The Mariners are eliminated from postseason contention, but Ryan Divish's Twitter mailbag has clinched a berth into October and beyond. Where are the star prospects? Why extend Jerry and Servais? And appreciation for Eddie Diaz, Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales' 2018 seasons: all in this week's mailbag.
ARLINGTON, Texas — While watching massive rain drops fall Friday night in Texas, a thought came to mind:
How many times have the Mariners played meaningful games in the final week of the season since the magical 2001 season?
In 2014, the Mariners stepped onto Safeco Field with a chance to force game No. 163. But that slim hope was extinguished midgame when they saw the A’s had won and they’d been eliminated.
Get your questions in by tweeting at @RyanDivish
September 23 | Searching for prospects and bright spots from 2018 season
September 2 | Why didn't M's go all-in before August waiver deadline?
In 2016, Seattle was eliminated on the second-to-last game of the season in a crazy game vs. the A’s at Safeco Field. Even if they had won, their hopes were still pretty slim. But it still mattered.
The Mariners had winning records in 2009 and 2007, but were basically eliminated from postseason contention before the final week.
Let’s get to the mailbag. As always, these are real questions submitted by the group of slightly unhinged but well-meaning folks that follow me on Twitter.
My biggest takeaway from the season is the failure to capitalize on an 11-game lead over the A’s in mid-June. I wouldn’t call it a collapse but more of a fade. The Mariners got lapped by the A’s, who put together a three-month stretch of baseball that was unexpected and likely won’t be replicated.
In the search for positives — a phrase I’ve written many times about the Mariners — there are more than a handful. But here’s a few that stood out:
Mitch Haniger’s emergence as a consistent, high-level player. He provided glimpses of those last season. There was the torrid 21-game start before he suffered an oblique strain. He finished up 2017 with a stellar September that left fans hopeful for even more this season.
But he’s been better than even the most optimistic fan could have expected. Haniger stayed healthy all season and remained remarkably consistent. Going into Saturday, he had played in 150 games, posting a .284/.367/.497 slash line with 35 doubles, four triples, 26 homers and 91 RBI. It’s a credit to his work ethic, his obsessive diligence to his pregame preparation and a mature approach at the plate that more Mariners need to emulate.
Marco Gonzales’ first full season with the Mariners has to be viewed as a positive. Yes, he missed some time with a neck strain and the signs of fatigue from a heavy workload were obvious. But he’s going to end this season with career highs in starts and innings pitched and the knowledge of what is needed to go beyond. The return of a cut fastball and a focused usage of his curveball were big factors in his success. His competitive nature and athleticism get overlooked, but they are big factors in why he could be even better next season.
Obviously, the season that Edwin Diaz has produced has been historic. And it would also be unfair to expect this every season. The fickle nature of reliever success can be frustrating. But Diaz’s success likely won’t be fleeting. While it will be difficult to rack up 50-plus saves next season, he’s not going to fall off a precipice and revert to a below-average reliever. His stuff is too good. His delivery is too deceptive. And he’s accumulated too much experience this season that will only benefit him in the future. Remember, he’s only 24.
Alpha Centauri A & B are 4.3 light years from earth, which would be a long flight, even for the Millennium Falcon with its ability to make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.
If you are talking prospects … the folks that really geek out about them don’t necessarily view the Mariners top four prospects as future stars. They are:
- Kyle Lewis, OF
- Evan White, 1B
- Logan Gilbert, RHP
- Julio Rodriguez, OF
This regime isn’t into rushing promotions, taking into consideration the detrimental effects it can have a on player. Call it the Mike Zunino Philosophy.
Lewis is the oldest and the most advanced despite missing almost two seasons worth of development time because of knee issues. He finished the season at Class AA, so he could be in Class AAA by midseason next year and possibly be a September call-up.
White is advanced defensively. He’s the best defensive first baseman in the entire organization. His hitting has improved significantly with a late spike in power numbers, which is needed. He will likely start in Class AA Arkansas next season. His athleticism and defense could make him a fast mover. Let’s say two more years.
Gilbert, the Mariners’ first-round pick, had almost no season as he came down with mononucleosis and had surgery on his foot. The Mariners weren’t planning to pitch him much this summer because of his college workload. He will make his professional debut next season. But as an advanced college pitcher, he could move up the system quickly. But he’s probably two seasons away from being considered a viable big league option.
At only 17, Rodriguez has a chance to be a star. He’s so young and has so much power potential. But he’s also so young, and it’s all potential. There are plenty of 17-year-old kids that were going to be stars that didn’t develop enough to shine. Remember Carlos Triunfel? It’s difficult to imagine Rodriguez participating in full-season minor league baseball next year at age 18. An optimistic projection has him 4-5 years away from being MLB ready.
When the team announced the extensions for Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais, Mariners chairman John Stanton and team president Kevin Mather were adamant that their decision was based on the culture that was developing in the organization more than the results from the first part of the season.
If you believe what they said, then the extensions weren’t a mistake.
I’ve covered three different general managers and five different full-time managers and two interim managers for the Mariners, and I can say that Dipoto and Servais have been the most organized and committed to building toward a shared idea and philosophy of success. The extensions should give them assurance and time to continue that process.
Will it work? It’s difficult to predict. The Mariners are in an inflexible spot with their roster with several older players owed lots of money over multiple years.
Being stuck in “limbo” isn’t a situation based only on the work of Dipoto and Servais. This dates back for years, and it’s something that the past and current ownership groups allowed to happen on their watch. The blame starts with them because they were the ones that put the decision makers in place and approved some of the catastrophic, organization-stunting moves that are still being felt today.
Let’s put it this way: If you were the GM of another team, and Dipoto calls and wants to trade you Seager, who is owed $57.5 million over the next three seasons and is coming off his worst season at the big-league level in terms of batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, would you say yes?
What prospects would you give up in that deal? Do you think your owner would really want to take on that much money for a 30-year-old player?
Also the Mariners aren’t going to designate him for assignment. You don’t just walk away from a player owed that much money over that many years unless his name is Milton Bradley. As much as Seager’s failures this season have been frustrating, they don’t possess the level of bitterness of Mariners fans on Twitter.
The goal will be to try and find a way for Seager to get back to his 2016 production level with continued work on refinding a consistent swing and approach.
I think Seattle’s geographic location, the ridiculous travel during the season, the failures to reach the postseason and no tradition of success are all factors when it comes to free agents opting for other places if the money is equal. The reputation of Safeco Field being unfriendly to hitters still permeates despite data showing that it isn’t as punitive.
All these things factor into it. It’s why I stubbornly believe that Seattle has to pay at least 10 to 15 percent above the market value to attract free agents.
I firmly believe that the divorce rate in this country would be reduced if stadium proposals were banned.
If there was no social media, we wouldn’t deal with any of those things mentioned, which are annoyances for grouches like me. But social media breeds narcissism, materialism and a true lack of humanity. If Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were all taken away tomorrow, would we really miss them?
I’d probably go with Dick’s Drive-In. The speed factor alone is key. If I’m going to either of those places, it’s usually late in the evening after sampling adult beverages, and I’m not looking to wait a long time for a burger and fries.
I rate sandwiches upon two criteria — hot or cold.
The Mike’s Deluxe from MSM Deli is the best cold sandwich in Tacoma. Since I live a block from there, I probably eat there twice a week in the offseason.
As for hot sandwiches, I will give it to the BLTacoma from Peterson Bros. 1111. Thick cut bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, avocado, red onion and horsy mayo on a toasted marble rye hoagie — can’t recommend it or that place enough.
Yes, Aaron Goldsmith and I operate in different tax brackets and subsequently restaurant choices. I would like to think I have a “working man’s food palate.” Sandwiches are probably my favorite thing with Mexican food a close second. I’ve also grown to really love Cajun food. I will take the good sports bar or sandwich shop over the five-star restaurant every day.
- Anaheim: Sabroso Grill
- Chicago/Dallas: Velvet Taco
- Houston: Treebeards, Eight Row Flint, Pappadeaux’s, Local Foods
- San Diego: OB Noodle House. Tinfish, Lucha Libre Tacos
- Detroit: Sweetwater Tavern
- Cleveland: J Gumbo, Winking Lizard, Great Lakes Brewery
- Kansas City: Strouds Fried Chicken, Q 39, Joe’s Barbecue
About as excited as I would be to sit through a 22-inning game with three rain delays with Pitbull allowed as the only music to be played throughout.