As the Major League Baseball amateur draft nears, it’s important to know that the weekly Twitter mailbag has never been viewed as a bust, despite a protracted holdout for more money and newspaper space. But once the final negotiations were finalized and the deal was signed, the mailbag has produced as expected thanks to the people that take the time to be a part of it. The success is still a team effort – unexpected questions that lead to unabated answers.
As always these questions are courtesy of the fans, free spirits and fellow grouches that comprise my Twitter followers.
Instead of pontificating on my own, I went and asked Marco Gonzales about the situation. Conversations with Gonzales are rarely dull and usually interesting. He answers questions willingly and honestly.
But let’s do a quick data check on this question with the help of Brooks Baseball.
- 2018 — Four-seam fastball (90.9 mph), two-seam fastball (90.8 mph), changeup (84.3 mph), curveball (78.7 mph), cutter (87.8 mph)
- 2019 — Four-seam fastball (88.9 mph), two-seam fastball (89.0 mph), changeup (81.1 mph), curveball (76.1 mph), cutter (85.2 mph)
Gonzales’ velocity is down a few ticks on his pitches. Though it might be starting to trend up.
“My last start was my best velo,” he said. “It was 90-91 mph, it’s going up.”
Indeed, Gonzales’ fastball and sinker averaged 90 mph, respectively, and touched 91 mph multiple times in his outing against the Rangers on Tuesday. He also gave up eight runs on eight hits in the game.
While much attention is paid to the radar guns, Gonzales can’t allow himself to get caught up in the difference between an 88 mph sinker vs. a 90 mph sinker.
“I can’t be concerned about velocity,” he said. “I’m a left-handed pitcher with movement with five different pitches. Velocity should be the last thing on my mind. Location and command and difference in pitch speed is the main focus.”
There are many pitchers that devote their offseason to gaining 2 to 3 mph for that extra edge. Gonzales said he could try and pump it up on his fastball and gain a few extra ticks of velocity to maybe 92-93 mph, but it wouldn’t be sustainable.
“I would get worse,” he said. “That’s asking me to throw away everything I’ve worked on my entire life to now focus on velocity, which has nothing to do with success in the big leagues. The people who have trained their whole life to throw hard, they continue to throw hard. But the people that have trained to pitch their entire lives as I have, same as Wade LeBlanc and Mike Leake and even Felix (Hernandez), there’s not an ounce of us that believes that velocity is the main factor of our success.”
And the guys that throw hard?
“People who throw above 95 give up homers still,” he said. “It’s about the people who know how to pitch, command a zone and get guys off balance. Everyone can hit a homer now.”
It’s perhaps instructive to note that when Scott Servais agreed to his multiyear contract extension in the middle of last season, he became the first manager since Lou Piniella to receive a multiyear extension.
- Bob Melvin? Fired.
- Mike Hargrove? Resigned.
- John McLaren? Fired.
- Don Wakamatsu? Fired.
- Eric Wedge? Refused a one-year extension and quit.
- Lloyd McClendon? Fired.
So Servais is under contract through the next three seasons, though the Mariners haven’t specified that it was a three-year extension. Would the Mariners really want to fire him in the midst or after this season after just giving him an extension.
Though Mariners president Kevin Mather did that with former general manager Jack Zduriencik.
But the mess that has been the 2019 season isn’t Servais’ fault. General manager Jerry Dipoto is the architect of the team and roster. Servais has to try and win with it. While he’s a proponent of their “step-back” plan, he does not control the day-to-day roster he is provided. A pieced-together bullpen and a lineup with expected question marks on defense aren’t of Servais’ doing.
There are plenty of people that complain about how he manages a game or his demeanor. Or maybe it’s just all the people that seem to tweet and email me. But that’s a minor part of the responsibilities of the manager, particularly with the direction the organization is trying to take. And in the current era of baseball, a manager must be able to understand the new breed of baseball player who has a far different mindset and expectation level than years ago, the influence of analytics and advanced thinking, the increased input of the general manager and baseball operations staff into game aspects and daily decisions and trying to establish an overall culture.
Dipoto and Servais are close and they share the same belief in their new organizational direction and the culture they are trying to build. So it doesn’t seem likely that Dipoto would fire Servais if the team loses 100 games. They both knew this team could struggle and understood it was all part of what they are trying to do moving forward.
It’s not about working magic. The move will be made based on roster space and players with options. Had Seager not injured his hand during spring training, Ryon Healy would not have made the opening-day roster. He would have been optioned to Class AAA Tacoma. But when Seager got hurt, a roster spot opened and Healy moved to third base.
The Mariners have a logjam of first base/designated hitter types on the roster. They are trying to solve it by possibly trading Jay Bruce to the Phillies. If they are able to move Bruce, it would open a spot for Healy on the roster and he could split time with Edwin Encarnacion and Daniel Vogelbach at first base. And when the Mariners eventually trade Encarnacion, there would be more playing time.
Here are their the numbers with the Mariners:
Felix Hernandez: 15 seasons, 169-132 record, 3.38 ERA, 2,696 2/3 innings pitched, 2,501 strikeouts, six All-Star appearances, one Cy Young award, three other top-five finishes in Cy Young voting.
Randy Johnson: 10 seasons, 130-74 record, 3.42 ERA, 1,838 1/3 innings pitched, 2,162 strikeouts, five All-Star appearances, one Cy Young award, two other top-five finishes.
But here’s the main reason Felix should be the greatest pitcher in Mariners history: He stayed.
Regardless of what he’s done in the recent years or how much money he’s made over the years, Hernandez stayed with the organization out of a feeling of loyalty – and yes, a lot of money. He never asked to be traded. He never forced a trade. He never really considered testing free agency. He wanted to stay here and win in this city.
His tearful news conference when he signed an extension was one of the more genuine moments in this organization’s limited history. He never quite fulfilled the promise he made through those tears.
He isn’t without criticism. His fall from ace to average is not just a product of age and expected regression. It’s also due to his own failure to understand that he wouldn’t be able to succeed on talent alone as the years and the innings pitched accumulated. Even with the rapid decline the past few seasons, it still doesn’t change what he accomplished with this organization particularly in his prime years when ownership and the front office were negligent in putting pitiful teams on the field around him. They wasted those years out of ignorance or incompetence or both.
Johnson forced his way out of Seattle. You could argue that ownership’s handling of the situation made the situation untenable. But he still left in his prime years and found more success elsewhere. Felix Hernandez never did that. You have to wonder if he regrets that decision.
That’s an interesting question. If you recall, Edwin Diaz wasn’t actually a candidate for closer of the future when he was in the minor leagues. He was actually the Mariners’ minor-league starting pitcher of the year in 2015. The Mariners then made the unusual decision to convert him to closing about a month into that next season, deciding that his changeup wasn’t good enough as a third pitch to sustain him into a successful starting pitcher. They also felt his fastball velocity would tick up. They did the same with Dan Altavilla, but didn’t get the same result.
There was some discussion that Justin Dunn might end up being a closer, but he’s been so impressive with Class AA Arkansas that nobody thinks that anymore.
The Mariners were very high on right-hander Joey Gerber, who was selected in the eighth round of last year’s draft out of Illinois. He’s got a mid-90s fastball, a slider and closer’s mentality. Gerber has six saves in seven opportunities for High A Modesto with 30 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched.
They shouldn’t draft position specific with their top picks. Take the best player available that you know you can sign within your slot. When you draft for positional need at the upper levels of your organization, including your big-league roster, you end up with Jeff Clement instead of Troy Tulowitzki or Danny Hultzen instead of Francisco Lindor or Anthony Rendon.
Also given the current general manager, the positions with perceived depth in the organization could change quickly.
Per research done by Baseball America, ranging from the 1981 draft to the 2010 draft, only 17.6 percent of the players drafted and signed made it to the big leagues. But in that time, 73 percent of the first-round picks made it to the big leagues.
Let’s look at the Mariners’ first-round picks over the years.
- 2001 – Michael Garciaparra, IF (never made the majors)
- 2002 – John Mayberry, 1B (didn’t sign)
- 2003 – Adam Jones, OF (unwisely traded for Erik Bedard)
- 2004 – No pick
- 2005 – Jeff Clement, C (taken instead of Troy Tulowitzki)
- 2006 – Brandon Morrow, RHP (taken instead of Tim Lincecum)
- 2007 – Phillippe Aumont, RHP (44 MLB appearances with Phillies)
- 2007 – Matt Mangini , 3B (11 MLB games)
- 2008 – Josh Fields, RHP (held out for a whole season)
- 2009 – Dustin Ackley, OF (you know the story)
- 2009 – Nick Franklin, SS (MLB attitude, AAA talent)
- 2009 – Steven Baron, C (career backup catcher at best)
- 2010 – Taijuan Walker, RHP (still an unfinished product)
- 2011 – Danny Hultzen, LHP (great kid and pitcher snakebit by injury)
- 2012 – Mike Zunino, C (best years still ahead of him with the Rays)
- 2013 – D.J. Peterson, 3B (has yet to make the big leagues)
- 2014 – Alex Jackson, OF (best high-school hitter that now can’t hit)
- 2015 – No pick
- 2016 – Kyle Lewis, OF (fluke injury slowed his progress)
- 2017 – Evan White, 1B (the glove is ready, the bat is coming)
- 2018 – Logan Gilbert, RHP (could be in MLB by end of next season)
That’s a pretty depressing list. The mistakes – decisions or development — that they made with these picks set back the franchise in many ways. But here’s a salient note: Kyle Seager is the only position player that the Mariners have drafted and developed to make the All-Star team since Alex Rodriguez.
The traveling party doesn’t really change based on the location of the city or the length of the trip. They have the 25-28 players (some players on the injured list travel with the team) with 10 coaches on staff along with bullpen catcher Fleming Baez. There are other assorted staff members that include two of their advanced scouts, video coordinator Jimmy Hartley and usually another member or two from the front office or baseball operations staff. The Mariners training staff has around four to five people traveling along with performance coordinator James Clifford. The Mariners also have at least one member of the baseball information traveling on the staff. Also the television and radio broadcast crews travel along with staff from Root Sports and Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN. There will always be a few additions, like owner Chris Larson sometimes traveling with the team.
The Mariners have been trying to bring the All-Star game back to Seattle the last few years. They’ve put together bids and presentations and submitted them to Major League Baseball. It’s going to take some continued cooperation from the local businesses – specifically the hotels, who are already charging ridiculous rates during the summer. Dodger Stadium will be the venue in 2020. The Braves were just awarded the 2021 All-Star Game because if you build a new stadium, commissioner Rob Manfred will reward you with an All-Star Game. That means the Rangers’ new park should be a possibility. Also, the Cubs are doing massive renovations in an effort to get the All-Star Game, perhaps in 2022 or 2023. The Phillies will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the country’s independence with the 2026 game.
It’s like deciding whether you want to eat broccoli or cauliflower, they are both terrible and should be avoided. The Coliseum is just old and rundown. The organization isn’t going to invest significant money into it because it would be a waste. The Trop has all the ambience of a Holiday Village Shopping Mall in Billings, Montana. It honestly feels like the Tacoma Dome during a RV show. I will give the credit to A’s fans over Rays fans. They will show up in Oakland and they are loud. The Rays are a non-entity in the Tampa/St. Pete area. Their ushers carry cowbells that they shake to help manipulate noise in the stadium. If Oakland were to get a new stadium, I think it would be filled pretty consistently. But it’s difficult to see the Rays ever drawing fans even if they get a new stadium.
If MLB ever figures out what to do with Oakland and Tampa and their stadium situations, the next step would be to add two more expansion franchises for 32 total teams. They would then adjust the divisions to be more realistic to geography and travel. But baseball won’t expand until a decision is made with A’s and Rays because it uses places like Portland and Montreal as leverage to get new stadiums in current cities.
The voice of the Rainiers, who is a longtime close friend, chimes in with a question. This isn’t a hypothetical query, it’s a real situation. The 18-year-old is Robert Perez Jr., who has been filling in on the Rainiers roster for the past week as the organization continues to shift some players around and fill some vacant roster spots on the big-league club due to injuries.
The Mariners signed Perez out of Venezuela as a non-drafted free agent on July 7, 2016, at the age of 16. He will turn 19 on June 26. Perez spent the past two years playing for the Dominican Summer League Mariners out of their academy in Boca Chica. He put up relatively nondescript numbers there. Last season, he had a .248/.378/.448 slash line with six doubles, five homers and 18 RBI in 32 games.
But with the Rainiers needing players, Perez was sent from extended spring training to fill out the roster. He’d never played a professional game on U.S. soil and now he was headed to the Pacific Coast League. In eight games with the Rainiers, he’s got a .370/.433/.630 slash line with two doubles, a triple, a homer and six RBI. Obviously it’s a small sample size and Curto knows that Perez needs to go back to playing with players closer to his age. But perhaps this showing could change where they start him in the short season. Perhaps he is sent to Everett instead of the Arizona Rookie League.
Either way, it’s been a good experience for Perez, and he got to hang out with Curto and manager Daren Brown. Hopefully he didn’t have to listen to Curto talk about Cal Bears basketball or Brown talk about Oklahoma Sooners football.
It’s established before the season. The announcers do get a few days off during the season. Aaron Goldsmith also has a contract with Fox to call national games on Saturdays throughout the season. I think Goldsmith wants to eventually become the full-time television broadcaster. And if it doesn’t happen in Seattle, it may happen elsewhere.
Larry Stone and I will be going again just like we did for Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction. Hopefully, we won’t be spending 13 hours in an airport together again and Larry won’t lose his luggage. Intrepid photographer Ken Lambert will join us. And I’m also bringing my dad, while Larry is bringing his son. Should be a lot of fun.
I know it’s a cover song, but I love his version of “The Promise.” It was originally done by When in Rome and sounds very different than Sturgill’s haunting and melancholy version. “It ain’t all flowers” is a close runner-up along with “I’d have to be crazy” off the High Top Mountain album.
I’ve seen them both in concert. I can’t make a decision. But Dalton’s “Mine Again” is played often on my Spotify.
I’d rather sit down with Chone Figgins and write about his thoughts on the baseball media in Seattle.
This is a pretty broad and far-reaching query. When my buddy, Erik, worked at a video store in high school and college (still skewing old), we would have these sorts of debates, but they were packaged into comedies or dramas or action.
For me in something like this, it’s movies that I will continue to watch whenever they come on. And I’ll give you one from each genre – comedy, sports (of course), western, drama and action.
- “Dumb and Dumber” – The number of times I’ve quoted or referenced that movie in daily life is terrifying. My dad and I will watch it together and still laugh at all the lines we know are coming. Runner-up: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
- “Caddyshack” – It’s my favorite sports movie and it’s not really that much about sports. Runner-up: “Bull Durham”
- “Tombstone” – Yes, it’s a little campy and over the top and romanticize the West in the way that isn’t realistic. But I still love watching it. “I’m your huckleberry.” Runner-up: The Outlaw Josey Wales.
- “Casino” – It replaced The Godfather because of my love of Vegas. I’m a degenerate gambler.
- “The Bourne Identity” – The first is the best. Runner-up: Indiana Jone and the Last Crusade.
Empire Strikes Back is the best of the series with A New Hope a close second. Even with the new technology and computer generated images used in the more recent movies, the acting, the directing and storylines of those two movies are still better than anything else the series has produced. You could argue with me about it, and you’d be wrong.
My answer is 1.5, which is yes and no and a cop out. For people my age – and I almost threw up typing that phrase – Friends was a seminal program. In college, I would leave baseball workouts on Thursdays to rush home to watch Friends and Seinfeld. I was in love with Rachel Green, and I still am.
The male characters on New Girl, specifically Schmidt and Nick, were vastly better than the Friends lead male characters. I’ve never been a huge Zooey Deschanel fan so her quirky presence doesn’t make it better.
To quote a baseball scholar, “Never mess with a streak.” Being engaged and not married seems to be working well, do you really need the formality, the expense and the ceremony if you are basically married anyway? You could be the Lou Gehrig of engagement without marriage. Then again, I’ve never been engaged, married or even close to it. I live by the mantra: “I’ll get married when I get tired of doing whatever I want whenever I feel like it.” Also, the divorce rate for Major League Baseball writers is about 60 percent. And I don’t want to be another statistic.
They’ll probably run out of room before the light rail to Tacoma and Everett is finished. What’s truly amazing is that I moved out here in August of 2016 and got a place in Tacoma. There has never been a time where the stretch of I-5 around the Tacoma Dome has not been under some form of construction. Now that’s an impressive streak.
Since the geniuses that run the Big Sky Conferences decided that there was no rivalry between Eastern Washington and Montana, they will no longer player every year, which is stupid. So the chances will dwindle. At some point, Aaron Best will leave for a better job and the coaching turnover will lead to a downturn. I rather enjoyed when the Griz hung 57 points on Eastern in 2015. Montana will win again.
Well, in an ideal Jordan would just make its own line of cowboy boots so both sides of my personality would be satisfied. But I’ve been known to wear both in the same day.