TORONTO — The Twitter mailbag may be in Canada, but there is no exchange rate on the questions or the answers. The dollar value remains the same — high.
This week’s mailbag features an eclectic mix, including the last Mount Rushmore question that will be answered, ever. Unless it’s the Mount Rushmore of sandwiches in the Puget Sound, which is going to take more research.
As always these are real questions submitted by the collection of deviants and devotees known as my Twitter followers.
Let’s go with current teams rebuilding, but how do we even define that. If you have a bad record, are you rebuilding or do you just stink? For example, the Mariners, Royals, Orioles, Blue Jays and Tigers made it clear they were rebuilding, but what about the Pirates or Reds? The Angels will finish with another losing record and have a worse record than the Rangers, who are supposedly rebuilding.
Obviously, the Astros and Cubs are the goal for every team. But to be clear, they did their rebuild with few other teams doing it and operated under different MLB draft and international signing rules, which were more rebuild friendly.
Technically, the Twins and Brewers are in the final stages of rebuilds. Yes, Minnesota snuck into the wild card in 2017, but even the organization recognized it as an outlier. The front office even traded Jaime Garcia and Brandon Kintzler — sell-off moves — at the deadline that season. They are now seeing all of that young talent playing at the MLB level and succeeding while supplementing it with Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez. Also Luis Arraz might be one of my favorite players to watch on that team besides my cousin Willians Astudillo.
Seattle’s goal is to rebuild as quickly as the Brewers have done under David Stearns, who took over a bad Brewers team in September of 2015, changed up pieces and removed some players and then got better fast. The Brewers didn’t have quite the fall as the Mariners, losing 89 games in 2016 before a winning season in 2017. There were aided greatly by a lopsided trade for Christian Yelich with a desperate Marlins front office and the smart signing of Lorenzo Cain.
Of the current bad teams supposedly rebuilding. The Mariners are somewhere in the middle. If you look at organizational rankings of prospect talent, the Blue Jays, Marlins and Orioles rank ahead of Seattle. But that doesn’t take into question the proximity of that talent from the big leagues.
Toronto is playing three of its best young prospects at the MLB level on a daily basis. The Mariners best prospects are playing in the Texas League on a daily basis. The White Sox are also playing most of their top talent in MLB, but they have been for a while. They should’ve taken a bigger step forward this season. I’d put the Padres, White Sox and Blue Jays ahead of the Mariners for now along with the Reds, who are perpetually rebuilding but have some good young talent.
I’d rate the Royals, Tigers, Orioles and Pirates behind the Mariners in terms of rebuild success. Not sure where to slot the Mariners. Both Detroit and Baltimore are carrying albatross contracts in Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis, while Pittsburgh’s best pitchers can’t stay healthy. The Pirates also gave up way too much in prospects for Chris Archer. It was a huge mistake that will be remembered like Seattle’s trade for Erik Bedard.
Given that he got a multiyear contract extension in the middle of last season, I have no reason to think Servais is going anywhere regardless of the record on the field. The team’s struggles this season are more about the construction of the roster and lack of talent on it, of which Servais has no input. That’s all on general manager Jerry Dipoto. He put this team together and asked Servais to try and make it work.
In this era where general managers have increased influence and input on the day-to-day workings of a team, the need for managers who understand the dynamic and are willing to work within it is necessary. It’s why Lou Piniella would hate managing now and why Joe Girardi is on television. Servais understands how that relationship is supposed to work. And his friendship with Dipoto makes it somewhat easier to accept.
Whether the players like Servais or not is immaterial. Do you have to like your boss to do your job? And what are the reasons you like your boss? Is it because he brings out the best in you or he lets you do whatever you want? There are players that like him and players that don’t. I don’t know that there is a majority to either side. It was the same with the other five other managers and two interim managers I covered. Some players will like the manager, some will loathe the manager, some will ignore the manager and some will do what is asked.
Players prefer consistency of personality and approach. In that regard, Servais is solid. Like a player, he tries to maintain a daily routine to his own preparation so the expectation from the players can remain the same. Though with the player turnover, it’s hard to know how much the players even know Servais as a manager.
As for development, thinking that it falls on the big league manager isn’t correct, yes, even big league development. Player development is more about having a consistent philosophy and process that is started from the beginning and maintained throughout a player’s career. Development is continuous and starts well before the big league level and needs to be constant throughout a player’s progression. That doesn’t fall on Servais. That falls on the whole front office.
There were more than a few angry tweets and voicemails (yes, people still leave voicemails to a phone I can’t actually answer) over my decision to pick Felix Hernandez over Randy Johnson. That’s their right as fans. But my choices were made without the emotion — some positive, more negative — fans have developed toward Hernandez over the course of his career.
So the non-playing Mount Rushmore?
Dave Niehaus — That’s the easiest name to put down on this list. The man’s voice was synonymous with summer in Seattle for so many years. When the organization put out a consistently inferior product, you could count on a consistently superior evening with Dave on the call. Funny, emotional and critical, he was one of the few aspects of the organization’s history that produced with yearly success.
Lou Piniella — A few of us were discussing the other day about whether Lou could manage in today’s era with controlling general managers, analytics departments offering constant data and advice, players that are vastly more coddled and sensitive, players’ private coaches and trainers, combative umpires and pitchers that can’t throw strikes. Man, he hated pitchers. Thinking about it … damn, that would be fun to watch. He was easily the best manager in an organization that’s had more managers than it should. He was a perfect fit for the talent assembled.
Pat Gillick — the general manager and architect of the single greatest team in franchise history, he’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame for a reason. He understood how to build a roster and make the pieces fit for value. He knew that Stan Javier and Mark McLemore would be valuable pieces to a team if used properly. He could build a big league team. Sure that knowledge could hurt a farm system. But he got big league success and that paid the bills.
And, you’ll hate me on this, but the fourth spot is to be determined.
I’m leaning toward John Ellis, who was vital in keeping the team in Seattle and not letting it move to Tampa. He formed the Baseball Club of Seattle and helped attract more than dozen investors to buy the team and keep it in Seattle while serving as the CEO for seven years. He was also instrumental in the effort to get Safeco Field built. That matters.
When people often ask me what my favorite road trips are, I will often use the caveat that the work aspect plays into my decision. So while Chicago is one of my favorite cities and the area around Wrigley Field is fantastic, working in the stadium is a total nightmare. But I will try took at it from a fan’s perspective.
Padres (Sept. 14-15) — Work or play, this is considered the best trip in all of baseball for many reasons. The weather in San Diego is fantastic. The games are mid-September which will be warm during the day and pleasant in the evenings. The Gaslamp District around the park is great to walk around before and after games for food, drinks and people watching. Petco Park is very underrated in terms of location, game viewing and amenities. Hit up the Tinfish, two blocks from Petco, for pregame shrimp tacos and .394 Pale Ale.
Twins (April 20-24) — the timing of this trip isn’t ideal because it could be a little chilly at the game. But the stadium is downtown and walkable from the myriad hotels in the area. It’s got great site lines and easy access and a statue of Kirby Puckett. Before or after a game (since it stays open late), hit up Pizza Luce for a pie or a slice of The Bear and have a Surly Furious IPA.
Nationals (May 19-20) — this more about the city than the park, which is pretty nondescript stadium but does have a Shake Shack in it. They’ve worked hard to build up the neighborhood around the park by the Anacostia River. There are hotels that you can walk from and plenty of bars and restaurants to visit before and after games. And you are in D.C. in the spring, a perfect time to do some touristy sightseeing.
Red Sox (June 29-July 1) — It’s Fenway and you have to go if you are a baseball fan. Be prepared that the seats are small and the amenities are old. Never buy view restricted seats. But there is something about those old stadiums that brings out a nostalgia factor. Unlike Seattle, the area around the field is buzzing pre and postgame. Go early or stay late, grab a beer at the Cask-N-Flagon and then an Italian sausage with peppers from a street vendor.
The Rangers will be debuting a new climate controlled ballpark next season, which should be interesting to check out. They’ve already built Texas Live! next door, which is a collection of bars, restaurants and shopping. It has a Lockhart’s BBQ in it. I’d recommend staying in Fort Worth and driving the 20 minutes over to the stadium. If you have kids, there’s also a Six Flags and a huge water park nearby.
The Mariners’ other two NL road series are with the Mets and Marlins. I’ve never been to Citi-Field. It’s the last of the current ballparks I’ve never seen. I wouldn’t recommend staying the Flushing area by the park. Stay in Manhattan, which isn’t cheap, but also offers more to do before and after the game. As for Marlins Park, I’ve been there multiple times. There will be good seats available. It’s not close to anything other than the Little Havana neighborhood, which is a cool little spot. They have the Clevelander nightclub in left field. I tried to go there postgame, but they heard about my dislike of Pitbull and wouldn’t let me in.
My road trips to avoid: Detroit (too Detroit), Baltimore (too damn hot), Anaheim (too Disney) and Yankees (too damn expensive). Kansas City is an underrated trip. And you get such good BBQ. It’s not a great year for NL trips. Next year, the Mariners will be playing the NL West. And all of those cities are decent road trips to make.
The easy answer is my paycheck. It’s been mentioned before that the success of the team or lack thereof, as we’ve witnessed, has no effect on how I feel about my job. It’s why writers can’t be fans of teams. The results — good or bad — can’t affect them or their effort. Obviously, it affects fan interest and as a result reader interest. I’m motivated to do good work, write stories that people find interesting and provide information to readers and fans.
Two years ago, just about the end of spring training before the 2018 season, there was a moment of crisis about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Did anyone care about the effort or even notice it? Did it really matter?
My dad re-centered me. He asked me what I felt was important about the job, who I was doing it for and what made me enjoy it.
In essence, it’s the people like you, who take the time to read, respond or interact — yes, good or bad — with me. That’s what keeps me motivated, and also rent ain’t cheap.
It’s hard to define it as the epicenter. But trading away an All-Star centerfielder and four other players, one of them a competent starting pitcher for an enigmatic, disinterested left-handed pitcher who had a negative effect on other pitchers around him with his attitude has to be close.
Here is another seminal moments that come to mind. Selecting catcher Jeff Clement with the No. 3 pick of the 2005 draft instead of Troy Tulowitzki was an awful decision. And it was one that was made in haste. Even Tulowitzki expected the Mariners drafted him. Think about the difficulties the Mariners have had in finding an every-day shortstop since the departure of Alex Rodriguez. Did they really think Yuni Betancourt was the answer? Tulo became an All-Star with the Rockies and Clement played in 75 MLB games for Seattle.
Teams are built up the middle and the Mariners missed on two All-Stars.
But really it’s a lot of things. To lose like this takes more than one move. There was drafting Brandon Morrow instead of Tim Lincecum. A rotation with Big Time Timmy Jim and The King? The Mariners wasted a good trade chip in Michael Pineda on Jesus Montero, didn’t get optimal value in the trade of Cliff Lee, wasted $36 million on Chone Figgins, ruined the development of several good prospects, passed on Francisco Lindor or Anthony Rendon for Danny Hultzen, were burned by the injuries of Franklin Gutierrez and I will stop now.
It probably depends on what level of option you believe that Gonzales can be moving forward. While he serves as the Mariners’ No. 1 pitcher in the rotation, it’s not unreasonable to think that he projects to being a No. 3 starter in most rotations. And that is still very valuable.
When Gonzales was acquired from the Cardinals for outfielder Tyler O’Neill in a trade that inspired a fair amount of acrimony from Mariners fans, it was difficult to know what or who Gonzales was going to be at the MLB level. He’d had hints of success with St. Louis, but injuries never allowed for projectable big league production.
After a solid 2018 season where he went 13-9 with a 4.00 ERA in 2018 and an up-and-down 2019 season where he’s currently 12-10 with a 4.26 ERA, you can sort of understand who Gonzales is as a big league pitcher. He’s always going to be prepared. He’ll compete in every start and keep his team in most of them. He won’t be overpowering. He will be reliable to get you at least six innings most nights. He made 29 starts last season and will make probably 30-32 this season. There is value in reliability and durability. Given his pitch repertoire, his athleticism, work ethic and pitching style, there is a belief that Gonzales can sustain production with age better than power pitchers.
His contract status and age (he turns 28 in February) makes the situation interesting. He enters arbitration eligibility next season and will make a nice raise from the $1 million he’s making this year. Seattle has three years of control. But would they want to sign him to a small extension to buy out his last two years of arbitration and his two years of free agency at age 32 with maybe a vesting option year beyond? Perhaps if it’s a reasonable salary, then you look at it with the idea that you’ll have plenty of money and also spending on a frontline starter before the 2022 season. You’ll also be paying prospects like Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and Logan Gilbert the league minimum.
Or you could try and move Gonzales this offseason or sometime in the next year if his values goes up.
Well since Justus Sheffield has thrown in four MLB games, regardless of results, and Justin Dunn has never pitched above the Class AA level, then you’d have to say Sheffield is more big league ready.
But you are obviously also talking about pitches, command and composure. From that regard, Dunn might be a little ahead of Sheffield, who has more explosive stuff but exhibited obvious trouble commanding it this season. While Sheffield’s delivery is max effort and violent at times, Dunn’s delivery is controlled and clean. Dunn has the more polished changeup, but the breaking stuff doesn’t always grade out as high by comparison. One thing to watch with Dunn is his conditioning. Some opposing scouts have wondered about his weight gain over the last few seasons, thinking it could be a hindrance down the road.
The little bit of MLB experience that Sheffield has means something.
- Trevor Bauer, RHP
- Justus Sheffield, LHP
- Justin Dunn, RHP
- Marco Gonzales, LHP
- Logan Gilbert, RHP
Yes, I said Trevor Bauer, who will be a free agent after the 2020 season.
Daniel Vogelbach has improved as a first baseman. He looks somewhat comfortable out there. He digs a few balls and makes plays on pop ups. He has limited range and his best position is still designated hitter. If Omar Narvaez is playing first base on an every-day basis in the next few years, then something has gone very wrong.
Yes, Evan White is the future at that position. It’s just a matter of when that future starts.
Kyle Seager isn’t getting an extension. He’s age 31. So if he’s relatively young that means I can then claim that I’m somewhat young, which is a good thing. He’s owed $37 million for the next two years with a $3 million buyout of 2022 option, which will the Mariners will pay. He will become a free agent at age 35 and both sides will part from the relationship. After that, a one-year contract will be the best he can do.
There is not decision to be made beyond that scenario since it is almost impossible to trade him due to the poison pill clause in his contract.
There’s a strong possibility that LeBlanc won’t be back next season. He had a vesting option for a $5 million salary in 2020 if he reached 160 innings. But his earlier oblique strain likely won’t allow that to happen. It’s difficult to know if the Mariners would want to exercise the club option for 2020 or pay the $450,000 buyout.
Paying $5 million for a pitcher LeBlanc’s durability is still a bargain on most MLB levels. He isn’t overpowering, but you have an expectation of what he is as a pitcher. It will be interesting to see if the changes to the baseball made by MLB this offseason will help LeBlanc. He’s been very vocal about how much the new ball this year has affected the consistency and command of his offspeed pitches.
If you look at the current 40-man roster, you can pencil in Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and perhaps Justus Sheffield into the opening day rotation. Justin Dunn could be ready to assume a spot while Logan Gilbert is at least a year away if not more. They still needs to starters to fill out the rotation for next season. They could bring back LeBlanc or try another veteran or two on one-year prove-it deals or split minor league/big league contracts similar to Tommy Milone.
I wouldn’t buy a Wade LeBlanc jersey for next season just yet.
Well, the Tigers do have better uniforms and hats.
They also have an albatross of a contract with Miguel Cabrera, who is basically owed $130 million over the next four years and is declining at a rapid rate. It’s like the Cano deal that the Mariners shed themselves of this offseason. They are also paying right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who is injured $25 million this season and $25 million next season. They do have four players in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, including right-hander Casey Mize as the No. 2 overall prospect.
You want hopeless? Try being a Marlins fan. They may have won two World Series, but nobody cares about them in their city and the franchise should be moved.
I haven’t heard anything on the netting, and I don’t see the Mariners extending it. They already do the minimum that MLB requires. They are big on the ballpark experience and the views from the lower bowl. It won’t change unless MLB enforces it.
I don’t know if excited would be the word I’d use. But I’d be most happy for Kyle Lewis. That kid has been through so much because of that unfortunate and gruesome knee injury he suffered in his first professional season. The positive attitude he maintained and the maturity he’s shown during the recovery process is something that should be emulated.
If Art Warren gets a call up, I will also be very happy for him. He’s a really nice kid, who has battled injuries and bad luck. He could use a break or two.
I will never tell fans what to do. That’s their own personal experience. Those charitable uses of your time seem beneficial to the community. Couldn’t you do a little of both? Baseball is still something to enjoy even when it’s bad. And if it bores or hurts you that much, my Explorer could use a wash and a wax. I’m willing to pay in beer.
The hope is Shed Long is back from his broken finger in September. But the recovery is going slower than expected. He’s missed out on a lot of playing time at the MLB level with this injury.
I have not met him yet. But I would like to meet him. I’m a serious fan of Bale Breaker Brewing. As I’ve said before, Field 41 pale ale is one of my favorite beers. They are a fantastic follow on Instagram. I need to get to Yakima to see the brewery. Everyone that has been there has raved about the experience.
I’m thinking a road trip with Bob Condotta, Adam Jude, Larry Stone and a few of my other media friends is needed. You can come too, but you have to be the designated driver.
That sounds like a lot of fun. The Tampa trip is underrated in many aspects though most of the good stuff has nothing to do with baseball. Unfortunately, I won’t be on that portion of the road trip to meet up. I have no further comment beyond that statement.
- Not soon enough. Whenever Loverboy comes to the Emerald QUEEN Casino, I will be there with a headband and tank top on.
- On October 2, I plan to be driving to Missoula. Well that is if I don’t leave for Montana an hour after the Mariners last game and in that case I will already be in Missoula.
- The Griz will beat the Cats in Bozeman this year, or I will give up on football.
- Jerry Dipoto can’t be quiet in the offseason. He’ll trade Dee Gordon, Domingo Santana and maybe Mallex Smith and he’ll sign a bunch of lesser free agents to prove-it deals while also manipulating the 40-man roster constantly. And they’ll announce all of these moves the moment I walk into the gym or the night before Thanksgiving.
My parents made me participate in gymnastics as a kid because they thought I was uncoordinated. They didn’t seem to take any genetic responsibility for those issues. I did gymnastics for a year with all of the enthusiasm of a kid going to summer school or being forced to each vegetables. But I became proficient at cartwheels, and I’m certain I could do one again. I will just need someone to call the EMTs when I injure myself after doing it.
It sucks getting old.
They are better than politics.
There are plenty of reasons to hate sports. But really that should be directed to certain kinds of people and not the idea of sports itself. Sports are great, it’s people, often parents, that ruin them.
I believe in sports. They teach valuable lessons in life about preparation, competition, teamwork, humility and perseverance. They provide a social setting and make you vulnerable. I also believe there are many things outside of sports that teach similar values and can be just as valuable.
Sports have meant everything in my life.
It’s important to remember, they are just sports and people can take them way too seriously at times.
It has changed and evolved as I’ve gotten older and when I entered into sports writing. I probably find myself cheering for players that I like or met. But teams? You give up on a lot of that.
- Montana Grizzlies
- Dickinson State Bluehawks
- Havre High Blue Ponies
- Havre Central (junior high) 49ers
- Havre Northstars
I attended four of those schools and they somehow allowed me to graduate from each. The other was my American Legion team that I played on and coached. To quote my hero Tony Kornheiser: “That’s it, that’s list.”
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with my parents. First concert without my parents was Warrant and Great White at Buck’s Bar in Missoula with the help of a fake ID of the only other half-Asian kid I knew in Havre. And it still looked nothing like me.
You shut your mouth with this nonsense. They are both quality bands. Don’t make me go Axl Rose on you. You want to know pain? How about I give you some Mariners pregame music featuring Pitbull and every other overplayed pop song ever conceived on an endless loop.
Only then will you know true pain.
Certain rules to my jukebox playing rules: No rap with heavy cursing, no excessively hard heavy metal, no songs that depress people too much and no popular country — if you want to play Luke Bryan or Kane Brown, just go do it in your lifted truck.
- “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash
- “God only knows” by The Beach Boys
- “Your Love” by The Outfield
- “7 and 7” by The Turnpike Troubadours
- “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait
Runners up: “Heat of the Moment” by Asia, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” by Great White, “Ride wit Me” by Nelly, Pancho & Lefty by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard and “Don’t treat me bad” by Firehouse.
What do you think I wear while I’m answering questions for the mailbag?