Podcast Episode 14: Dome & Goldy, Pt. 2

Grindin’ meat, talking food, La Croix, and your Seattle Mariners

Despite (excellent) advice from his publicist, Mariner Play by Play Announcer, beef aficionado, maple lemonade connoisseur, and #verified La Croix stockholder Aaron Goldsmith returns to the show, joining David, Scott, and Nathan for a little chat.

Topics include: The 2017 Mariners, the future, Kevin Cremin, Mike Blowers, where to get the best sushi in Seattle, and a whole lot more.

(Subscribe and rate us a million stars on iTunes. Soundcloud is here. Thanks for listening.)

An Offseason Plan: Vengeance for Bedard

The case for rebuilding

The Mariners are at a crossroads. They are too old and too financially over-committed to make a decision to rebuild an easy one. The Astros appear to have annexed the next handful of season’s worth of AL West titles, but the Wild Cards offer the most success-starved of all baseball franchises, our Seattle Mariners, a prayer at contention.

Still, the team’s best players, both by the numbers and the heart, are all at the age where players get worse, not better. The farm system, while not wholly devoid of talent, appears woefully incapable of providing the core replacements needed for Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz. A rebuild is coming, and it is coming before the major league roster will be ready to endure it without a significant increase in losses.

With the near certainty of lean times ahead it’s understandable that the current front office (one reportedly in the last year of its contract) would eye 2018 as the last competitive Mariners team in some time, cut the brake lines, and floor the accelerator by signing as many free agents as they possibly can. So, here they stand, with ceaseless failure behind them and three uncertain paths in front of them: Burn it down, go for broke, or a compromise between the two. With that in mind, I want to make a rudimentary examination of what each of the three roads looks like: the goods, the bads, the final years of Robinson Cano’s contract and on.

Since I sometimes have flagging self-confidence let’s add some CAVEATS: I won’t pretend to be an expert on value, and I don’t intend to break down exact player-for-player exchanges. This implies a level of knowledge I simply don’t have. I’m working off a general understanding of the state of the game and the team. Others who have spent years closely studying the minors will have a much better idea of what the nuts and bolts of these ideas would entail. We’re working with broad strokes here.

My amateurism sufficiently disclosed, let’s get into it with the direction I’d most prefer the team follow: Burn. It. Down.

Kingdome demolition

The Plan

Trade James Paxton to the…….Brewers? Sure, the Brewers, for prospects

This is the centerpiece of the rebuild process. Paxton is arguably the team’s most valuable major league piece and the most valuable arm by a mile. With three multiple (Baseball-reference says he’s a FA in 2021, but he just finished his first year of arbitration. I dunno.) years of club control and coming off a four-win season in only 130 IP, Paxton presents any team with dreams of 2018 contention ace upside at a bargain price. The ability to acquire one young MLB-ready player and multiple low-level minors prospects is in play.

Additionally, with the combination of the Mariners place at the end of a contention window, Paxton’s agent Scott Boras almost totally shunning extensions, and Paxton’s terrifying injury history, the idea of James Paxton: Lifetime Mariner is an unlikely and unwise proposition.

With club control and 2017 representing a career year, Paxton’s value has almost certainly never been higher. While rolling the dice and hoping he stays healthy and productive into the deadline of 2018 may theoretically let you take advantage of a panic buy in a frenzied market, the risk is simply too high. I love James Paxton and watching him become one of the game’s best left-handed pitchers in Seattle has been a joy, but baseball is cruel. Trade Pax.

Trade the relievers, all the good relievers

With the tacit admission that 2018 won’t be a contending year baked into the DNA of this plan, and intriguing if unproven power arms such as Dan Altavilla, Thyago Vieira, and others in house, there’s no need holding onto high leverage relief specialists. Nick Vincent? See ya buddy, thanks for the regression last year. David Phelps? More like David Whelps, in my opinion. Edwin Diaz? You’re cool. I like you. Good luck in Arizona!

Kyle Goofin

Explore trading Kyle Seager

Despite his down year in 2017, Seager may very well be the most valuable player on the Mariners’ 40-man roster. With four years and only ~$57 million left on his contract, a 30-year-old, good defense, clearly established four-win player should have sizable value on the market.

The major downside is positional demand. Whereas with James Paxton everyone is always looking for starting pitching, there are only so many third base jobs to go around. Still, if Jerry Dipoto can find someone to fill his demands (and they should be very high) Kyle Seager could bring back a boon of talented players to stock throughout Modesto, Clinton, and Arkansas. It would hurt, but everything about this plan hurts. Bye, Kyle. Thanks for everything.

Who would like to be paid to have some old, potentially useful players on their baseball team?

Look, no one wants to have to do this plan; we all want the Mariners to be great, and we want them to be great with these players. We may not have to, but we do, in fact, love these guys. But Felix Hernandez, Robbie Cano, and Nelson Cruz are not here for a gutted franchise aiming for the 2020 AL West Title. While Cruz may have legitimate trade value, as he refuses to act his age and is in the last year of his deal, Cano and Hernandez represent near total sunk costs at this point. Cano in particular, with $140 million left on his deal, would require a substantial swallowing of dead money by ownership.

These are the difficult realities of going for it through free agency back in 2014-2015. The rent comes due, and building for the future with these aging players and their contracts around is simply not feasible. Financially, and emotionally, it is the hardest part of this plan. But it’s one that must be done. All efforts should be made to mitigate the money owed on these contracts, and gaining any and all financial flexibility a top priority.

Cano Cruz

The 2018 Outlook

The gutting and stripping of the Mariners big league roster is designed to end with the farm system sufficiently stocked with talent to be at or near the top 10 in the game. It is contingent upon the franchise extending Jerry Dipoto and allowing him the trust and time necessary to see the rebuild through to some sort of completion. But the 2018 season is almost certainly a total loss.

While Dipoto has proven to be moderately adept at finding readily available ~league-average talent with little to no long-term commitment, it’s hard to see this version of the Mariners winning more than 70 games. Safeco will be empty, fans will complain, revenues will drop, and the seventeenth (and very, very likely eighteenth) consecutive season of playoff baseball will pass on. I won’t lie: it will hurt, and we’ll hate it.

Sad Fan

The Rationale

In the 2007/2008 offseason the Baltimore Orioles, fresh off their 10th consecutive year missing the poststeason, made a choice. With the Red Sox and Yankees at the height of power and the newly re-branded Rays a looming terror, Baltimore decided to acquiesce the immediate future to their rivals. The centerpiece of this acquiescence was trading their best player; a 28-year old, oft-injured but tremendously talented Canadian left-handed pitcher – Érik Bédard.

Clearly, if you’re reading this, you’re standing here with me at the gates of hell, so we won’t walk any further down this road. I bring up the Bedard trade because the 2007 Orioles and 2017 Mariners are not dissimilar. They are/were both aging, success-deprived franchises poorly suited for short term competition with other teams in their division. The Bedard trade was foundational in the Orioles making the playoffs three of the past six seasons and represents the kind of long-term planning the Mariners have never seemed able to both commit to and execute competently.

The desolation that is the Mariners minor league talent base demands recompense, one way or the other. While further losing seasons at the major league level and the loss of many of the team’s beloved stars will sting and sting badly, the presence of multiple budding stars and (fingers crossed) superstars in the minor leagues will tide over us diehard fans. No longer will we have to content ourselves with having to squint and voluntarily bashing our heads on desks to see anything more than MLB role players in the team’s top prospects. Uber-prospects inspire dreams, and dreams can carry you through a whole hell of a lot, even when reality sucks.

It’s an agonizing choice and certainly an unlikely one. All signs point to an attempt at one final year of contention in 2018. But this plan offers hope beyond the second Wild Card spot or a single playoff game at Safeco Field, glorious though that would be. It offers the possibility of years and years of playoffs, dozens of playoff games, of a World Series banner flapping with the Puget Sound sunset behind it. Whether we get it or not, we deserve to dream that dream.

Safeco Pano

The 40 Worst Mariners, Day IV

40 for 40. Eye for an eye.

And so we arrived at the end of our little catalog of Mariner misery. This list could have been a lot, a lot, a lot longer. Some players are Richie Sexson, and missed out on this because, while they bottomed out in Seattle, they also had plenty of success here. Others are Brad Wilkerson, and were so spectacularly bad that their awfulness wasn’t allowed the necessary gestation period for the birth of permanent memory. There were a lot of these guys actually; Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, a small village of left fielders really, Rich Aurilia, Eric Byrnes, and on and on into oblivion.

We all wish the Mariners had themselves a championship or five, and an equally bright past and future, but here we are. We all root for a team with four playoff appearances in forty seasons, and zero World Series Championships. That doesn’t mean we hate them, hell we maybe love them more for their failures at this point. The closest approximation to Mariner fandom, or true, deep, life-long fandom of any kind is that it’s like a family. We don’t really get to choose each other, we’re all just kind of here. Together. And we choose to love each other, Jose Vidros and all.

This list was made with plenty of pain to draw on, but also a lot of fondness. If you made it all the way through, thanks. If not, well, no thanks. Either way, we had a blast, and next week we’ll turn our attention away from the plague-filled corpses of Mariner past, to the treacherous road ahead. Also, team play-by-play announcer Aaron Goldsmith is coming back on the podcast. Again. Yeah, I don’t know why he keeps saying yes either, but please send us good questions for him on Twitter. Thanks, all.

(Parts I, II, & III here)

31. Henry Cotto

cotto-topps

When I was a boy, my friend Karl went to Fan Appreciation Night and, against all odds, had his seat number called on the public address system. His prize: an authentic, game-worn Henry Cotto jersey. He didn’t know what to do with it; it was too large to wear, too rare to hock. It also contained, on some trace level, a grown man’s sweat. So he hung it on the wall of his bedroom, like a black mark he couldn’t dispel, a warning against the mediocrity of adulthood that awaited us all.

Someday, after the bombs fall, and scavengers pick through the rubble of our civilization searching for copper wire, they will come across a hollowed-out building with a single intact wall. And on that wall, pure as the first day, will be a Henry Cotto jersey, flapping in the wind like a surrender. They will see it, and they will run.  (phd)

32. Ryan Franklin

For the record none of the bad things I’ll say about Ryan Franklin are my fault. It’s not my fault in his three full seasons in Seattle he gave up 95 home runs, or that his lowest FIP during that time (2003-2005) never finished lower than 5.04. It’s not my fault his stuff was so feeble he never struck out more than 13.1% of batters as a starter.

It’s not my fault Franklin went on to inexplicably be a star closer for the Cardinals while looking like an adolescent Wookie someone got drunk and shaved after he passed out. No, none of that’s my fault, it’s Ryan Franklin’s. Despite all that, he’s a multi-millionaire living like a king in rural Oklahoma. I’m just a shitty blogger. Well, maybe that’s my fault. (Nathan)

33. Carlos Triunfel

Carlos-Triunfel

Carlos Triunfel was signed by the Mariners when he was 16 years old. He was the Shortstop of the Future™ for five or six years before making his Mariners debut in 2012. In 71 plate appearances, spread across 27 forgettable games between the forgettable 2012 and 2013 seasons, he “produced” a slash line of .167/.188/.401, good for an fWAR of -0.5 and has not played in majors since 2014, when he had 16 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He is 18 days older than Jean Segura. (dg)

34. Chris Taylor

Christopher Armond Taylor, a 5th-round draft pick out of the University of Virginia, was actually a literal break away from being a starting major league shortstop. In the spring of 2015, well into a Cactus League battle with Brad Miller, Taylor was struck in the wrist by a fastball. After a few days waiting for the swelling to go down it turned out that wrist was in fact broken. Taylor missed the first two months, Miller won the job, and all parties involved enjoyed a thoroughly lost season.

In 2016, though, Taylor mashed in Triple-A Tacoma, sporting a 128 wRC+, and looked to re-establish himself within the organization, newly headed by Jerry Dipoto. After a May callup he debuted on May 25th, and it went disastrously. Although he went 1-3 Taylor struck out with the bases loaded, and worse yet committed two devastating errors in a four run Oakland 8th inning, in a 5-0 loss.

Although Taylor entered the next day’s game as an 8th inning defensive replacement, he would never again take an at-bat for the Mariners. Dipoto had seen enough. Taylor was sent back to Tacoma, and on June 19th traded to the Dodgers, never to be seen or heard from again. (Nathan)

35. Jeff Manto

Before Austin Jackson, before Kendrys Morales, there was Jeff Manto. A journeyman first baseman Manto had latched onto the mid 90’s offensive boom times, slugging nearly .500 and more than half his career home runs in the summer of 1995 for the Orioles. After a short detour through Japan, he landed back in MLB with the Red Sox in 1996, before being acquired by Woody Woodward and the Mariners in exchange for all-namer Arquimedez Pozo.

When I close my eyes now, and imagine the ’96 Mariners desperate attempt to re-create their 1995 glory, I don’t see Jeff Manto hitting .185/.302/.296. What I see is that knee brace. It looked like you took all the knee braces from an NFL offensive line, slapped one on top of the other, and then lashed it to the leg of an old, mildly out of shape baseball player. The ’96 M’s were eliminated from the playoffs on September 26th, in a 7-5 loss at Oakland. Jeff Manto didn’t play. (Nathan)

36. John Halama

There’s something admirable about someone who does a job that they don’t want to do for the sake of their family. A lot of people end up clocking in and clocking out of various retail, shipyard, or warehouse jobs with the only beacon of light to keep them going is the people that they’re going home to, the people who rely on them to bring home that hotplate. John Halama grew up in Brooklyn and was not a very big baseball fan. He was passable at pitching from time to time, but he is living proof of my personal theory that if you’re left handed, can possibly touch 85ish, and have a pulse, you could possibly pitch in major league baseball. (SG)

37. Mike Timlin

Mike-Timlin

Mike Timlin was not a bad reliever. You don’t appear in over 1,000 games, and accrue nearly 12 fWAR by being terrible. Timlin wasn’t even bad as a Mariner. Hell, in 1998 he was downright terrific.

What Mike Timlin was, was totemic to one of the most damaging periods in Mariner history. With one of the best rosters in baseball, seemingly only a leaky bullpen stood in their way. As a result Woody Woodward and co. traded, collectively, Jose Cruz Jr., Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek for Timlin, Heathcliff Slocumb (also on this list), and Paul Spoljaric.

It’s not fair to Timlin to be on this list, but then, it’s not fair that the Red Sox got more than 20 years of Lowe and Varitek, while Cruz went to Toronto and immediately hit 14 home runs in 55 games. But this isn’t a list based on science or facts, so it’s here that Mike Timlin finds himself. (Nathan)

38. Luis Valbuena

Valbuena debuted with the Mariners in 2008 and managed to run a terribly mundane 0.0 fWAR with his time in teal. He’d then be traded for Franklin Gutierrez. After that, he’d play for the Astros and make us all want to die. And then again with the Angels. (Skiba)

39. Miguel Cairo

The sun-down’s perambulation
Miguel Cairo’s at first
Grounds for strangulation

Mojo Risin’
Was the call
Miguel Cairo’s at first
Portent of the fall

Well they have to be good one of these years
Miguel Cairo’s at first
Nothing but tears

Sometimes I think we’ve seen the worst
It’s then I remember
Miguel Cairo’s at first
Another lost September
(Nathan)

40. Willie Bloomquist

There is a ballpark named after Dr. Bill Bloomquist, DDS in Port Orchard, WA. It was built and is now maintained by the local Rotary. It’s essentially a large, flat, occasionally mowed field. It would get mowed more often, but our region’s wet climate typically renders the soil a sort of cake fondant-style “this is holding this is holding oh nope I’ve completely broken through this and am now stuck” consistency for about half the year.

It gets used for the ever dwindling ranks of pee wee baseball, and the occasional church softball game, but as the rudimentary basepaths and mound get slowly swallowed by time and neglect, it primarily serves as nothing more than a shortcut for kids to walk across on their way home from school. Their footpaths criss cross the field, some off on their own, a few common tracks worn deep into the muddy grass, as the field returns, invariably, back to nature.

Willie Bloomquist lives in Scottsdale, AZ with his wife and four daughters. He doesn’t come back to Port Orchard very often. (Nathan)

The Worst Mariners, Part III

The PENULTIMATE portion of this list, coming to you hot off the press.

Let it be known that collating the previous two parts of this ILLUSTRIOUS series has deprived Nathan of his health, leaving him weak and weary and ill. (He really is sick right now – feel free to send him well wishes on TWITTER.) It turns out that being a Mariners fan has a multitude of hazards. Fortunately, I’m here to make sure that all seven of our devoted readers will still able to access the #content they crave. The show must go on, after all.

(Also, just in case you missed ’em, here’s Part I and Part II.)

21. Dustin Ackley 

I, like many of you, remember exactly where I was the moment Dustin Ackley made his major league debut. I was so excited I went and bought his shirsey the moment it was available in the team store. I’ve never been more confident that a player was going to turn into someone special. Six years later, I only wear his shirsey when I’m confident my infant son is going to spit up on me. (dg)

ackley4.0.png

22. Kevin Mitchell

Look, he was actually better than I thought. A 117 wRC+ in 400 PA ain’t bad. But the slugging was almost a hundred points lower than the year before he was a Mariner, and almost two hundred points lower than the year after. Remembering that his solitary season in Seattle was not the end of his career, but rather a brief nadir before a resurgence in Cincinnati only stirs up my blood afresh. (Nathan)

23. Rob Johnson

There are a lot of takeaways and things to remember from the 2010 season. That weird popcorn magazine cover, the foul bunt heard around the world, napgate, and of course Jack Z bringing back Russell Branyan for some reason. But the one thing that I will always remember is Opening Day of 2010. The Mariners would win their first of 61 games that year. Someone has to hit the first home run of a season and for some reason Rob Johnson had the honors in ’10. In hindsight, this should have been not just a bad omen, but THE bad omen for what I, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, would call the worst year in Seattle Mariners history. (SG)

24. Brandon League

Brandon is the only player I have actively booed while in attendance at Safeco Field, and not in jest. Yes, I was at the game and yes you’d have booed as well. I feel no regrets. (Skiba)

brandonleague2

25. Dave Hengel

It’s strange to think that there are hundreds of thousands of photographs of Dave Hengel in existence: his three baseball cards arrived at the height of the junk wax era. Boxed away in attics by hopeful failed capitalists rests his memorial. All that remains: a mullet uninterested in gravity, two halves of a mustache separated by a pregnant pause, an ironic smile tied to that oversized, forgettable gold-S logo. Hengel was a small fish in a small pond, once the king of Calgary, a powerful demi-DH; in the majors, his career numbers were on pace for a -7 win full season. But it doesn’t matter. He made it. He got a baseball card. He became a Seattle Mariner, in every sense of that concept. And in every baseball card, he’s smiling. (phd)

26. Al Martin

In 2001, while every other Mariner was enjoying a career year, Al Martin was OPSing 10 points below his career average. He also claimed after running into Carlos Guillen that it reminded him of when, as a strong safety for USC, he ran into Leroy Hoard. Problem being, USC has no record of Martin ever having attended the school, let alone putting on pads. On the bright side, Martin had one triple in four playoff plate appearances that year. $5 million well spent. (dg)

27. Russ Davis

From 1995-2001 the Mariners were generally good, and yet, like a lot of legitimately good teams, they still had bad players on the roster. Russ Davis fits that bill perfectly. In 1997 Russ was okay. He notched a 105 wRC+ and was worth a shade over 1.5 wins. That half of the equation ignores the fact that he played the hot corner about as well as six-year-old Russ Davis could’ve. In 1998, he finished with 32 errors, nearly one quarter of the team’s total on the year, and reverted back to his old offensive ways (namely: being bad). Russ Davis was a not good baseball player on a good team. (Peter)

28. Marc Rzepczynski

You’ll note a glut of relievers on this list, and that’s no mistake. Relievers are, in their traditional role, probably the worst baseball players alive; failed, flawed starters who hang on by learning some speciality, like a sidearm, or giving up two-thirds of a three run lead and walking the bases loaded before “getting the save.” (Nathan)

29. Pete O’Brien

Pete is remembered fondly by some, probably because of his association with the inaugural years of Griffey, Buhner, Edgar, and Randy. Instead, O’Brien cobbled together a -0.3 WAR over his four-year M’s career while playing the game’s most premium offensive position. His one plus? Rocking half-tint aviators. Devil may care. (Scott)

8610-8Fr

30. Jose Mesa

Mesa more or less single-handedly lost the very first game played in Safeco Field, according to my memory of the game. I refuse to go back and check because placing the blame in one, specific place to explain why the franchise is so derpy feels a lot better than running any numbers on it. Thanks a lot, bro. (Skiba)

(We’ll wrap up with Part IV tomorrow.)

The 40 Worst Mariners, Part II

Not what you want, not what you need. This, is what you have.

Everyone says they want to be liked; we all want success, the big house, the happy family, a comfortable retirement, etc. It’s all lies, albeit lies at least as much to oneself as to others. Death comes for us all, and although as a species we’ve done an exceptional job distracting ourselves from that fact with our petty squabbles and busy schedules, the truth is life is not a highway, it’s a railroad. We’re on tracks, and the line stops in the same damn place regardless.

Mankind has long yearned for immortality, and we’ve crafted a series of elaborate realities in which we can, but at its essence perhaps the only real way for us to live forever is to do something in life that lives in the memories of those left behind. As Maximus Decimus Meridius said, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity,” but the truth is this: The echoes of eternity resonate longer in a deeper canyon, and you can carve deep hollows of memory into your fellow humans with failure, just as easily as success. These 10 men, these Mariners, they chose the latter. They chose forever.

(Part I, with explanation of criteria and methodology, here)

11. Jeremy Reed

Jeremy Reed
(That’s not how you do that)

We all have a type. Some of us go for someone who is charismatic and controls a room just by walking in. For others, it’s someone on the train with a dog-eared copy of a book that you’ve been convincing yourself to read. For the Seattle Mariners post-2003, it was light-hitting, left-handed center fielders who could run a little and supposedly hit for contact. Jeremy Reed was the catalyst of this movement. Arguably the centerpiece in the Freddy Garcia trade with the White Sox, Reed was called up in September, hit .397 in 18 games, and was declared THE FUTURE. That future went on to put on a DECENT 2005, get hurt, flame out, and somehow play for the Mets. A reminder that all roads lead to Queens. (SG)

12. Miguel Batista

Miguel Batista holds the distinction of cobbling together the very worst pitching season in M’s history (by win probability added – WPA). In 2008, Batista’s WPA was a shockingly abhorrent -4.49; according to FanGraphs, any season-long WPA value less than -3.0 is beyond awful. (For some perspective, over the last decade, the only pitcher to hurt his team’s chances of winning more in a season was the 2009 version of Brad Lidge, a man who blew 11 saves for the Phillies while posting an ERA of 7.21.) In 20 starts in ‘08, Miguel allowed a triple slash line of .307/.409/.536 (i.e., he made the average hitter look like this year’s Justin Turner or Kris Bryant). Batista eventually assumed more of a swingman/bullpen role, where he was somewhat less bad, but the damage was done and the season was doomed and your Seattle Mariners lost 100+ games for the first time in 25 years. #TheMojoIsRising (Andrew)

13. Jose Vidro

vidro
(Not how you do this either but lol Cubes)

If you go to Wikipedia, someone had the audacity to write “Though he never officially retired, Vidro has not played since 2008.” As if anyone that trotted out as many times as Vidro pathetically did for the Mariners in 2008 needs to declare they are done when, go figure, you were DFA’d midway through August with a batting line of .234/.274/.338 as the freakin’ DESIGNATED HITTER. Apologies for the grammatically unsound sentence, I just got so worked up thinking about him. We won’t even go into the fact that Vidro did all of that jazz, only in a more garbage way, for the entirety of 2007. For a team that has put together an impressive string of pathetic designated hitters, Vidro declares himself king of that shit mountain. (Peter)

14. Bob Wolcott

One ALCS Game 1 in which Wolcott walked five and struck out two does not a man make. Walcott was objectively crap in AAA before he was called up in a state of emergency for the ‘95 Mariners, and subsequently killed the Mariners for the remainder of his short-lived M’s career before Arizona plucked him in the 53rd round of the ‘97 expansion draft. It’s better off if you remember his career based on one playoff start result and ignore the rest. (Scott)

15. Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson
(mmmmmmmmm yes mmmmmm weak contact mmmm delicious yes)

Austin Jackson swinging an aluminum trekking pole at a barbell below sea level. Austin Jackson gently tapping a croquet ball the last four inches through a wicket with a live toucan. Austin Jackson slapping an already broken piñata with a carp on roller skates. Austin Jackson slapping empty plastic Easter eggs with a velvet glove in a wind tunnel. Austin Jackson swinging a 30 lb log at a rolled up sock on Jupiter. Austin Jackson… (Nathan)

16. Bobby Ayala

Might as well get the emotional one out of the way. Ayala was actually filthy in ‘94, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings and cruising to a 2.28 FIP. It’s that performance that had Lou Pinella going to him in high-leverage situations for the better part of his Mariners career, where he allowed a 110 OPS+. The suck lives beyond your memories, friends. (Scott)

17. Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley
(We don’t even like Eric Wedge, yet here we feel for him.)

I don’t feel as if this one needs any elaboration. (Skiba)

18. John Moses

John Moses was the baseball equivalent of a substitute middle school shop teacher, a rebuttal against hero worship. He was an everyman in the sense that people looked up to him, saw themselves in him, and felt despair at their inadequacy. John Moses represented the death of the boyhood dream, the yawning rift between ourselves and who we wanted to be. John Moses did nothing well, except not be the worst at anything. He played center field because the alternatives were worse; flanked by the morose butcher Danny Tartabull in right, he always appeared quietly competent. He appeared fast, and the caught stealings that nearly matched his stolen bases brought praise for his effort. He hit an empty .250 in a pair of seasons when the young and the old, your Mickeys Brantley and your Gormans Thomas and your Als Cowens could hardly break the Mendoza Line. He was there, never making the manager look bad, never the last man in line before the ax. In that sense, he was the most realistic childhood hero that baseball ever produced. (phd)

19. Heathcliff Slocumb

As the old saying goes, never replace a legend – be the guy who replaces the legend’s replacement. Mike Cameron nearly single-handedly tore that idea to shreds in Seattle. A fate far worse is to be the guy instead of the guy – or guys. It’s not Heathcliff Slocumb’s fault he was traded for two of the most important members of a team that ended an 86-year curse. Cameron was at least given the opportunity to make a name for himself and rose to the occasion. Slocumb stumbled out of the gate, and that scab was picked at on a near-daily basis eight years later during one of the most dramatic playoff runs the country had ever seen. Sometimes it’s not about who you are but about who you aren’t. And who Slocumb wasn’t was a World Series Champion. (dg)

20. Kendrys Morales

(Well, actually, this is how you do this. Yes.)     

In 2013, when the Mariners were bad, Kendrys Morales actually had a pretty good offensive year for Seattle (119 wRC+ in 657 PA). One season later, after rejecting a qualifying offer, missing all of Spring Training, signing a short-term deal with the Twinkies in June, and being re-acquired by Seattle via trade in July, Morales went on to post an 82 wRC+ as a Mariner (in 239 PA, most of which came while hitting cleanup). Yuck! In aggregate, Morales’s 2014 offensive numbers were pretty putrid, but they become even more gut-wrenchingly awful when you break them down thusly:

Kendrys Morales as a Mariner in 2014
Split PA wRC+
Bases empty 129 89
Men on base 110 73
Men in scoring 56 39

A DOUBLE EWE ARRR SEA OF THIRTY-NINE WITH RISP. Why??? A reminder that the ‘14 Mariners missed the playoffs by ONE game and thanks so h*ckin’ much for being the worst, Kendrys. (Andrew)

(Part III tomorrow)

The 40 Worst Mariners, Part I

The time has come, dear Mariner fans, to talk of many things: of trades, blown saves, and firings – of heartache and no rings

(Happy World Series Week, and welcome to our long-percolating list of the worst Mariners of all time. How did we come up with this list? What is our methodology and framework? Well you’ll be shocked to know we used a broad and inconsistent logic based around our own biases and memories. Some players are on here due to a bad career, some for a bad play. Some may simply have been unfairly stigmatized and for whatever reason the stigma stuck. It’s our list, and we are nothing if unfocused and unfair.

Below you’ll find the first 10 of our list, with the other three parts running throughout the week. If you have complaints, comments, or issues, hit us up on Twitter or in the comments and we’ll tell you why you’re wrong.

Special thanks to old friend Patrick Dubuque, of Baseball Prospectus and its glorious vertical Short Relief, for lending us his incredible talents on this project.)

1. Miguel Olivo

Olivo Face Plant

It was 3:10 AM, and the Orioles had finally broken the tie. Both teams were just about out of pitchers and there was talk of bringing out a starter save for one thing: Jim Johnson was still in the pen for the O’s. Now, it’s not that it would have been any different had Olivo been facing some middling seventh-inning arm or anything. Hell, he was supposed to be at the ballpark again in six hours. It wasn’t even that he just stood there, eyes half closed, willing the game to end entirely on his own accord: a called strike, some foul balls, and a whiff. No it was the realization that I had seen hundreds of his at bats over the course of two seasons, and what I was looking at, there, on my television, 3:10 in the fucking morning, was Miguel Olivo fully putting his heart into something, and having it produce exactly the result he wanted. What the fuck. (Matt)

2. Kameron Loe 

Kameron Loe faced 31 batters as a Seattle Mariner. He got 14 of them out. Six of the other 17 hit home runs, including a center-cut shrug of a slider that Dayan Viciedo (Dayan Viciedo!) struck so hard that it eliminated the Mariners from the playoffs in early April. You have to understand: this was in 2013, a time when every wise fan and semi-intelligent blogger had the “Small Sample Size” song stuck in their head. It was a tough time. We understood regression, looked upon patience the way a child looks at vegetables, and yet. What we had yet to learn, and what we would learn so cruelly and so quickly, is that all samples are different. A home run rate for pitchers stabilizes after hundreds of innings, and yet a brick to the face becomes a pretty solid pattern by brick four. (phd)

3. Eduardo Perez 

On June 30th, 2006, the 41-40 Mariners (just two games back of the division lead!) traded some 20-year-old, ~light-hitting SS prospect named Asdrubal Cabrera (you’ve probably never heard of him) for right-handed batsman Eduardo Perez. The Mariners were tired of Carl Everett’s impotent bat and dinosaur slander and wanted to upgrade the DH position. Although Perez was almost 37 years old, he’d put up a wRC+ of 138 over his last ~1.5 seasons (298 PA) while thumping 19 dingers. (A HR/PA rate of 10.4% is absurdly good; even with the ridiculously juiced ball, nobody with 300+ PA hit home runs at that rate in 2017 – not even GIANCARLO.) Also, when your team is hovering around .500, it’s hip and cool to trade away your better prospects to try and plug holes on your roster, right? What could go wrong? (Andrew)

Figgins.jpg

4. Chone Figgins

Writing about the Chone Figgins saga with the Seattle Mariners is psychologically one of the more twisted enterprises a writer can take on. Without belaboring the point of the epic collapse of the 2010 Seattle Mariners, a team that once looked prime to start a dynasty, Chone Figgins was the central free agent acquisition of a then-worshipped Jack Zduriencik. The M’s of that bygone era had recently shown a surprising turn of character, turning a terrible 2008 into a fun 2009. Cliff Lee was brought in to create likely the greatest 1-2 punch Seattle had ever had in Felix and Lee. Fresh off an fWAR season better than 2016 Robbie Cano, in which he received more MVP votes than Alex Rodriguez, Figgins spent his first year in Seattle scuttling through a 1.3 fWAR season. The rest, well, got much, much worse, perhaps most exemplified by his .056 ISO in 2011.

Figgins would proceed to flame out, spending 2013 without an MLB plate appearance, before barely making a 2014 Dodgers team where he amassed 76 PA’s, blamed the M’s org for all of his failings post-Angels, and then we never heard from him again. Still got that ESPN cover, though. (Skiba)

5. Carlos Silva

Silva came to Seattle on a four-year, $48 million contract in 2008 despite his career 3.8 K/9 — Silva struck out pretty much nobody and walked even less, even leading the bigs in K/BB ratio in 2005 despite a 3.5 K/9. Every ball was put in play, and when he came to Seattle most of the balls were hit very, very hard. The 2008 season was a disaster as the M’s lost 101 games, putting the final death blow on GM Bill Bavasi’s career. Barely lasting into 2009, Silva got shelled for 34 starts as a Mariner, walking batters at career-high rates (as a starter). As a kicker, Silva was eventually dumped in a bad contract swap for somebody who was once actually very good (at hitting) but very terrible (as a person) in Milton Bradley. Silva departed Seattle with a 62 ERA+ over 183.2 very expensive and very shitty innings. (Scott)

Spiezio

6. Scott Spiezio

Scott Spiezio had a sad career with the Mariners, and that translated to a sad career in real life. We won’t harp too much on that – only the facts. Spiezio gets a plus because, after being somewhat kick ass for the Los Angeles Angels formerly of Anaheim now of Los Angeles, and winning a World Series to boot, Spiezio did the unspoken rule thing and cashed in with a division rival via free agency at the end of the 2003 season.

Like most teams on the receiving end of this whole thing whenever it involves the Mariners, the California Angels of Anaheim formerly of Los Angeles via Anaheim got the last laugh. In 2004, Spiezio put up one of the best-worst offensive seasons this franchise has seen, and then doubled-down hardcore in 2005. By the time the M’s cut him that year, he had been to the plate 51 times and had one single, one double, one home run, and four walks to show for it. He also claimed the Mariners didn’t give him enough of a chance afterwards. Shut the hell up Scott. (Peter)

7. Rick White 

The Date: August 30th, 2007

The Situation: Mariners at Indians, 5-5 in the 9th inning, runners on 2nd and 3rd, one out.

Rick White, a 38-year old journeyman reliever living out his final days in Major League Baseball, has an ERA north of 7.00. He pitched the night previous, throwing 24 pitches, in the Mariners’ fifth straight loss, a streak which threatens an inexplicably successful season.

J.J. Putz, in the middle of the greatest stretch by any Mariner reliever before or since, has not pitched in five games. He is rested.

John McLaren elects for Rick White. After a fly out, he intentionally walks old friend Franklin Gutierrez to get the platoon advantage on Kenny Lofton. With the count 3-2 White misses his spot. Ball four. The Mariners lose their sixth straight game. J.J. Putz would pitch the next day in a 7-5 loss, part of 15 losses in a 16 game stretch that effectively ended Seattle’s season.

After the game McLaren defended his decision by saying simply, and bafflingly: “[White] has been through the wars…” (Nathan)

Mendoza

8. Mario Mendoza 

Mario Mendoza played nine seasons in Major League Baseball. Two of them were for the Seattle Mariners. Mendoza is not known for his defensive prowess or any specific moment in his baseball career. He is known simply for being a bad hitter. Bad enough that the unofficial line of demarcation for being a decent hitter, the bare minimum that we accept as palatable for even the best defensive players, .200, is named after him.

Despite multiple seasons hovering around this mark, his career batting average is .215. He hit .218 during his time with the Seattle Mariners. His second season with the Mariners, which came right after the phrase “Mendoza Line” had become part of the common vernacular, he hit a career best .245. But the damage had already been done. Mendoza, the Mariners, and futility, inextricably linked for the rest of baseball history. (dg)

9. Justin Smoak

Through 2014, Smoak’s last year as a Mariner, the only 1st baseman worse than him (fWAR) in the last 15 years was Daryle Ward, who was a journeyman/part-time player. Smoak, on the other hand, was given a historically generous opportunity to succeed in Seattle, fell flat on his face, and has now unlocked the full post-M’s no-reason breakout achievement in Toronto at age 30, posting a 3.4 win season after seven seasons of a combined 0.3 WAR. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  (Scott)

10. Goose Gossage 

But let’s get down to brass tax here. Goose Gossage insults us all with his horrible choice of facial hair, bad sunglasses fashion, and lack of wood-working skills. But more than anything else, his words have tarnished the Mariner Name. Sure, in 1994, at the tail end of his career, the Suite-est of Lou’s gave RICHARD one last chance to redeem himself for his errors in 1984, but still naught was to be gained from such tomfoolery.” (Darryl P. Skeeby)

STF

(Part II runs tomorrow)

Darryl P. Skeeby: Or How I Came To Love The Bat

If you don’t read this you probably still play Pokemon GO.

The truth, huh? Alright, I’ll start with the truth, but truth can be a tricky thing when you’re face to face with a bull gator and nothing betwixt you and a bony dinner but the home-made poultice of orange-rind and cinnamon that Momma P. made for warding off the spirits. If you want the truth, it’s simple – Ol’ Darryl was knee deep in his evenin’ pastrami and egg sandwich when my pager went off.

Beep. Beep. Bop. Boop. Boop.

That’s how you always know it’s gonna be a good one. That late-night buzz. I know what’s coming next, I do.

A ring-a-ding-a-ling and what do you know, a familiar number flashes across the screen of my brand new Apple Watch, a gift from my Cousin Gus. A voice I know all too well, low and severe, like a riptide on the Snake River, cuts through the late-night air of my penthouse Motel 5 room,”Darryl, we need you.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard it, well, I’d be one Dapper Dan. Which is to say, I’d have enough to purchase a can of pomade.

“What’s the skinny, Jules?”

Julia Peffercorn is the toughest chief investigator I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. Sure, most elevated to the position have some sort of chip, or bag of chips, on their shoulder, but her chip was more a whole plate of nachos. She never took “No,” for an answer, and never tried my herbal tea mix that I promised her would knock a possum out a tree at midday sun.

“Someone stole Griffey’s bat.”

It was then I knew that trouble was afoot. Steeped deep in my stories and a long cup of the self-same herbal tea mix I just described, I knew it had to be mere minutes past 10:37PM. The time for perfect crime. Quickly, I reached for my notebook.

Flipping through important sketches of 3D cubes I had made while waiting to get a hold of a real person at Comcast (I don’t trust robots) and a grocery list for the butler detailing the seven different beans I needed to make Mama Skeeby’s Famous Bean Salad for weekend supper, I came to my List of Lists.

Yes, dear reader, any detective worth their salt and pepper has a good, old-fashioned List of Lists. In there are all the learnings of a life hard-lived. I have pros and cons on purchasing a yellow car, hats and their proper occasions, different uses for paisley, and a whole sublist of lists containing best chili recipes. Having so many lists, I finally got to the one I was looking for: Reasons for Stealing A Bat.

What follows are trade secrets on motives for stealing a bat:

  • Researching origins of mammalian flight
  • Vampire breeding
  • Echolocation – I think that speaks for itself
  • Infect enemies with rabies
  • Too many insects in a room
  • Lonely – if you’re all alone a bat would be a fine pet, I suppose

The rest of the list has been redacted due to the explicit nature of the content and the potential of compromising Deep Cover friends. I still care for you, Barney. I called Julia back, certain I knew exactly who did this: Daniel Paul Valencia.

The motive was obvious. Who could more clearly be trying to master echolocation in order to find the strike zone again? Who could be more concerned with mammalian flight than a man in his mid 30’s looking to regain strength to “fly” across the outfield grass. Lean in closer, dear reader, and let me show you exactly how I know it was him.

In the Spanish League of soccer, known to the cosmopolitans amongst us as “La Liga”, the team representing the beautiful and cultured city of Valencia Spain has the following mascot:

Valencia

A bat, indeed, Daniel.

Full of culture and dreams of tapas, I call Julia.

“Ken Griffey Junior’s bat from the statue, you idiot. I swear to G-”

I quickly hang up, I cannot take her scorn. Embarrassed, I return to my List of Lists. This time, quickly searching for a list I made when I was a younger man, playing semi-pro ball in the lesser-known Cape Halibut League. Oh, the fish and chips we’d have. Simply sublime it was in those days. Lost in visions of lemon wedges and tartars, that’s when sleep became me.

I arose the next day with renewed strength and ambition. After a particular dream I called Julia again, sure that my night terrors had given me the answer to the case at hand. Ready to prove my worth to the investigator who just hours before had scoffed at me.

“Julia, I kn-”

“Darryl, let me stop you right there. We caught the vandal and the bat has been safely returned. We’ve had enough of your help on this case.”

Sensing this for the cover up I knew it to be, I pleaded with her for one more consideration. Sure that there was no chance they had apprehended the real criminal, I played my cards.

“The man you’re looking for is Daniel Paul Valencia, former first baseman of the Seattle Mariners.”

She waited a beat, released a short chuckle, “How do you figure, Mr. Skeeby?”

“The answer is quite obvious, Julia.”

I waited a pregnant pause.

“He still needs a bat.”