CHICAGO – The Mariners Sunday mailbag is back for another offering of knowledge, sage-like advice and personal opinion that is otherwise devoid of normal Mariners beat coverage.
But in terms of advice to oneself, never ask for mailbag questions following a meltdown by Cory Gearrin and the Mariners bullpen. Of the submissions that came after the disappointing defeat Friday, most had to do with the bullpen and Gearrin’s spot on the team. Several submissions were not suitable for print. And to answer one of the more colorful questions left on voicemail, no Gearrin can’t be deported to Mars.
As always, these are real questions from that passionate and, at times, logical group better known as my Twitter followers.
It’s combustible because of the lack of talent and the inexperience that’s on the roster. And when you remove the closer from the equation, everything gets a little more difficult. Bullpens and relievers by nature are volatile and unpredictable.
Remember the unexpected success of the 2014 Mariners that went 87-75 and almost made the wild-card game. That team was anchored by a dominant bullpen that basically stayed the same the entire season. It posted an American League-best 2.59 ERA. Every pitcher from that bullpen returned to the team in 2015 and the results were disastrous. It was one of the worst bullpens in baseball with a 4.15 ERA and several of those key relievers either traded or released.
It’s why you don’t see teams investing in long-term deals for relievers too often. Last offseason, the Mariners spent $17 million on a two-year deal for Juan Nicasio, who was coming off an outstanding season. But a sore knee and wandering command made Nicasio largely ineffective and a non-factor for much of the season. The Mariners happily traded him this offseason to get out from paying the remaining $9.25 million on his contract.
As for the current Mariners, this was going to be a patchwork unit. With the team in “step back” mode, it wasn’t going to invest much money in the bullpen after trading away Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome, Nicasio, James Pazos and non-tendering Nick Vincent. They were Seattle’s five most-used relievers last season.
Instead, the Mariners tried to the fill out the bullpen with minor free-agent signings like Hunter Strickland, Gearrin and Zac Rosscup to complement the pitchers returning, such as Chasen Bradford, Roenis Elias, Dan Altavilla and others. It’s why they took Brandon Brennan in the Rule 5 draft because they wanted to add relief arms to the roster.
Manager Scott Servais said the team this season is a “team of opportunity,” using the bullpen as the key example. They are giving opportunities to pitchers who might not otherwise get this sort of chance in other organizations. Maybe they’ll find something valuable.
The only way to fix it is for pitchers in the organization to perform better and young prospects in Tacoma to pitch well enough to put them on the MLB roster.
Other than Craig Kimbrel, there really aren’t any outstanding relievers available via free agency. And they wouldn’t be able to help immediately.
If the Mariners are going to add arms, it will be via minor trades like the one for Connor Sadzeck or on waiver claims. If they are still in it by the trade deadline, they might “buy a contract” in a trade for help.
Yes, Dan Altavilla has much more upside. But his inconsistency has frustrated the Mariners. It’s why he was sent back to Class AAA Tacoma. He hasn’t exactly excelled at the big-league level. Gearrin signed a MLB contract, so he’s going to get every opportunity to prove he’s worth of remaining on the roster. Think about how the team handled Marc Rzepczynski last season.
Also, general manager Jerry Dipoto is unlikely to make an impulsive decision and just release Gearrin after two very ugly outings. With guaranteed contracts, teams can’t be impulsive. Gearrin is only on a $1.4 million contract, so it’s not like he’s making a ton of money. But with an eight-man bullpen, the Mariners can withstand a reliever struggling and give him time to work some things out.
Altavilla will have to earn his way back to the big-league bullpen. He has the talent to be a quality reliever. But he hasn’t been able to get the requisite results. The Mariners want him to work on some things there before bringing him back.
Is a bargain-bin pickup really going to be an upgrade?
I would assume so. It seems like the right thing to do. Randy Johnson’s relationship with the organization is much better as well. You can’t overlook Johnson’s contribution to the Mariners even if his departure was awkward and heated. If they do, then they are wrong.
Following the victory Saturday, they now have 24 homers in 10 games. Last season, they had nine homers in their first 10 games and it took them 21 games to reach 24 homers as a team. This early homer barrage puts them on pace for 389 homers for the season. Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen. Logical regression, injuries and player moves, tells you the Mariners can’t keep up the torrid pace.
The Yankees set the MLB record of most homers in a season with 267 last season. The Mariners’ team record is 264 in 1997 and second most in MLB history. I’d put the Mariners’ over/under on homers at 245.
Given the changes in hitting philosophies, strength training, changed approaches, weird things going on with the baseball, a team is going to hit 300 homers in a season. It’s going to happen at some point. Maybe even this season.
Of their 10 games this season, only one game – the 2-1 victory over the Angels – has been played in less than three hours. As for blowing a gasket, I’m prone to temper tantrums for a variety of relatively un-important reasons, including this social media platform we are on. But I do expect this team to play most of their games over three hours. The Mariners will not make Rob Manfred happy.
Realistically, the long games torture my editors more as they have to wait for my game stories that are usually well over their word limit and come in at the very last possible moment.
Speaking of game stories …
We have to write a running game story that is submitted after the final out is made. When The Fernando Rodney Experience was the closer, I would often immediately open a new document and start writing a lead to my story that centered around the worst possible scenario, outcome or baseball catastrophe I could think for a save situation. You’d be surprised how often that nearly came to pass.
In all seriousness, often times, I start with the early action and runs, leaving that at the bottom and building up. When you cover the team on an almost-daily basis, you kind of know the background of what’s going on around the team or how it’s been playing. That’s often important information for the game story that you can add in while the game is still being played. And the pregame reporting you do also factors into some of the game story.
I try to watch closely so I can be descriptive when needed, including trying to see emotion and detail. And then I go with the first thing I would tell some buddies about the game if I was meeting them for a beer.
But I’m far from an expert on this situation. Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times wrote some of the best game stories I’ve ever read. I studied them carefully and then failed in my attempts to emulate his writing style.
I’m not going to be all preachy about the journalistic process. There’s no certain way to do this. My editor at a paper in Pocatello once told me that you aren’t writing the game story for the people who didn’t watch the game, but for the people who DID watch the game. You are trying to provide insight and information to what they were watching. Sometimes I accomplish that. Sometimes, I’m like The Fernando Rodney Experience.
This is going to sound really boring, Marc, but I think they should take the best available player with the 20th overall selection. With the time it takes for draft choices to develop into major league players, going position specific is really not logical. And given how Dipoto changes up his roster each offseason, you never really know where a need will arise.
In his first three drafts, Dipoto and his amateur scouting directors have taken college players – outfielder Kyle Lewis (Mercer), first baseman Evan White (Kentucky) and pitcher Logan Gilbert (Stetson). They are more projectable and less likely for misses. Given the Mariners’ spot in the draft, I’d expect them to go with another college player. But in terms of starting pitcher, catcher or third base, there shouldn’t be a preference. Take the best player available that you know will sign.
But if you look at the upper levels of their organizational depth chart, they do need to continue to look at third base depth as an eventual replacement for Kyle Seager. And you should always draft catching, shortstop and center field depth every year. The Mariners would love to trade for a competitive balance round A or B draft pick. They already acquired a B pick from the Indians.
This might surprise some while others will think it’s fitting of my personality, but I don’t really like Christmas. I really dislike the music. I don’t like the pressure of giving presents and the craziness of stores. The only Christmas movies I like are “Christmas Vacation” or “Die Hard.” I don’t think I’ve put up a tree in my apartment for the past five years. This might be why I’m still single.
Sushi from the Tsujiki Fish Market and spicy pork ramen from a little shop that didn’t take credit cards.
To answer your question, shredded pork. But I will order carne asada tacos over pork almost every time.
I try to stick to the three basic food groups and order one from each – beef, pork and chicken. But this last time I wanted to try their new steak and eggs taco, which was amazing, while also getting the flank steak-white queso taco and the picnic rotisserie chicken taco with fried chicken skin. I also got an order of tots with bacon and a cooked egg on them. This is why my pants don’t fit.
I also went to Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, which is amazing. Bayless is widely famous for Mexican cuisine and the chicken tortilla soup and the chicken and mole enchiladas were outstanding. Not a huge fan of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, but there is an Italian restaurant called Davanti Enoteca that’s solid.
Often times, I will do what Dipoto does and check out the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives app on my phone for places in the area.
I usually put ketchup in the refrigerator, and I never, ever, put ketchup on a hot dog.
Give it a try and let us know. Make sure you take video.