Breakfast and Biz 4/20/18 – 10%

Everyone have a beer

It’s always funny watching baseball in April. The catharsis of the game’s return tends to dominate the first week. Soon though, particularly after as contentious an offseason as Mariner fans just experienced, must come the takes. The games count now, and so they must be filled to the brim with meaning.

It is understandable, particularly in a region where recent transplants to the region and/or newer sports fans have largely entered sports fan culture through the NFL, and the Seahawks, where sixteen games is all you get, and a full year’s purpose and effort and cheer and lament has to be packed in.

We are fortunate, then, and would do well to remember, that baseball allows for more space, and more calm. We haven’t quite reached the point where going 0-5 does nothing more than drop his batting average six or seven points, or where a three game losing streak just feels like “a rough patch”, but we’ll get there soon.

Yesterday, the Mariners got destroyed by the Houston Astros, 9-2, after losing 7-1 the day before, and 4-1 the day before that. The fact that rooting for the Mariners to beat the Astros is somewhat analogous to rooting for a 12 seed to beat a 5 in March can be depressing, or frustrating, or really anything you want it to be. The Astros winning the last three days doesn’t change anything. Regardless of record, they were always going to be the more talented of these two rosters by a wide margin. That’s……that’s just the truth.

And that’s ok! The Mariners are 9-8. They have survived injury, largely disastrous starting pitching (Marco Gonzales had by an extremely wide margin his best start of the year yesterday, and did not make it through five innings.), and a bullpen that has, as bullpens always do, crawled afresh from the primordial ooze of April. Like all bullpens it will evolve into its final form sometime around mid-July, and this bullpen has already formed a hell of a giant stinger at the end of its tail.

So, it is with some years spent in this game I tell you, rejoice! The Mariners are 9-8! They are not going to win the division, almost certainly. I don’t know a single Mariner fan who actually believed that they would, so we should be all clear there. While the Mariners have been getting sawed in half by the Astros, the Angels have been getting quartered by the Red Sox, and that is probably the Mariners’ truest inter-division competition for a playoff spot. Nothing anyone has realistically hoped they would be in 2018 has been lost, and in the process I’d add this team has shown it can be pretty damn fun to watch.

Yesterday the Mariners lost, and I went outside. I went for a walk, mowed the lawn, and played with my kids. There have been years when baseball, and more specifically the Seattle Mariners, have played a large part in how I feel on a given day, but those days are past now. It is, of course, verboten to tell others “How to Fan” so I will not do that. I will say, though, that if you enjoy the sun, if you’re fortunate enough to be near family, or if you’ve just felt shut-in the past six months of wind and rain, to maybe just put the game on the radio for a few days, or even maybe not at all.

The Mariners are out there, sure, but they aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be right there, where you left them, anytime you need them. Baseball is a sport wonderfully adaptable to your chosen or needed lifestyle, and will just fill in whatever gaps you choose to leave for it, making for a nice snug fit. I’m going to let it do that this year, and I encourage you to do the same.

Go M’s.

Breakfast & Biz 4/3/18 – Pressing On

A consideration on growing old

With the off day yesterday, and there being so few games to talk about, I want to shift this morning for a moment, and talk about age.

Much is said about age and how it effects your body. I am not as old as Ichiro, but old enough to be able to measure myself now against the physical peak of my late teens and early twenties, and find the gap between the two depressingly large.

“Everything hurts” is the common expression, and while that’s a bit of an exaggeration in my experience, there is no denying that the simplest tasks or exertion, unless carefully prepped, executed, and recovered from, can leave my body feeling preposterously painful and creaky the next morning. If you listen to people of a certain age, their various maladies, and physical trials are used casually, as a sort of social icebreaker, like the weather, or the exploits of children and grandchildren.

I think perhaps we talk and joke about the physical trials of aging so much, at least in part, to obscure the darker and far more frightening parts: The weathering of our energies, ambitions, and dreams.

Time and experience work in us a slow, deep change. The things that motivate, excite, and energize us at 24 seem small and trivial at 34. I can only assume at 44 it feel much the same again. The question over the epoch of our lives becomes less and less where we are headed, but if we are headed anywhere at all. And if we are, is it a destination worth heading towards? Is it a path worth walking?

The smart ones, the ones that age well, I imagine worry less about the destination, and the path they are walking, than how they are walking. For them, living rightly maybe means allowing for the humility to know that, by and large, we control an utterly horrifyingly small part of how our life will play out. Perhaps at times it’s best to avoid the stillness, to press on, and keep busy with daily labor of the mind and body.

Pausing to take stock of the years reveals so much. Too much. We’ll never be as good as we were, and stopping to consider that is too hard to bear. Maybe we weren’t meant to stop. Maybe we’re supposed to just keep going, until we can’t go anymore.

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Go M’s.

Breakfast & Biz, 4/2/18 – First Steps

We needed the games

The encouraging thing about the season’s first weekend was how many things you saw that you needed to see. Felix Hernandez and Mike Leake were near the best versions of their current selves. While allowing for the occasional suboptimal route, Dee Gordon also took the opportunity to envelope centerfield with his speed, and the rest of Safeco Field with his personality.

Mitch Haniger, for the second straight April, looks like the best overall player on the Mariners, crushing two homeruns, and continuing his very enjoyable habit of never, ever giving away at-bats. The Mariners need to develop a 5-6 win, under 30 player in the absolute worst way. When he’s healthy, Haniger is the one with that in him.

Edwin Diaz reminded us all that, when things click, he is as close to literally unhittable as any pitcher alive. His two appearances allowed for, ahem, zero balls to be put in play. Through the season’s first series he has a K% of 75, and a K/9 of 27. You heard it here first, folks, but those would both be records if he can keep them up.

Discouragingly, the series against Cleveland showed us many things we were afraid we would see. Neither Ryon Healy nor Daniel Vogelbach had a hit. James Paxton, The One Upon Which To Dream, allowed as much or more hard contact in four and two-thirds innings than all other Mariner pitchers combined, most of it in the air.

Most concerning of all, by far, was through three games the Mariners have already lost two players to injury they cannot afford to lose. Mike Zunino is on the DL with an oblique strain. The Mariners say they expect him to return shortly, and he just may, but obliques are nasty, lingering, easily re-injured things. Mike Marjama and David Freitas are both competent backstops, but clearly are not as Good as Zunino can be and has been for awhile.

Nelson Cruz meanwhile was already under orders to take it easy anytime he hit the ball on the ground, due to a sore hamstring. Cruz came up with a better plan, which was to just wallop dingers and take it super damn easy thank you very much. Somehow, even that level of leisure didn’t protect him, as he twisted his ankle returning to the dugout after one of his many mighty taters. There was an MRI, and we still don’t know. I’d propose the Mariners simply take volunteers at Safeco to hoist the beautiful man around on their shoulders from the batter’s box to wherever he needs to go. There would be no want of hands, I am sure.

You’ll hear this a lot this month, but it’s early. Too early for analysis. Too early for complaints about lineups, or bullpen rotations, or claiming victory in The Great Offseason Ideological Wars. But it’s not too early to observe what we see, and say through three games the Mariners look a lot like we thought they would. They can hit, and they can run. They will be competitive about as long as their starting pitching allows them to be. They have a closer with terrific stuff. They are old, and injury prone, and don’t have great depth.

The greatest takeaway of all, though, is they are playing. Baseball is back. Writing and talking about the game feels fun again. We’re born anew, and all joys and miseries lay fresh before us. Sometimes, you just need to move forward.

Go M’s.

If it all goes right

I think one of the most comforting things about Baseball for a large number of fans is that it’s pretty much always the same. Almost every team ends the season within about a 20% margin of wins. The difference between a good year and a bad year can be as small as five or so outcomes out of one-hundred and sixty-two. You can sort of float in the space that Baseball exists in, if you so care. You can take a week off, think about something else between the innings. The time for time away is allotted for. Perhaps, this is the most appealing aspect of being a fan of the Seattle Mariners. They’ve taught us the true value of Baseball. It’s sort of all the same.

This maybe has been part of the problem, too, of being a Seattle Mariners fan. Perhaps the recent years of yo-yoing around 81 wins has lulled us all to sleep. We often talk of the doldrums before Jack Z took over, but the Mariners have yet to surpass the 88 wins of 2007 since. Yes, in contrast to early parts of the playoff drought, the recent success of 2014 and 2016 makes the team feel relevant, feel on track, but there were other times, too. This is likely how we all felt in 2007, like everything was coming together. Watching Ichiro, Miguel Bautista, JJ Putz, Felix, and Beltre succeed with a young Adam Jones ready to make 2008 the year we made it back. It’s easy to remember how poorly it all went.

For it all to go right, this organization needed outside circumstances to dictate a change of direction. They needed a drastic and obvious disparity between themselves and the teams actually competing for a championship. Something no fan could deny. Last year they could name injury as the cause of incompetence. The year before, they were simply a few games from postseason play. In 2015, a World Series favorite sputtered out of the gates and never caught asphalt. In 2014, a world-beating Felix Hernandez almost single-handedly willed his team into postseason contention. All along, the core became older and older, and while we weren’t looking behind us, the window shut a little bit more. This year, ten games out of a wildcard spot by mid July, they were finally forced into confronting their own reality.

Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia both remained injured enough to allow Ichiro a final season. Felix was never totally lost, but made it clear he’s never going back to being an ace. Kyle was Kyle. Cano had lost a step and Segura’s injuries followed him through the season as well. The pitching was what we thought it would be. Rough innings meant a bullpen, short David Phelps for the entire season, had to mop up too often in the fifth inning and on. There were too many big innings by the opposition. There was too much Taylor Motter for this team to ever be in it. Too much Andrew Moore. Too much not enough.

Perhaps the most encouraging moment was the announcing of the extension of Jerry Dipoto in late June. The organization finally put its foot in the ground and declared a direction, despite the poor product on the field. We all could guess what was coming next. The inevitable trades of Nelson Cruz, James Paxton, and an on fire Edwin Diaz seemed written on the wall for a team who looked so clearly out of it. There would be no catching the Astros, Cleveland, New York. Boston and the Angels and the Twins all showed superiority at the outset and never looked back.

There were fun moments though. There was Dee Gordon robbing Aaron Judge at the wall by the Pen. The Ichiro walkoff against Cleveland in the opening series. The Zunino grand slam against the Giants. Haniger’s torrid August. Daniel Vogelbach started the season right where he left off in Spring. Yet, we all knew none of the results from this particular season would weigh much in a decade’s time. No, what we hope to remember are the flashes of lights from the farm. Kyle Lewis finally started playing baseball again, and well. Sam Carlson put together an almost-full season and Evan White looks to have knocked the ceiling off his power tool. The players traded for at the deadline have to be encouraging, too.

For the first time in a very long time there is a tomorrow for this team, not simply a today. Perhaps this is what we’ve been lacking as Seattle Mariners fans. Something that our minds can reach out towards, instead of clinging on tightly to. No longer does the future feel precarious. It feels boundless and unencumbered by expectation or old age or poor health. No longer must we squint through an offseason, wondering which player could add that final piece to a roster that looks more and more like a puzzle missing pieces with every passing year.

I can remember the first time I watched Michael Pineda pitch in a meaningless Spring Training game. I remember the feeling of unknown possibility. Instead of living in the world of “ifs”, these young players give us the world of “what ifs”. They take us away from the tragedies of the past, of the sameness of nearly two decades without a playoff game. Without the gravity that baseball can provide. These young players, these future beings allow us to cast our minds forward to an age-old call, “The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship.” The idea that someday we could hear that phrase again.

It’s funny how some words when you say them enough start to sound funny out loud.

“Someday.”

 

 

 

 

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.