It’s a good thing there isn’t All-Star voting for Twitter followers, who submit questions for the mailbag. It would be impossible to choose a starting lineup from a group that provides such a quality mix of intelligent, snarky and Montana-based questions to keep things interesting each week.
The next step is for the baseball writer providing answers to these All-Star-level questions to raise his performance level. It’s all about developing a good routine and preparation taking it one answer at a time.
As always, these questions are from the diversified collection of folks and fans that are known as my Twitter followers.
It’s a very interesting question. I will stay in the organization. Looking at the free-agent markets after the 2020 and 2021 season, it’s not exactly inspiring for a team that will have a lot of money. You have to imagine the Red Sox will try to lock up Mookie Betts and the Indians will do the same with Francisco Lindor. Would they commit huge dollars to J.T. Realmuto at age 30? Would anyone want to sign here unless the Mariners offer 15 percent higher than the market value? I do think they’ll make a run at Trevor Bauer at some point. Hell, it might not even be the same front office by 2021.
Here’s an internal starting lineup:
- Mallex Smith, LF
- J.P. Crawford, SS
- Mitch Haniger, RF
- Daniel Vogelbach, DH
- Kyle Seager, 3B
- Evan White, 1B
- Omar Narvaez, C
- Jake Fraley, CF
- Shed Long, 2B
I actually think that some trio of Vogelbach, White and Domingo Santana will be used. With a poison pill clause in his contract that turns a club option into a player option of $15 million or more, I just don’t see how Kyle Seager can be traded.
The hope would be that top prospect Jarred Kelenic is ready to go by then. But that’s a pretty big leap given his experience. If he continues his current trajectory, it would seem more likely by midseason.
Smith is starting to play more like the player they expected when they acquired him, but he’s probably not the best option in center field.
I’d expect the Mariners to continue with the catching tandem of Narvaez and Tom Murphy moving forward. They don’t have much in the way of depth to challenge those spots. Neither is outstanding defensively, but their combined offensive output helps offset those limitations.
One thing to remember about prospects is that they’ve yet to prove anything at the big-league level. As mentioned before, the Mariners have had many prospects that never fulfilled on their promise for a variety of reasons.
It would be illogical and irresponsible to think that Smith or Santana, two established, contributing players, are disposable because of players that have yet to take a big-league at-bat. Of all the Mariners outfield prospects, only Braden Bishop has played in a major-league game. Jake Fraley just got his first Class AAA at-bat Friday night. Fraley may debut at some point near the end of this season and could be a factor on the opening-day roster in 2020 if he plays well. But Kyle Lewis, Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are not as close.
If you placed a timeline on MLB debuts, it would be Lewis by late-2020, Kelenic late-2020 season or early-2021 season and Rodriguez by mid-2021 season. There’s also the factor of service time and possibly manipulating it to benefit the organization – a strategy that is unpopular but also smart.
You hang on to Smith and Santana until you deem those other players ready and capable to take their place or you find a potential trade that could enhance a greater area of need.
To be fair, the two players you mentioned – Dustin Ackley and Jeff Clement – weren’t failures at the big-league level simply because of player development. They had their own personal issues that helped derail their progress to big-league success.
You could argue that the Mariners’ front office rushed Ackley through the system while also forcing him to transition to second base. He played in exactly 200 minor-league games, amassing 918 plate appearances before being called up on June 17, 2011. But it’s also instructive to remember that he played in 90 games that first season and had solid success, posting a .273/.348/.417 slash line with 16 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 36 RBI as a rookie. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player by the local chapter of the BBWAA. He obviously wasn’t a finished product, but he also gave the organization no reason to believe that he was heading for a major downturn.
It was his inability to handle the league adjusting to him the following season that led to a demotion. After the 2012 season, Ackley decided to make a major swing overhaul in the search for more power. It was ill-advised and didn’t work. Admittedly, when he tried to go back his previous swing and stance, he never felt quite the same. The Mariners had no idea that Ackley’s reaction to his first real failures as a baseball player would be so drastic. It is a function of player development, helping them to understand that failure is an inevitable part of the game and how to react to it in a logical and productive way. That might be the biggest failure in that aspect.
Clement was a flawed prospect because there was no amount of coaching, instruction or work that would take him from being a below-average defensive player to even adequate. A series of knee issues only solidified that problem and would also later affect his swing.
His bat was the reason he was drafted and became a prospect with big-league potential. At the time of his call-up in 2008, to a horrendous Mariners team filled with malcontents and jerks, he had a slash line of .355/.455/.676 with 17 doubles, 14 homers and 43 RBI with 35 walks and 30 strikeouts in 48 games for the Rainiers. He had played 125 games in Tacoma the previous year. Clement couldn’t replicate that success in the big leagues. But there are so many hitters that mash Class AAA pitching and can’t do it at the MLB level where the stuff and execution is better. He’s not an outlier in failure.
To me, the developmental failures of the Mariners in the past were a lack of a consistent philosophy throughout the organization, the expedited promotion of prospects not just to the big leagues but up levels in the system and a failure to evaluate and project their own players.
Things like calling up Mike Zunino after just 52 games at the Class AAA level, allowing Brad Miller to continue to play shortstop when it was obvious he couldn’t play there, bouncing Ketel Marte all around without a plan and allowing Brandon Morrow to pitch in the bullpen instead of developing him as a starter are far more glaring.
I don’t know if this player development group is better. They are more equipped for success. Seattle has invested heavily into player development in terms of advanced technology, performance and mental skills coaches for all levels and the construction of a high-level academy in the Dominican Republic.
They do have an overall philosophy of “controlling the zone” for their hitters and pitchers. Things like the “gas camp” to build pitcher velocity, “high performance” camp for prospects, yoga and meditation to go with weight training and conditioning, classroom education to enhance critical thinking skills all seem like proactive and useful measures. They certainly have become progressive under this new regime and they aren’t afraid to tell you about it and how beneficial it will be in the end.
To me, it all boils down to preparing a player for the extreme difficulty of playing at the big-league level and all that comes with it. Some players need more help than others and in different ways. And it’s their job to recognize those aspects and determine the best plan for each player.
There is no “rather” for me since I don’t really want to see either go or have a preference for one to stay. From a positional standpoint, moving Gordon would allow the team to bring Shed Long back up from Class AAA Tacoma and play him every day at second base. He’s their second baseman of the future. The Mariners would be able to have Long and J.P. Crawford work together for the final two months of the season, which would be invaluable for their development.
The Mariners’ starting pitching depth isn’t ideal with Justus Sheffield struggling and demoted to Class AA Arkansas, while Erik Swanson is just returning from the disabled list. The team will also want to control the usage of Yusei Kikuchi and prospect Justin Dunn, who is pitching well in Arkansas. I guess it doesn’t really matter who you use to fill Leake’s spot if you move him since this season was lost about a month ago and winning isn’t the highest priority. Maybe Felix Hernandez will be ready to return to the rotation if Leake is traded.
Montas maintained a level of innocence in the process while also taking some responsibility. He released the following statement through the players’ association:
“I am deeply saddened to confirm that MLB recently notified me I have tested positive for Ostarine, a prohibited substance under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement. While I never intended to take any prohibited substance, I unfortunately and unknowingly ingested a contaminated supplement that I had purchased over the counter at a nutrition store here in the United States. That said, I respect MLB rules and understand my responsibilities under the Joint Drug Agreement, and accept full responsibility. I sincerely apologize to the A’s organization, the fans, my teammates and my family for this mistake. My hope is to be able to return to the A’s later this season and contribute as best I can.”
Whether you believe him or not, it doesn’t really matter. Intent or lack thereof doesn’t factor into the policy. As for PED suspensions, players will always try to find an advantage for success in the game. Some are willing to go past what is legal.
The MLB minimum salary is over $500,000 compared to perhaps $75,000 at the Class AAA level. That isn’t insignificant. Some players are more than willing to push the limits for that money. More than 50 percent of the players in the big leagues are millionaires. That’s life-changing money for a player and his family. It’s not surprising that players are willing to push boundaries.
Another reason players use PEDs is for injury recovery. They get scared that they won’t be ready or be back to the pre-injury health level and choose to take an easier path.
For others, they realize that the trajectory of their success tops out at the Class AAA level. And that natural talent won’t carry them to the level that they’ve spent decades trying to achieve. The realization that they are so close yet so far can lead to desperation.
There will always be the development of new supplements that avoid detection or ways to cheat the drug tests. And there will be players whot are willing to take that shortcut.
I guess the question is the risk of ruining your reputation worth the reward of achieving the specific goal – money or status or both.
Are you looking for your best possible return? If I were to put them in order of trade value to opposing teams, it would be:
- Mitch Haniger
- Marco Gonzales
- Omar Narvaez
- Domingo Santana
Of the group, Haniger, who is recovering from the worst injury in the history of baseball, would still generate the biggest return despite having a down season. He has the largest upside of the group and a favorable contract situation.
The Mariners listened to a few offers this offseason on Haniger, including the Braves. But they were looking for a specific level of prospect return and no team reached that level. A strikeout rate of 28.6 percent is Mike Zunino-level alarming, but the tools that Haniger possesses are still attractive to teams. You definitely wouldn’t be selling high though.
Gonzales would be solid addition to contending team’s rotation as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter, particularly in the National League. He hasn’t been as consistent as last season and the value of return for him is diminished. But pitching is always in demand.
Both Haniger and Gonzales enter the first year of arbitration eligibility next season, meaning a team would have three years of club control, which is also enticing.
The addition of some power to Narvaez’s offensive profile kicks up his value a little bit. He’s got a .294/.370/.483 slash line with seven doubles, 11 homers and 26 RBI. Per Fangraphs, his offense is worth 11.0 runs above average, which is the fifth highest among catchers in baseball. But his limitations on defense still sap his value. Like Gonzales and Haniger, he’s first-year arbitration eligible next season. With the Mariners’ lack of catching depth, his value to them is probably higher than a possible return.
Santana is in his first year of arbitration eligibility. His salary of $1.95 million will double next season because of his production: .280/.344/.493 line with 15 doubles, 16 homers and a team-high 57 RBI. Yes, his defense has been atrocious, but his durability and production on offense will reward him with an increased salary.
Since his contract price would be higher and he only has two years of club control, his value is diminished to teams. And while the numbers are solid, his defensive liabilities and streakiness at the plate are detractors to his value of return.
Hmm. Since I’m not a Mariners fan and my job remains the same whether they win or lose, covering the playoffs or watching the playoffs from Montana, my preference would be a return of EA Sports’ NCAA football.
For people my age, there might not be a more seminal video game. I know many people love Madden. But for me it was always NCAA football. How else is Montana going to beat Notre Dame by 73 points in a game? Do you know how many hours I spent building my team in dynasty mode instead of studying in college?
I understand the likeness rights and the licensing issues with NCAA. Thanks a lot, Ed O’Bannon and your lawsuit (also, the guy that was supposed to be you on NCAA basketball could never reliably make a 3-pointer). There has to be a way to make it work for everyone involved. But since the NCAA as an organization is usually inept, often corrupt and guilty of being anachronistic and ignorant to the point that it makes the Mariners seem like a model of consistence success, it probably won’t happen soon.
So let’s say EA Sports can find a way to make it come back in five years, could the Mariners make a playoff game before then? Yes, I think they could probably sneak into a second wild card spot before we get NCAA football on Playstation or Xbox.
- Adam Jones* — Covered him in Tacoma with the Rainiers and he was approachable, funny and would always acknowledge you if he saw you around town. I knew he would be a star, which is more than Bill Bavasi can say about him.
- Joe Beimel* — His teammates used to joke that he was the next Dos Equis spokesman. He was a total pro and highly entertaining. The game where he went out and pitched in his fourth consecutive game to help the Mariners end a miserable bullpen showing cemented my respect. His arm wasn’t the same for the rest of the season and he never complained once about it. Solid Instagram follow.
- Daren Brown* — Current manager of the Rainiers and one-time interim manager of the Mariners. He deserves a big league job despite being an apologist for all University of Oklahoma sports. His taste in Red Dirt music helps his resume.
- Justin Smoak* – There’s an everyman quality to Smoaky, who always has a smart-ass comment for everyone and is more than willing to take them and laugh at himself. He was totally comfortable with who he was as a person. It took longer for him to figure out who he was a baseball player.
- James Paxton – I would happily throw back a Molson Canadian or a LaBatts Blue with Pax and discuss fishing or the greatness of John Candy or the Tragically Hip. He’s a normal dude with a left arm that’s been touched by lightning. The guy takes the subway to Yankee Stadium for games instead of a car service.
- Mike Zunino – If you want fantasy football advice or a scouting report about the SEC football race, he’s got all the info. I can totally picture him calling into Paul Finebaum’s show and defending the honor of Tim Tebow.
There are really four choices that I would go:
West End Pub – My version of Cheers.
Hank’s Corner Bar – underrated food and solid neighborhood feel.
Peterson Bros. Eleven Eleven – Their sandwiches will change your life.
Top of Tacoma – Dive bar with steak nachos served on a cookie tray and pork belly tacos.
I think it was a cheap political ploy by MLB and the Rays to try and force the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg to expedite a decision for a potential new stadium that will probably never be built for a fanbase that is largely indifferent to the team.
The Rays average 14,545 fans for home games this season, which is inflated by MLB’s usage of tickets sold as the attendance criteria. This is a playoff team. This isn’t a team like the Orioles or Royals.
Doing some reading on this, it appears to have been a non-starter in terms of the city of St. Petersburg and the team’s stadium lease. It was leaked with a purpose. It’s reeks of the passive aggressiveness that we find in this area.
Baseball in the state of Florida isn’t working. MLB and the Rays ownership needs to just come out and say it instead of this sort of maneuver. There are plenty of cities that would be happy to take the Rays. And commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t afraid to use that as leverage. The logistics of making this proposed scenario work are impossible. And given the tax structure of Montreal vs. the lack of state income tax in Florida, the MLB players union would have significant issues with this plan.
But let’s say this happens. Would the A’s suddenly start splitting time between Oakland and Las Vegas? A Mariners split between Seattle and Vancouver? I will cover any team that splits its games with Missoula, Montana.
This whole situation is beyond stupid and reeks of politics. Baseball has far more important things to worry about than trying force this situation.
The only media that flies on the team plane are from ROOT Sports and ESPN 710. The small production crew from ROOT along with the reporter traveling, usually either Brad Adam or Jen Mueller, flies with the team. Also Shannon Drayer from ESPN 710 takes the team flight.
But as a man of the people, I get to experience the chaos of airports and the unpredictability of commercial flights. There are benefits like many, many frequent flier miles and airline status. I try to live my life like George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air,” which is also somewhat sad on many levels.
A few recommendations:
- Always try to stick to one airline as much as possible and book direct through the airline. In the long run, your loyalty will save you more money in bag fees, change fees and other benefits than using travel sites and using a variety of status.
- If you fly even two or three times a year, paying $85 dollars for five years of TSA precheck is worth it. Though Sea-Tac Airport somehow makes pre-check inefficient. But it’s still worth it. Also airlines need to stop giving pre-check to people that don’t pay for it. They don’t know how it works and they slow down the process.
- Never yell at the person working the ticket counter or the gate counter because your flight is delayed, cancelled or moved. They have no control over the situation and you only look like a pretentious, spoiled jackass. Nobody cares if you’ve been inconvenienced. Everyone is inconvenienced. It’s the nature of traveling. They’d prefer it if everything ran on time. It doesn’t. Taking out your travel frustrations on them is similar to taking out your Mariners frustration on the beat writer from the newspaper on Twitter. But unlike those people doing a thankless job at times, the beat writer can, and will, return serve on your comments with equal bitterness, snark and hostility.
I don’t make whiskey sours. If someone is making them, I might have one. If I add anything to my whiskey, it’s usually ice. If I feel the need to hydrate, then I might add a splash of water. Given my poor choices in terms of diet and consumption, avoiding extra sugar when possible is always good idea.
As for catching, I prefer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. When I ate my way into being converted from infield to catcher, I got a bunch of video of Pudge and studied everything he did. I also liked that we had similar round faces. I loved watching him catch and throw. The snap on his throws was amazing. He was a freak athlete. And it wasn’t just the catching. His hitting and his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field made him my favorite.
After watching so much bad catching over the years with the Mariners, Mike Zunino’s skill behind the plate was such a welcome change. As for current catchers, the list starts and ends with J.T. Realmuto. He’s the most complete catcher in baseball in terms of defensive skill and offensive production.
Why must you poke the bear? You’ve heard my thoughts.
Look people who want to rely on misinformed tropes and narratives and don’t want to use their closer for a game a save situation that simply cant happen in a home game that’s tied after the ninth inning, feel free to keep thinking that way. We still need people in this world that believe in jinxes, bad luck superstition, the non-existence of dinosaurs and a flat earth.
But in this season of the “step back” where the Mariners lose much more often than they win, the situations for this nonsense thinking to arise have been limited. Instead it allows people watch videos on Youtube about the moon landing being fake.
A movie that I don’t feel comfortable revealing the title or where it was purchased. Just kidding … or am I?