The Twitter mailbag returns from a one-week, self-imposed, non-COVID quarantine.
Here’s a question to ponder: If there are really such things as no-hitter jinxes, then why do the Mariners continue to get no-hit?
Perhaps the answer is talent, or lack thereof, can override announcer and Twitter jinxes.
There’s no jinxing the questions submitted by the contact-hitting folks that are my Twitter followers.
These would all be legitimate reasons for Mariners ownership to make significant investments in the 2022 team.
But how about this reason:
For the past three seasons, the Mariners have asked fans and corporate sponsors to accept a rebuilding plan that, while necessary and logical, has also cultivated an on-field product that was substandard by every measure.
Mariners chairman John Stanton and general manager Jerry Dipoto asked for patience, admitting that they weren’t putting a team on the field that was going to stop a postseason drought that dates back to 2001. They continually highlighted a plan for future success featuring talented young prospects and future spending to supplement that core group of talent in an effort to draw attention from an MLB team that has been abhorrent to watch.
And during that time, the Mariners continued to let average ticket and concession prices rise on basic yearly inflation while knowingly offering an inferior product than past seasons. They asked people to pay MLB-level prices to often watch retreads, castoffs, waiver claims, never-will-be’s with a few young players and one or two established veterans sprinkled in.
That fans still continue to pay for these prices speaks to their true love of live baseball and loyalty to an organization that hasn’t often reciprocated it, the event aspect of a game at T-Mobile Park, particularly on warm summer evenings, and the renewed desire to see live sporting events of any sort after a 2020 season without fans.
I’ve said often that this franchise has been doomed by a fear to commit. The Mariners refused to truly commit to a rebuilding process in past years when it was obvious that the MLB roster needed a reset and the farm system was thin in talent. (Remember a losing season and bad teams don’t always equate to rebuilding.) They’ve also refused to commit to doing what it takes to win in terms of acquiring free agents or in midseason trades out of fear of payroll increases.
Spending the most money on payroll doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of teams, including the Mariners, have committed to large payrolls and failed to win. But past failures shouldn’t be an impediment to future decisions.
Yes, the A’s and Rays have managed to have consistent success with some of the lowest payrolls in baseball. They’ve done so out of necessity. They would happily operate with a higher budget.
Instead, the Mariners have been wishy-washy. After giving $240 million to Robinson Cano in 2014 and $58 million to Nelson Cruz the next offseason, they decided they had done enough and refused to add legitimate finishing pieces to rosters that were playoff viable largely out of payroll concerns.
How is it justifiable to get close enough to the known goal and not do everything it takes to reach it? Reasons be damned.
To quote William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting from “Gangs of New York”: “I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. So because you are lukewarm I will spew you out of my mouth. You can build your filthy world without me.”
The Mariners have been lukewarm when it comes to doing what it takes to win in the context of one season or over the span of multiple seasons.
The “step-back” rebuild represented a slight change from that irresolute thinking. But now, three years into it, regardless of the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic, the Mariners can’t become spineless or cautious.
It isn’t about what ownership needs to see this season that should provide the impetus to invest in the team this offseason. It’s what they’ve already seen the past few seasons — a substandard product on the field — and what they’ve seen every October for the past 19 seasons — an MLB postseason without them.
They don’t need to invest because it’s something they have to do. They need to invest in making the team better because that’s what they are supposed to do.
In terms of actual player development, I thought it was a little too early for Jarred Kelenic and definitely too early for Logan Gilbert. I advocated for Kelenic to be on the opening-day roster based on the other players competing for the opening-day left-field spot. But once the Mariners decided he would start the season in the minor leagues, I thought he should play at least 25-30 games with Tacoma before making his debut, unless he was absolutely dominating. And while he dominated in his first five games with Class AAA Tacoma, there was no chance to see if that was a true indication of his readiness.
But the Mariners couldn’t keep putting Taylor Trammell out there even on a part-time basis. It was becoming detrimental to his development. He needed a reset at the Triple-A level. And Kelenic offered a viable but unproven upgrade.
Even now with Kelenic slashing .161/.235/.323 in 34 plate appearances, I don’t think it was a mistake to bring him up. His at-bats have been vastly more competitive than Trammell and most of the other Mariners hitters. He doesn’t look overwhelmed. If anything, this served as a needed reminder for him how difficult consistent success is at the MLB level and that he’s still an unfinished product.
The decision to call up Gilbert was one of need, not readiness. If Marco Gonzales or even Nick Margevicius is healthy and in the rotation, Gilbert is still pitching for the Rainiers.
Because of the delay of the Triple-A season and shoulder fatigue, which was previously unknown, Gilbert was on an altered path to being ready for the season after his two-inning Cactus League outing on March 7. Gilbert made his Triple-A debut on May 7 and his MLB debut on May 13.
Under normal circumstances, Gilbert would’ve made at least five starts for the Rainiers, built his pitch count up to 100 pitches and also gotten comfortable with the command of his offspeed pitches before the Mariners would’ve considered calling him up. When calling up pitchers, you want them performing at optimal levels before debuting them against the best hitters in the world. Instead, Gilbert debuted after throwing one official minor-league game in 600 days. That’s not exactly ideal for success.
It’s possible that when Gonzales gets healthy, they will send Gilbert back to the controlled environment in Tacoma and then recall him again in late June or July.
I just listened to the new Cole Chaney album “Mercy,” and it is fantastic. It’s what country music should be and what it hasn’t been in a long time.
Here are my three favorite albums that have come out in the last year or so:
“Black Cats and Crows” by Ward Davis
When I first heard Davis sing “15 years in a 10-year town” a few years ago, I thought I was going to pass out from how well it framed my thinking about my journalism career at the time.
Sad country songs are the best songs. And Davis channels melancholy better than most. From his song, “Threads”:
“And make it seem like I don’t care
But that’s just the brand of armor I wear
Strands of pride, hide my regret
I’m down to threads.”
“Elisabeth” by Zach Bryan
He’s a prolific songwriter, releasing multiple singles and EPs after his brilliant album “DeAnn” in 2019. The Oklahoma native is on active duty with the Navy and was stationed in Bremerton.
“Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1” by Sturgill Simpson
It is a phenomenal collection of songs — old and new — that he recorded with some of the best bluegrass musicians in the country. It somehow made great songs better in a different way.