The weekly Twitter mailbag was delayed in its return to the 2020 MLB season. No, it wasn’t on the COVID-19 injured list due to a failed test during intake screening. It passes all tests, including the smell test and can survive any restructuring or reduction plan.
A chance to sit down with general manager Jerry Dipoto for an in-person interview takes precedence. So these questions were submitted last week from the quarantining, mask-wearing group known as my Twitter followers and being answered this week.
The narrative (I hate that word) that teams prematurely promote a prospect to drum up fan interest and by extension ticket sales is oft-used. I often wonder how much of it is true. Usually a big free-agent signing doesn’t often lead to an increase in season-ticket sales or even attendance. So I’m not sure that a top prospect would either. There are exceptions like 19-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. or Bo Jackson.
Did the Mariners call up Dustin Ackley on June 17, 2011, to generate interest and some excitement in an otherwise forgettable team that would lose 95 games? But he was also 23 and had 1,000 plate appearances at the Class AA level or higher. And any increased attendance he caused was minimal beyond that first series against the Phillies.
But let’s get to Kelenic and the debate that has raged since the video of him hitting a ball off the windows of Hit It Here Café during live batting practice went viral and then grew when he hit two homers in his first intrasquad game of summer camp.
There is a group of fans that believe he should be playing in the outfield with Kyle Lewis right now, gaining MLB experience in preparation for next year.
There are others that don’t want to rush him, something that has happened before in this organization, while maintaining club control and monitoring his service time.
General manager Jerry Dipoto has often used the cancellation of the minor-league season and Kelenic’s lack of experience above the Class AA level or higher – 92 plate appearances – as a main reason to keep him at the alternate training site in Tacoma for this shortened season.
If you look at other players who were drafted out of high school, including Mike Trout and Christian Yelich, they amassed around 1,000 to 1,200 plate appearances in the minor leagues (Kelenic has 791) and at least 250 to 300 plate appearances above Class AA.
But what Dipoto can’t and won’t publicly say is that the service-time ramifications of calling up Kelenic and how it affects his clock to free agency and the Mariners’ rebuild plans must be weighed and evaluated. If Dipoto didn’t take that into consideration when making the decision, he’d be committing professional malfeasance to the responsibilities of the job.
Given the nature of the current collective-bargaining agreement and the data that shows a players’ peak performance years range between age 25 to 28, the idea of doing anything that would push Kelenic to free agency sooner than necessary seems sort of foolish.
This is something I posted about on Twitter the other day.
From a decision standpoint, if you remove the emotion of wanting to watch Kelenic play instead of (insert name of player, but most people saying Mallex Smith) in the Mariners’ outfield, or the narrative (there’s that stupid word again) about how important it is for him to get MLB experience this season or his development isn’t being helped in Tacoma, it comes down to two simple choices.
Would you rather have:
- Kelenic play around 45 games in this truncated 2020 season at age 21 for a Mariners team that clearly isn’t playoff caliber and be eligible to be a free agent after the 2026 season.
- Kelenic not make his MLB debut in this bizarre shortened 2020 season and have him play 150-plus games in the 2027 season at age 27, which is a prime age for performance.
If the Mariners call him up and he finishes this season, he would be eligible to be a free agent after the 2026 season. If the Mariners wait until about two weeks into next season before calling him up for good, then he doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2027 season.
From a coldly logical and emotion-free standpoint, this doesn’t seem like a difficult decision. It’s even more simple when you consider that if Kelenic plays up to his potential or near it, he will definitely want to go to free agency at age 27 and get paid more money than any extension the Mariners could try and offer him in 2021 or 2022.
Think about this, during the strike shortened season in 1994, the Mariners called up 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez on July 8, 1994, for a period of 17 games. Had they not done that and kept him in the minor leagues, he wouldn’t have been eligible for free agency until after the 2001 season instead of after the 2000 season.
Yes, the 2001 team won 116 games and A-Rod may have been addition by subtraction. But he also was the best player in baseball in 2001. Maybe the team doesn’t win 116 games during the regular season, but does it go further in the postseason?
This question was submitted a week before the Cardinals took over as the team that is pushing the season to the brink of a stoppage due to COVID-19. The growing number of postponed games are an issue and it seems impossible for the Cardinals to play all 60 scheduled games this season.
But given the most recent testing results showing a .01% of new positive tests, and the bulk of the teams not having these issues, MLB has every reason to push forward with the season.
Obviously the decision to have expanded playoffs and the television revenues that are expected from it are a huge motivating factor. Owners have been complaining that they are losing money with games without fans. The television money from the extra playoff games is a way for them to recoup some of those losses. It’s always about money in professional sports.
In the immediate future? No.
Haniger isn’t going to play for the Mariners this season. It’s why he was put on the 45-day injured list before summer camp began in July. After having three surgeries over the past 10 months, all due in some way to that wayward foul ball that struck him in the groin, Haniger is still not really doing baseball activity. The hope is that he can finally get healthy, regain all the strength and weight that has been lost, get back to baseball activity and be ready for spring training in February 2021.
Will he be the same player as he was in 2018 when he made the All-Star team? It seems unlikely. Unless he were somehow to play winter ball, which doesn’t seem like an option, by the time he plays in a Cactus League game, it would be about 21 months without playing in a real game.
His future was always sort of murky. With the decision to do the step-back rebuild after the 2018 season, the Mariners listened to trade offers for Haniger when his value was highest. But their high asking price was never met. They were comfortable having Haniger on the roster moving forward, providing a perfect example of consistent and diligent preparation in all aspects of the game for the young roster. Of course, they were going to still listen to trade offers, and if the right package came, he would’ve been traded.
Now, he essentially has no trade value. The injuries, the surgeries and the time away along with his age have diminished his value.
Haniger turns 30 on Dec. 23, and he has two more years of arbitration eligibility before entering free agency after the 2022 season. The best outcome would be for Haniger to get healthy, resume playing well and help the team’s rebuild progress. An outfield of Haniger, Lewis and Jarred Kelenic would be a solid mix of power and athleticism. And if he plays well enough to draw some trade interest, then move him.
Well, the easy answer would be the players that aren’t young – Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon on the position player side and Marco Gonzales, Kendall Graveman, Taijuan Walker and Carl Edwards Jr. for the pitchers. All of these players have embraced some role of leadership, helping mentor the young players that fill the roster.
Gordon has lost his starting job to Shed Long Jr., one of those young players, and he’s still willing help Long and other young players on a daily basis. He knows that’s part of being established and how to further the future of the game.
Perhaps more importantly is the ownership that players with less MLB experience are also taking, specifically shortstop J.P. Crawford and catcher Tom Murphy. They both play positions that by nature demand leadership and accountability. It’s been obvious since the first days of spring training that both have embraced that responsibility.
Yeah, these actually are the questions I prefer for the Twitter mailbag. They are vastly more interesting and useful than anything about the Mariners or baseball.
First of all, I am not a foodie. I hate that word and label. It evokes thoughts of someone waxing poetic over the taste of saffron or presentation of kale salad. I’m an eater. I like to eat good food. It’s not complicated. I’m not a food critic. I don’t have a sophisticated palate. A buddy called me a working-man’s food critic, which is only partially true. I like working-man’s food — burgers, sandwiches, tacos and mac and cheese. I want healthy portions for decent prices. I don’t want to walk away from a meal feeling hungry or poor.
So with that preface, I give you my favorite:
Serrano’s in East Glacier, Montana.
I love Mexican food and will try just about every renowned restaurant featuring the cuisine. Serrano’s offers food that is as good, if not better, than any I’ve tried. The downside is that everyone knows it’s really good and the place is not big, so you are going to have to wait for a table and there is usually a line when they open. But the times I’ve gone, we’ve gotten a margarita and sat on the porch area and enjoyed the majesty that is Montana.
The Bulldog Saloon (Whitefish) – this is a bar not a restaurant, but if you want one of the best burgers in the state and a good selection of beer that serves late, this is where you go.
Bob Marshall’s Big Pizza (Missoula) – If this place had opened while I was in my seven years of college, I’d be 300 pounds. You can go fancy or traditional and the crust isn’t overwhelming.
Dinosaur Cafe (Missoula) — located in the back of Charlie B’s bar is outstanding Cajun food. Get a pint of Cold Smoke scotch ale and a large bowl of gumbo poured over jambalaya — gumbolaya.
Do we need it? No.
Would we like it? Yes.
Are people who have lived in this area for more than five years soft and whiny to the real extremes of weather? Absolutely.