to buy pitching, probably needs to find a rent-a-firstbaseman since they appear unable to make Daniel Vogelbach stick there, and has expressed desire in acquiring an outfielder (again). All this is to be done with what appears to be tight budget restrictions and in Jerry Dipoto’s apparent final-contract year. Shohei Ohtani represents a chance for this organization to really change its outlook for the next two or three years, yet its a long shot and a gamble all wrapped in a massive “what-if”. If anything, maybe that sentence is the most honest outlook for 2018 I could write.

Forced into an offseason coming off a disappointing year, with bloated contracts to aging stars, and a farm that appears to have no help arriving soon enough, the Seattle Mariners will likely be able to squabble together a squad that could be in the running for a Wild Card Spot. That likely means something to a large part of the fan base and shouldn’t be discounted. However, there’s no denying the truth that they’re years behind the Astros, and could easily be outpaced by both the Angels and Rangers again. Is building a team that simply hopes to compete for a play-in game a strategy that can allow the organization to overcome its obvious shortcomings? I guess we’re all going to find out together, huh.

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.

Exce11ent Alternatives

Edgar Martinez was an excellent baseball player who wore the number 11 on his jersey. The word “excellence” remains phonetically sound after replacing “ll” with 11. These are undeniable facts. Seriously. Think about Edgar. Comb the dictionary. You can’t find a more perfect word because the perfect word has already been found, and that word is exce11ence.

The only issue with an all-encompassing expression like exce11ence is that it ignores the iconic moments that made Edgar exce11ent in the f1rst place. So here they are, Edgar’s seminal moments as a Seattle Mariner, featuring words with consecutive letters supplanted by 11.

We begin with Edgar’s most famous moment of all. More than 650,000 doubles have been hit in Major League history. Only one transcends spe11ing.

1EdgarTheDoub11e

Edgar Martinez wasn’t just a superstar between the lines. He was (and still is) a superstar in the locker room, known throughout baseball for his theatrical performances of…

1EdgarFo11icularVaudevi11e

…and on cable television.

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I think bombillo is Spanish for lightbulb. You can never be sure with Google translate. Anyway, that was a c00l commercial and the guy in the background ki11s me, especially with that bombi11o on his head.

Yet, despite his superstar status, Edgar was perhaps at his best performing selfless deeds of service to the local community. Such as…

EdgarPuya11up

…bringing some much-needed geoduck awareness to the city of Puya11up and…

1EdgarCaterpi11ar

…publishing Caterpi11ar, the adorable children’s book about a young caterpillar who wanted to be a baseball bat when he grew up despite the burden of his parent’s shame. Caterpillar triumphantly makes it to The Show, but the story takes a tragic and gruesome turn on the book’s final page when he meets his first – and last – pitch.

Not everything Edgar did was perfect, however. For example, the regrettable follow-up to Caterpi11ar.

1EdgarCaterpi11arJr

Wanting to be taken more seriously as an author, Edgar penned the edgy story of Caterpi11ar Jr., who vows to avenge his father’s humiliating death and restore the family name only to be arrested outside of a nightclub on the eve of his professional debut, never to return.

Or the time Edgar realized he had a…

MAC EDGAR MARTINEZ G2CSNAP08 1C S BBA USA OR

Or the time Edgar feigned…

1EdgarHa11ucinations

…to distract Robinson Cano from abruptly ending Andy Van Slyke’s coaching career. It turns out Edgar should have probably let that happen, even though Van Slyke did it to himself on the radio a few short months later. Hilarious.

In all seriousness, cheers to Edgar Martinez and the Mariners. This should be one he11uva weekend.

(h/t to Andrew for his I11ustration)

 

Joy

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My awakening with baseball came a decade ago, when I read Baseball Between the Numbers, a veritable textbook on analysis collated by Jonah Keri. The subline of the book, Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong, struck me. I’ve long been a person who thrives on challenging convention. A contrarian by nature, I often follow a path of dissent to a fault. Whether in writing, debate, taste – I have been fueled by having a unique opinion. This existed within me until right around the same time I read the aforementioned book. I remember the moment, listening to whatever metal-mathcore bullshit I was pretending to love at the time. “Do I even like the Dillinger Escape Plan?” I thought, driving in my car, wearing my Dillinger Escape Plan hoodie.

Learning that many of the narratives people pass around about baseball are inherently false changed my perspective on the game in a permanent fashion. It shaped my voice when I wrote about baseball, it opened my eyes when I watched the game. It taught me to view a season from 10,000 feet instead of living and dying by every moment. A 12:40 game on a Wednesday in August has the same impact as opening night. Baseball is cruel, it is emotional, it is beautiful. It is also, above anything else, exactly linear for 162 games. I viewed, and still view, baseball with the mind of an analyst, formed by that book and everything I consumed immediately after. Sometimes that comes across as people thinking I don’t enjoy the game, or that I’m a pessimist. It’s not the case.

I met my wife in 2005, during the time I was spreading my fair share of controversial takes around the music industry as an album reviewer. She is a radiant woman with a smile and laugh that consumes your soul and warms your heart. I fell in love immediately, as does virtually everyone else who spends more than 30 seconds with her. At the time, my analytical mind manifested itself in the form of practicality. Part of this was being a broke college student, part of this was a comfort in my own bubble. My wife is a woman of adventure. I was a man of familiarity. I didn’t want to travel, I didn’t want to eat out. I liked what I liked. Comfort was contentment, and contentment was happiness. I didn’t realize how wrong that kind of happy was until she broke me down.

Over the years of our relationship, I now find joy in more aspects of life than I ever imagined possible. I’ll eat anything, travel anywhere, and take any opportunity to celebrate. It doesn’t always come easy, as there’s still remnants at my core that push back with anxiety. I fight through them, and the result is an unbridled, relentless sense of self-worth and content, with my wife at the core of it all. My job, my friends, my travel, my friendships. My brothers here at Dome and Bedlam. These words. In it all, joy.

I choose joy because the opposite is horrific. I have seen my closest friends shattered by life events. Marriages failed, families wrenched apart. I have watched my wife lie next to her best friend, whispering goodbye days before her death from an inoperable brain tumor at age 27. Still, I have experienced a fraction of the tormented sadness and depression that many have. Sadness is devastating and unavoidable.

And yet, we carry on, rooting for a baseball team that has playoff potential, which means they have World Series potential. For some, they find their joy in hoping that potential becomes a reality. I, with them, share the same sentiment. It may manifest differently, as I view the team with an analytical eye and see outcomes a little worse than many of my friends and peers. I will root with every fiber of my being to be wrong about the 2017 Mariners. I want them to be better than the .500 team I currently project them as. I want so deeply to add success from the Mariners to my ever-growing sources of joy. I will experience it, along with everyone else, in waves throughout this year. There is no schadenfreude when the Mariners fail. It is simply familiar and comfortable. I am sick of it. I want adventure, and I want exuberance.  I want it in more than bursts. I want from the Mariners what I get from my wife. Together, we’ll lament, complain, and languish. We will laugh about the failures. We will celebrate the success. We will choose to be happy, because to do otherwise is too easy, and makes life too hard.

If it all goes right

Just this one time, with meaning

I once heard that the way to experience true happiness is to picture the precise moment you fell in love with the object, idea, or person in question. Not the month, the week, day, but the moment. You see, these instances are important for contemplation and deep focus because they, just as our very lives, are fleeting. We often speak of a limited time on Earth, but what we rarely discuss, because it gnaws at our very core, is that the processing power of our mind is also limited in both ability and duration. I am doomed to suffer the same, eventual memory loss of my grandparents, their grandparents, even my mother and father. Those memories, those moments where we fell in love, eventually they will be wiped away, replaced or simply lost. For me, the moment I fell in love with the Seattle Mariners, I can still feel it.

On October 6th, 2000, I was in a car, the same car I still drive, a 1993 Toyota Landcruiser, with my dad, waiting in the midday Sun to go and get a haircut. Delaying our appointment because the Mariners were on the radio and about to sweep the Chicago White Sox. I loosely knew the characters associated with the 2000 M’s. There was Edgar, Dan the Man, A-Rod, Guillen, Rickey Henderson, Charles Gipson, Kaz, Freddy, Cammie, and others. The names were mostly all I had. That team won 91 games. I hadn’t processed joy, yet. Maybe I still haven’t really gotten down to it even to this day. Yet, I do know, that the moment I fell in love with the Seattle Mariners was right about here:


So it makes sense that between then and now, love has changed its course. Between then and what we all witnessed tonight, there was a dynasty built, torn apart, and then stones thrown at the rubble. Weeds scatter the remains, some spring and summer flowers grow there. We came to know the Mariners amongst a pile of failed prospects, half-season hype-trains, Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley promotion and demotions, losing Adrian Beltre, and Felix Hernandez. It hasn’t been until rather recently, from 2014 to now, that anything has stirred those feelings of true, unbridled love. Sometimes, we just need a reason to believe.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the relevance of the Mariners has coincided with the tenure of Robinson Cano. It’s no mistake that everything simply feels different with him in teal. And in 2017, he didn’t disappoint. We all knew that in order for this to work, Robi would have to bear a large burden. Yet, he made it look so easy. If we thought 2016 was the final chapter in the MVP-career of Cano, we were dreadfully wrong, and we needed him to prove us wrong. There he was, double into right-center after double. He was relentless and his partnership with the powerful Jean Segura was likely the most entertaining double-play combo the franchise has ever seen. That Cano smile never left all season, and why would it have? I still remember the exact moment I fell in love with him, too.

The rest we saw coming, James Paxton led a rotation featuring a junk-balling Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma riding off into the sunset. The bullpen was terrifying, both in its volatility and use of relative unknowns. It felt like almost every night someone new was throwing a high leverage eighth. Nelson Cruz kept his magic intact for one more season with another 40-homer year and the outfield defense was good enough to make up for their issues at the plate. What we didn’t account for, and maybe never should have as fans of the Seattle Mariners, was a rather large dash of luck.

It wasn’t hard, back in April, to see this team making the playoffs, you could even see 90 wins. What was worrisome was the other side of the coin. Just as simply one could see 90 losses. But, we never account for luck as fans of the team that until today, had the longest active postseason drought. We’ve been through this before. We’ve heard the hype only to have every single wheel come off the rails. We remember 2010, 2015, 2008. Think back on all the walkoffs in August. The O’Malley bleeder down the right field line, the Segura grand slam in Houston, Haniger stealing home to beat the Royals. Remember Zunino’s three home run game? Now, we’ll remember the exact moment we fell in love with playoff baseball again.

Looking back on it, it makes sense that the Seattle Mariners hosted the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card Game. It makes sense that three AL West teams made the playoffs, and one of them, this time, was the Mariners. You see, you start to learn something about love as time goes on. That it’s more adult than you’d care to admit. That loving a sports team is full of rage and intensity, grace, silence, echoes, they come together if you’ll let them in. That, like loving another person, when something is out of your own control, you cope in different ways. You buy in further and further, rejection drives you deeper and deeper. And that when love is so lopsided that it destroys you, and you have to keep mortgaging yourself to keep it alive, that one day, Leonys Martin changes everything. He makes you fall in love, again.


That’s what we all saw again tonight. Leonys, playing for the team that finally made him feel welcomed, like he belonged, and in the midst of one of the worst slumps of his career, took an 8th inning Matt Bush curveball ten rows deep. It was a bit of that same magic he seemed to possess in 2016, that one night in May. A call back to a time that feels so long ago, but so new again. A roofless Safeco almost fell to the ground. Those old, wrinkled gods of baseball long ago heard us in their sleep. Felix watched as his seven inning, two-run gem was finally, thirteen years later, made good. Edwin Diaz closed a ninth I don’t think I felt a single moment of. I’m still numb. The love I feel has shaken my bones of their feeling.

I don’t want to feel, either. Perhaps that is the most important aspect of love in the moments you find it. At the same time you are both completely full and void of feeling, of regard or care. There is only this moment, this person, this being that you love. The Seattle Mariners, at some point in the next several hours, will fly to start a Divisional series in Boston. Felix, Cano, Cruz, Seager, Paxton, and Leonys all will be beaming. But that doesn’t matter. Tomorrow doesn’t matter.

Simply this moment does.