I love baseball. I always have. I’m a fan of many sports, but baseball has always been my favorite. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enraptured by the game. Baseball, to me, is just the greatest.
When people tell me they can’t stand baseball, you have to figure I’d be appalled, but I’m not. I get it. Baseball is long, often tedious, and rather slow. Games last three hours on average and rely on no clock to keep things moving. Not only that, but your best players will elude success seventy-percent of the time, and really, who wants to witness that much failure? Learning the nuances of baseball — the obscure rules, the unwritten points of etiquette, not to mention the lingo — is on par with learning Mandarin. And let’s be honest, going to a game isn’t necessarily cheap. All those things add up to a level of discontent that I can empathize with. Because frankly, I feel the exact same way about soccer.
I don’t have anything against soccer. I just don’t like it. I’ve given it a try and it’s not my cup of tea. When I was eight years old, I played organized soccer for the first time. I didn’t like the aimless running (there’s a lot of that as a kid), the rain, the mud, or taking balls off my face (feel free to have fun with that last item at my expense). Were it not for the mid-game orange slices and post-game snacks, I might have staged a sit-in halfway through the season. Soccer was that bad.
As I got older, my disinterest in soccer only grew. I had no desire to watch games or so much as kick a ball around with buddies. To me, soccer was the mushrooms on your plate as a kid or the math problems you had to do for homework. I acknowledged it existed and that’s where our affinity for one another came to its abrupt end.
Now here we are a generation later and soccer is the coolest thing going. Whodathunkit, right? I’m 28 years old, and chances are if you’re around my age, no matter whether you’re a soccer fan or not, you could not have seen this coming when we were kids. This is new, uncharted territory. We’re on the cusp of a soccer revolution that a decade ago would have been scoffed at. Sure, the world enjoyed fútbol, but not us, not Americans. We were the holdouts. Until this city, my city, Seattle, decided to become the soccer capitol of the United States.
There are times I actually feel bad that I can’t bring myself to like the “beautiful game.” I tried assimilating to the sport as an adult by attending a match, but no luck. I was bored. Nothing had changed since my youth. And now, as we sit here today, I’ve simply come to accept that soccer and I will continue to exist not as friends or enemies, but two entities forced to share space with one another.
In spite of all that, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that soccer is having on Seattle right now. Between Sounders matches and World Cup Qualifiers, the nation’s soccer spotlight is pointed squarely upon the Emerald City. We don’t just embody American soccer; we are American soccer. It’s intriguing, even to a curmudgeon like myself.
With a competing sport as my first love, however, the overwhelming support for soccer in this town has cast a shadow on my baseball fandom. More than anything, I wish our baseball team gave us reason to cheer the way our soccer team does. We all know they used to do that. Once upon time, the Mariners were our main attraction. And we were just as inspired by them as we currently are by the Sounders.
Winning cures all ills, and since their inception in 2009, the Sounders have been winners. Contrast that to the Mariners, who have emerged as perennial losers for more than a decade now. Make no mistake about it, each of these teams has earned their respective standing amongst the city’s sports fans.
As the crowd at CenturyLink Field has grown, the numbers at Safeco Field have dwindled. Some would argue that each team carries its own unique fan base, completely segregated from that of its next-door neighbor. But come on. We all know that isn’t true. Seattleites are notorious bandwagoners, determined to ride the wave of success before disembarking at the first sign of trouble. Sports fans in the Pacific Northwest (with the possible exception of Seahawks fans, who are crazy — in a good way) are malleable, impressionable fad embracers that view games as social gatherings and often little else. They are young professionals who strive to fit in, who gravitate towards counter-culture movements because counter-culture is what’s in, you see, and occasionally requires skinny jeans and faux eyewear to really pull off. Never mind the fact that the most counter-culture are those like my friend Bob Condotta, he of the hooded-sweatshirt-at-the-club look, who don’t give a damn what others think and are awesome because of that. No, the Seattle sports fan is a heavily influenced breed that would like you to believe they aren’t influenced at all. But they are, very much so, and that’s where soccer, at the expense of baseball, has come to gather its following.
The Mariners and their seemingly oblivious front office are probably just starting to realize that fans aren’t being swayed by gimmicks or guys who used to be good a few years back when they were, you know, playing against us. Fans, especially Seattle fans, are swayed by a winner. Soccer is evidence of that. As the losses have piled up on the diamond, fans have looked elsewhere for their sporty get-togethers with friends. Sandwiched between early and late happy hour, the people have flocked to the pitch — the Sounders, along with their increasingly rabid crowd, have blossomed.
My wish, as I alluded to earlier, is for our baseball team to infuse this city with a similar passion to that of our soccer team. It’s not asking a lot, and it doesn’t take anything more than victories. So above all else, just win, Mariners. Because as simple and as stupid as it sounds, if you win, this city’s fans will return.
Filed under: Mariners, Sounders
Tags: Sounders FC
It was bound to happen sooner or later: Mike Zunino had to be called up to the big leagues. The end result was imminent, yet the timing of that end result was a point of contention for pundits and fans alike. It was never about if, but always about when. That “when” hit today, as news broke this morning that the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 Draft would be making his way to Seattle to take over as the team’s starting catcher (or at least part-time starting catcher, with a nod to Kelly Shoppach).
Almost immediately, opinions on the move flooded the internet. The prevailing sentiment, naturally, is that this promotion was more of a job-saving maneuver than anything else, a way for those on the hot seat — namely, general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge — to try and salvage employment at season’s end.
As fast as one could ejaculate words onto the internet, the first person of note to comment on the matter was USS Mariner’s Dave Cameron, who cited that rushing prospects to the big leagues is “what bad organizations do.” And he’s absolutely right.
Fans will recall that back in 2007, the Mariners converted former No. 5 overall pick Brandon Morrow into a relief pitcher in order to maximize his value at the big league level. The move tabled Morrow’s development as a starter and ultimately backfired. It wasn’t enough to save the jobs of general manager Bill Bavasi and his staff, and ultimately resulted in Morrow losing his job, too, as he was traded to Toronto by the team’s current regime prior to the 2010 season. Of course, we all know now that Morrow as a Blue Jay has regained his form as a starting pitcher, while the M’s remain scalded by a transaction that netted them two now-departed commodities in reliever Brandon League and minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez.
If the rash handling of Morrow was a lesson in desperation and stupidity, the organization seems to have not heeded a great deal from the teachings of the past.
It’s evident to almost anyone that pays close attention to the M’s that the Zunino call-up is cut from the same mold as that of Brandon Morrow. The team is in a similar state of struggle as they were some six years ago, and the men relied upon to build a successful on-field product have scuffled in their ability to provide exactly that. All of this leads to a cynical smirk of a reaction to the breaking news of the moment and the resulting effect it will have on this ballclub.
Regardless of how you feel about Zunino’s worthiness as a big leaguer (you can view his minor league statistics by clicking here), there is something to be said here about Jack Zduriencik’s ability to keep his head above water despite players determined to sink him.
At the season’s outset, Zduriencik and Co. were inextricably bound to the likes of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak, or so we thought. General opinion was that if this trio faltered in what was seen as a make-or-break campaign for all three individuals, Zduriencik and staff would be axed before the calendar turned to 2014.
Alas, in what could be viewed as some sort of wizardry, Zduriencik has managed to untangle himself from the Ackley/Montero/Smoak mess and somehow intertwine his future with a completely different gaggle of players, namely the likes of Nick Franklin and the aforementioned Zunino. Ackley and Montero have been jettisoned to Triple-A (where Ackley’s now hitting over .400 and Montero faces bigger issues with the looming threat of a performance-enhancing drug suspension), while Smoak has provided mediocre results before finding himself on the disabled list. No matter, however, as Franklin and Zunino have spearheaded a damn near seamless changing of the guard.
Perhaps it’s a testament to Zduriencik’s restocking of the minor league system that the organization has managed to deftly sidestep the scuffles of one set of prospects in order to propagate another. Subsequently, even though at least one of these moves (Zunino) has been viewed as a redirection of attention — like a magician performing a sleight of hand or a department store photographer squeaking a stuffed animal to induce a child’s laughter, some might even call this a “distraction” — it won’t matter down the road if a) this new crop of young players succeeds, and b) the team wins, slash, shows visible signs of improvement.
Ultimately, the future of this organization and its key staff members comes down to an Al Davis quote: “Just win, baby.” If the Mariners, along with their newest contributors, can somehow find a way to scratch and claw their way back to relevance in the coming weeks, it won’t matter what we think of Jack Zduriencik right now. He and his staff may in fact do what many have thought to be impossible in the wake of seemingly foolhardy moves and the foibles of the past: they might just save their asses.
Filed under: Mariners
It looks kind of like this:
Filed under: Mariners
The truth is, I don’t hate the Mariners. I never have, never will. You don’t hate the Mariners, either, I imagine. You might say you do, but you don’t. No one hates the Mariners. The Mariners don’t invoke hatred. Outside of the bubble that is Mariners fandom, the world could care less about this team. They are a punch line, if that. Rival fans — and I use the word “rival” very loosely — don’t give a damn about Seattle. For those of us who do give a damn, the passions evoked by our favorite baseball team are far more painstaking than detachment. What the Mariners inspire is a feeling that borders on apathy, yet results in frustration. It is that emotion, a reluctant resignation to a fate with a tragic ending, that makes this situation unique in a very sad, special way.
As fans, we are imprisoned by a love for this godforsaken team, a love not unlike that which a parent has for a troubled child. No matter what that kid does, no matter how stupid the decisions he makes may be, we cannot help but hope that the next time will be different. There is no other way to approach each letdown. We have to believe in something better because this love refuses to let us believe anything otherwise. On a daily basis, that is what this team does to us.
We all deal with our disappointment differently. Some of us get mad and unleash our angst on the organization or other fans. Some of us feign indifference and ignore the team to the best of our abilities. Others, like me, crack jokes and ooze cynicism, almost daring the M’s to call our bluff and shut us up with wins. Regardless, there is an acute awareness from all that none of these circumstances are either positive or happy.
But how could anyone be happy in an environment like this? What the Mariners organization has bred is a losing culture combined with a lack of accountability for the scorched earth upon which its creators walk. This is Biff Tannen’s Hill Valley and in Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong — team CEO and President, respectively — we have our antagonists. They’ve masterminded this hellish alternate reality in which they and they alone come out on top. Everyone else is simply collateral damage.
The organization’s problems run so deep that it can be hard to trace the rivulets of failure back to an original source. Make no mistake about it, though, this is the fault of Armstrong and Lincoln. Combined, they are the waterfall that spawns cascading misfortune unto all descending outlets of their regime, ultimately resulting in a cesspool of despair at the bottom.
It is Chuck and Howard who have endorsed the endorsers, hiring Jack Zduriencik to manage the general operations of the ballclub and Eric Wedge the lineup. It is Chuck and Howard who have green-lit free agent signings and financial investments, Chuck and Howard who have puppeteered a disaster of a show. If you loathe a certain player, you in turn loathe the manager who plays him and the general manager who acquired him. And above that? By relation, you must likewise loathe those who entrusted the subjects of your loathing to do right by each and every one of us, those who have the power to end all of this despondence. Therefore, beyond all else, it should be understood that all roads of blame lead back to two parties who are responsible for the bulk of this mess: Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln.
Some of us want Eric Wedge fired. That’s all well and good, but who will hire his replacement?
Some of us want the man responsible for finding Wedge’s replacement, Jack Zduriencik, fired as well. And who, pray tell, will hire his replacement?
At each stop along the chain you come to realize that this circle of anguish is held together by a hierarchy that remains unaltered at its apex. You can hack the limbs all you want, but until the braintrust is destroyed, this monster will continue to exist. Chuck and Howard are the braintrust. Chuck and Howard are what keep this monster alive.
Like I said before, we all deal with our disappointment differently. There is anger, there is disdain, there is snarkiness, there is infighting. But at some point, we have to acknowledge a shared logic. Logic says that this can all go away if Chuck and Howard go away. We don’t need to be angry anymore. We don’t need to fabricate lassitude, lob grenades in the form of witty barbs, or attack one another over what each one of us truly believes to be the cause of all this pain. We can just make this all disappear.
If you love the Mariners like I do, like many of us do, than you know that this affection will never cease. Chuck and Howard know that, too. They’ve been banking on it for years. It’s why they constantly remind us of the past, it’s why they go out of their way to fill the roster with players we adore for reasons separate from statistics. They’ve done all they can do to keep us loving this team besides win. They’re damn good at it. But it’s time we put away the smoke and mirrors and focused on the nuts and bolts of this 36-year romance with defeat.
We want to win now. And we need Chuck and Howard to go away in order to win. It won’t happen until they leave. So Chuck, Howard, I urge both of you to resign. You can leave and be remembered as catalysts of the Mariners’ success, rather than obstacles, which is what your legacies will be should you stay. You will either die in office as villains or ride off into retirement as heroes. You can be helpers or hindrances, the choice is yours.
We’ve been conditioned to believe in a certain destiny that results in losing for more than three decades now. That pattern needs to stop. Our fate should be better than that, and it can be. There is no divine power that has prophesied our futility. But there is organizational power, represented by a President and CEO that have led us astray.
Chuck and Howard, it’s time for you to go.
Filed under: Mariners
First, some context. The below video was made by a guy named Don Joss, owner of DJ’s Sportscards in Renton. For anyone who grew up in the Greater Seattle area and collected cards as a kid, DJ’s is basically a mecca. Occupying an unassuming storefront in a small strip mall on the corner of Duvall Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, DJ’s is stacked floor to ceiling with all sorts of sports cards and memorabilia. It’s been there since those of us who are now adults were kids. It’s a great memory for so many and unlike most similar shops around the nation, it still exists.
The owner, Don, is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He makes you want to collect cards again. If for no other reason than because you want him to do well. I mean, this is a guy who still, to this day, owns a card shop. That’s on par with owning a phonograph dispensary or a pager company. I don’t know what the going salary for a card shop owner is, but I have to imagine it’s not enough. Card shop owners are living out the dreams of every ’80s- and ’90s-era kid. When I was a kid, I only wanted to be two things: professional baseball player or sports card shop owner. I failed on both accounts.
Anyway, whether you care to purchase cards ever again or not, I urge you to watch the following video. This video is supposed to be an ad, of sorts, but I damn near shed a tear. Hoops, Skybox, Fleer Ultra, Topps, Bowman…so beautiful, all of it.
Filed under: Other Sports
On October 22, 2008, the Seattle Mariners named Jack Zduriencik their newest General Manager. Assuming control of an organization that had been decimated by the foibles of its previous GM, Bill Bavasi, Zduriencik faced a daunting task in rebuilding the Mariners from the ground up.
Just 50 days after landing his new gig, Zduriencik made the first trade of his Mariners tenure. The trade was a blockbuster and would continue to have an impact on the ballclub four-and-a-half years later, where we find ourselves today.
In the aftermath of that initial deal, and leading up to our date of publication, May 28, 2013, Zduriencik proceeded to make 40 more trades for a total of 41 over four-plus seasons. The following is an analysis of all 41 of those transactions.
Trades are listed chronologically, from earliest to most recent. Players acquired in BOLD are current members of the Mariners organization. Grades associated with each trade are entirely subjective and reflective of the author’s opinion.
Trade No. 1: December 11, 2008
Teams involved: New York Mets, Cleveland Indians
Assets relinquished: P Sean Green (New York), P J.J. Putz (New York), OF Jeremy Reed (New York), INF Luis Valbuena (Cleveland)
Assets acquired: 1B Mike Carp, OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Endy Chavez, P Maikel Cleto, OF Franklin Gutierrez, P Aaron Heilman, P Jason Vargas
Once upon a time, this trade was hailed as the definitive move of Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners tenure. A three-team swap that immediately resulted in a veritable coup for the Mariners, the hometown nine obtained a potential All-Star center fielder in Gutierrez and a solid big league starting pitcher in Vargas, among other pieces. Carp was a serviceable prospect, while Carrera, Cleto, and Heilman served as bargaining chips in subsequent trades. In all, nearly every asset acquired in this deal was maximized.
As the years have passed, however, the luster has worn from this gem of a deal. Putz, who floundered in the Big Apple, regained both his form and his role as closer with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Valbuena, a minor leaguer back in 2008, has proved serviceable with both the Indians and now the Chicago Cubs. Green and Reed became afterthoughts in the seasons following the trade.
The biggest factor in the waning sheen of this trade has been Gutierrez’s health, which has been inconsistent at best. His frequent bouts with injury have kept him off the field repeatedly in recent years, mitigating the vast talents he possesses both on offense and defense. However, silver linings have been found in follow-up dealings of players involved, such as Cleto (dealt for Brendan Ryan) and Vargas (dealt for Kendrys Morales).
Trade No. 2: January 20, 2009
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox
Assets relinquished: P Fabian Williamson
Assets acquired: P David Aardsma
Another trade hailed as a Zduriencik masterpiece, the Mariners gave up virtually nothing to obtain Aardsma, who went from being a career bullpen journeyman (filling a variety of roles, from long man, to middle relief, to setup) to a top-notch closer almost overnight. The hard-throwing right-hander nailed down 69 saves in ’09 and ’10 for Seattle before injuries left him as a non-tendered free agent entering the 2011 campaign. The M’s let Aardsma walk at that point and, to date, he has pitched just one big league inning since.
Trade No. 3: January 28, 2009
Teams involved: Chicago Cubs
Assets relinquished: P Aaron Heilman
Assets acquired: INF Ronny Cedeno, P Garrett Olson
It should be noted that of the three players involved in this deal, only one, Cedeno, is still an active major leaguer today. Perhaps that says something about the assets obtained in this swap, though one might argue that all three individuals are near non-factors.
Heilman is most noted for never appearing in a game as a Mariner, lasting only six weeks as part of the organization before being shipped out of town; he then proceeded to do very little with his career after departing. Cedeno filled a variety of roles in half a season with the team before being dealt to Pittsburgh at the ’09 non-waivers trade deadline. Olson was a constant commuter on the I-5 corridor between Seattle and Tacoma before being waived prior to the start of the 2011 season. Ultimately, one garage sale item turned into two future garage sale items. Eh.
Trade No. 4: March 29, 2009
Teams involved: San Diego Padres
Assets relinquished: Cash
Assets acquired: INF Chris Burke
Chris Burke meant nothing to us.
Trade No. 5: April 21, 2009
Teams involved: San Diego Padres
Assets relinquished: INF Chris Burke
Assets acquired: Cash
Who knows for sure if either team profited financially off the Chris Burke rental. All we do know is that poor Burke wasn’t truly wanted by either club. His last recorded big league action came with the Padres in that fateful ’09 season.
Trade No. 6: June 28, 2009
Teams involved: Washington Nationals
Assets relinquished: INF Mike Morse
Assets acquired: OF Ryan Langerhans
The first of the trades to really come back and bite Zduriencik in the ass, this was initially thought of as a swap of “our failing prospect for your serviceable backup.” Lo and behold, it became so much more than that.
A former top prospect of the Atlanta Braves, Langerhans was a 29-year-old backup outfielder upon arriving in Seattle. Though he had seen action as a starter earlier in his career, it was clear by now that he’d be little more than a part-timer going forward. Over the course of his two-plus seasons as a Mariner, he played that role to perfection.
Morse, on the other hand, became a bona fide star in the nation’s capitol, turning in two-and-a-half great seasons of ball before being traded earlier this year to, you guessed it, Seattle. Now back in a Mariners uniform after seasoning elsewhere, Morse is facing an uncertain future entering his free agent offseason. Nevertheless, he’ll earn a nice payday from some team so long as he keeps performing as well as he has in 2013.
Trade No. 7: July 10, 2009
Teams involved: Kansas City Royals
Assets relinquished: INF Yuniesky Betancourt
Assets acquired: P Daniel Cortes, P Derrick Saito
Who would have thought that nearly four years later Yuniesky Betancourt would still be a productive major leaguer? At the time of the trade, the prevailing emotion was amazement over Zduriencik’s ability to spin the floundering Betancourt into any returning assets at all. That Cortes and Saito were real, live people was a wonder in and of itself. The organization and fans alike were simply thrilled to be rid of Betancourt.
In hindsight, perhaps it was the way in which Betancourt was being utilized that created issues. In three-plus seasons since he was jettisoned by the M’s, the former starting shortstop has carved out a decent career as a super-sub, filling in at a number of positions around the infield for both Kansas City and Milwaukee. He has never lived up to his billing as a future star at the shortstop position, but he has provided value, however minimal, to teams that have found ways to implement him.
Cortes and Saito, meanwhile, fizzled out. Cortes saw brief stints in the Mariners’ bullpen, but ultimately became a free agent that hasn’t resurfaced. Saito also found his way to free agency, though has never logged time at the major league level.
What once was thought of as a brilliant maneuver by Jack Z. and Co. has dwindled over time.
Trade No. 8: July 11, 2009
Teams involved: Oakland Athletics
Assets relinquished: P Justin Souza
Assets acquired: INF Jack Hannahan
Souza was and still is a non-factor. Hannahan was and still is a journeyman infielder. Nothing to see here.
Trade No. 9: July 29, 2009
Teams involved: Cincinnati Reds
Assets relinquished: OF Wladimir Balentien
Assets acquired: P Robert Manuel
Many years ago, Balentien was thought of as one of the Mariners’ top prospects. Of course, that was before anyone realized he couldn’t hit a breaking ball. Upon coming to that conclusion, the organization thought it would be best to part ways with the would-be power-hitter. They found a bartering partner in the Cincinnati Reds, who ponied up a nothing pitcher in exchange for a guy who would become, to date, a starting outfielder in Japan. Well then.
Trade No. 10: July 29, 2009
Teams involved: Pittsburgh Pirates
Assets relinquished: P Nathan Adcock, INF Ronny Cedeno, C Jeff Clement, P Brett Lorin, P Aaron Pribanic
Assets acquired: P Ian Snell, SS Jack Wilson
There was always this hope that the team would somehow be able to acquire more than just a below-average pitcher and stopgap shortstop for the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 Draft. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case at all. However, in dealing Jeff Clement, the M’s got lucky (I guess) in that the catcher-turned-first baseman never materialized into the player he was supposed to be. Clement, along with Adcock, Lorin, and Pribanic, are career minor leaguers to date. Only Cedeno, as mentioned previously, still exists as a big leaguer.
These days, Snell is trying to revive his career in the independent leagues, while Wilson is now out of baseball. The M’s gave up quite a bit at the time to obtain what turned out to be very little. Neither team, though, should feel like they lost much of anything in this deal.
Trade No. 11: July 31, 2009
Teams involved: Detroit Tigers
Assets relinquished: P Jarrod Washburn
Assets acquired: P Lucas French, P Mauricio Robles
Looking back on this trade, it appears on paper to be another ho-hum shoulder-shrug of a deal. Leading up to the 2009 non-waiver trade deadline, however, it was anything but that.
Washburn was one of the more sought after commodities at the ’09 deadline, a left-handed starting pitcher who had somehow rectified a rocky tenure in Seattle in the months preceding this moment. Rumors flew left and right over who would land Washburn and, in turn, what kind of haul the Mariners would reap for their departed asset. When all was said and done, the Tigers made a move to shore up their starting pitching and gave up very little in return.
French was a low-ceiling lefty with big league experience. He swung back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues before finding the free agent wire after the 2011 season; he’s had nothing but minor league experience since.
Robles was the cornerstone of the deal, a hard-throwing southpaw who some had compared to a young Johan Santana. He worked his way up the M’s organization through last season, battling injuries along the way. In a move to clear space on the 40-man roster, Robles was waived in the 2013 offseason before being claimed by Philadelphia. Now pitching with the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, Robles has pitched exclusively in relief, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.19 ERA and 1.14 WHIP along the way. At just 24 years of age, his potential remains intact.
Perhaps it’s the subsequent waiving of Robles, along with his untapped potential, that makes this trade sting a little bit. That, along with the fact that somehow, some way, Zduriencik and the M’s couldn’t find a way to maximize their chip in Washburn.
Trade No. 12: August 5, 2009
Teams involved: Pittsburgh Pirates
Assets relinquished: INF Deybis Benitez
Assets acquired: P Mike Koplove
Lest you fear any repercussion from the loss of a prospect in this deal for a journeyman reliever who never so much as appeared in a big league game with the M’s, Benitez hasn’t played in the minor leagues since 2009. Stints with independent teams in the following years have given way to a statistical paper trail that comes to a halt in 2012.
Trade No. 13: August 19, 2009
Teams involved: Milwaukee Brewers
Assets relinquished: P Ruben Flores
Assets acquired: INF/OF Bill Hall
Flores never became much of anything, while Hall was packaged with the infamous Player to be Named Later just five months later in a deal that netted Casey Kotchman. Perhaps we should be most angry about the fact that Hall begat Kotchman.
Trade No. 14: September 18, 2009
Teams involved: Washington Nationals
Assets relinquished: C Jamie Burke
Assets acquired: Cash
The sale of Jamie Burke brought with it a few outcries solely for the fact that Burke had endeared himself to Seattle fans. Along with being one of gritty, scrappy veterans this area so loves, Burke will always be remembered for taking the mound at the back end of an extra-inning marathon game, pitching admirably in the process. Who knows how much the Nats paid for Burke; all we know is that his tenure in the Emerald City was nothing short of priceless.
Trade No. 15: December 16, 2009
Teams involved: Philadelphia Phillies
Assets relinquished: P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, P J.C. Ramirez
Assets acquired: P Cliff Lee
This may forever and always be Jack Zduriencik’s signature deal during his Mariners tenure. Both then and now, this single trade is lauded as the team’s biggest win, the landing of an ace in Lee while relinquishing next-to-nothing in prospects. Over time, this trade in and of itself, separate from subsequent deals (more on that later), has actually gotten better. The Phillies were given their choice of acquiring Gillies or a different young outfielder in Michael Saunders. The Phils opted for Gillies, who has been an unadulterated disappointment, while Saunders became a starting center fielder in Seattle.
Of course, this deal is significantly mitigated by the trade that resulted in Lee going to Texas just a few short months later. That the Mariners had done to them by the Rangers what they themselves had done to Philadelphia half-a-year prior essentially brought the team back to square one. But again, in and of itself, this move was a masterpiece. If only such magic could be replicated time and again.
Trade No. 16: December 18, 2009
Teams involved: Chicago Cubs
Assets relinquished: P Carlos Silva, Cash
Assets acquired: OF Milton Bradley
The swapping of one problem player for another brought with it a great deal of hope, if nothing else. In the end, however, both teams were left washing their hands of the acquired problems involved. Though neither team can truly be crowned a winner in this loser of a trade, the Cubs did receive cash from the M’s to offset part of Silva’s bloated contract. Money, it seems, is the only triumphant asset here.
Trade No. 17: December 23, 2009
Teams involved: Toronto Blue Jays
Assets relinquished: P Brandon Morrow
Assets acquired: OF Johermyn Chavez, P Brandon League
Another unfortunate trade, Zduriencik and Co. gave up on Morrow before allowing him to realize his potential and, so far, it’s come back to bite the organization in the behind. Upon landing in Toronto, Morrow was revived as a starting pitcher only (sparing him of the roller coaster ride between rotation and bullpen he was subjected to in Seattle) and has gone on to showcase top-of-the-rotation ability. Though he’s dealt with injuries here and there, he has become a relied-upon presence as a Blue Jay.
The return the M’s received, meanwhile, has developed into a whole boatload of nothing. League was counted on as a closer for a short while before he turned into the second coming of Bobby Ayala. His shaky tenure as the team’s fireman ended when the M’s dealt him for a pair of middling prospects a season ago.
Chavez flashed potential in bursts, but never could force the Mariners to call him up or even keep him around. He became a minor league free agent after the 2012 season and now plays for the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate.
Trade No. 18: January 7, 2010
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox
Assets relinquished: INF/OF Bill Hall, PTBNL (P Miguel Celestino)
Assets acquired: 1B Casey Kotchman
Casey Kotchman. What a pain in the ass. This guy was supposed to be our starting first baseman. Instead, he flat-out sucked. Worst part is, he managed to last an entire year before departing for free agency after his one season as a Mariner. Sure, Hall did nothing with the remainder of his career and Celestino continues to toil in the Red Sox farm system, but come on. Kotchman? Really? He was awful. We could have had anyone else playing first base in 2010. Anyone else. And chances are, they would have been better than Kotchman. Consider that.
Trade No. 19: June 22, 2010
Teams involved: Oakland Athletics
Assets relinquished: Cash
Assets acquired: 1B Tommy Everidge
Everidge was Triple-A filler who appeared in 29 major league games with the A’s the season prior to being obtained by the Mariners. Today, at 30 years of age, he’s trying to keep his career afloat in the independent leagues. Was the cash worth it? Guess that all depends on how much we spent.
Trade No. 20: June 26, 2010
Teams involved: Cleveland Indians
Assets relinquished: OF Ezequiel Carrera, INF Juan Diaz
Assets acquired: 1B Russell Branyan
After enjoying the services of Branyan in 2009, Zduriencik and staff realized early on in 2010 that they had a fever and the only cure was more Branyan.
Though the M’s had let Branyan walk in free agency prior to the ’10 campaign, they attempted to rectify their mistake by parting with two mid-level prospects in Carrera (previously obtained from the Mets in the J.J. Putz/Franklin Gutierrez deal) and Diaz. Both Carrera and Diaz have enjoyed cups of coffee in the bigs with Cleveland, but neither player seems to be on the brink of anything special.
Branyan, meanwhile, appeared in just 57 games with the Mariners in 2010, hitting just .215 with 15 home runs along the way — this, after batting .251 with 31 home runs in ’09.
Though the trade itself wasn’t horrible, the circumstances surrounding the move were. The M’s could have signed Branyan in the 2010 offseason and chose not to. Instead, they were forced to give up two minor leaguers who actually made the bigs to reacquire a player who wasn’t nearly as good in Year 2 as he was in Year 1. Ridiculous.
Trade No. 21: July 9, 2010
Teams involved: Texas Rangers
Assets relinquished: P Cliff Lee, P Mark Lowe, cash
Assets acquired: P Blake Beavan, INF Matt Lawson, P Josh Lueke, 1B Justin Smoak
Should Jack Zduriencik lose his job in the near future, this is yet another one of those trades that pundits will point to when evaluating the failures of the Zduriencik era. In hindsight (which, as we all know, is twenty-twenty), this deal has been all but a bust for the Mariners. At the time, however, the reviews of the transactions were mixed, though seemingly favored Seattle. So where did it all go wrong?
The key to the deal was Smoak, who was considered one of baseball’s top prospects in 2010. He was major league ready and appeared to be on the brink of stardom. He was supposed to become the Mariners’ first baseman of the future. As we all know now, he hasn’t been that at all, and may never be. At this point, his ceiling appears to be that of a serviceable starter, rather than the All-Star he was once projected to become.
Beavan was a former first round pick who had the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Now, though, the M’s would consider themselves lucky to be able to use him at the big league level. He hasn’t developed as planned and his talents are average, at best. Now 24, his potential is limited to back-end starter or relief pitcher.
Lawson was a throw-in to the deal who never materialized. He is now out of baseball.
Perhaps the most lucrative player obtained became Lueke, a reliever with a checkered past. Lueke enjoyed a mediocre 2011 campaign with the M’s, but really never proved worthwhile until after the season when he was sent to Tampa Bay for John Jaso. Jaso immediately became a fan favorite in Seattle, then was flipped for the second go-round with Mike Morse. Considering Lueke begat Jaso who begat Morse, this trade wasn’t a complete failure. Still, though, when you consider the chip the M’s had, an ace in Lee, the return haul was more than disappointing.
Trade No. 22: July 22, 2010
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox
Assets relinquished: INF Jack Hannahan
Assets acquired: Cash
Probably the best anyone could hope for when dealing a player of Hannahan’s caliber.
Trade No. 23: August 4, 2010
Teams involved: Philadelphia Phillies
Assets relinquished: 1B Mike Sweeney
Assets acquired: Cash
Though the 36-year-old Sweeney was a player of minimal future value to the Mariners at the time of his dealing, the first baseman had enjoyed enough success with Seattle and throughout his career that there was hope he could bring in more than just petty cash in a trade. Alas, that wasn’t the case at all. The Mariners took the money and ran, knowing there was little else Sweeney could provide for the ballclub going forward.
Trade No. 24: December 2, 2010
Teams involved: Colorado Rockies
Assets relinquished: INF Jose Lopez
Assets acquired: P Chaz Roe
No one cared that Roe was a nobody who would never materialize and would ultimately become a pitcher for the Laredo Lemurs of the independent American Association. Nope, all anyone cared about is that the team rid itself of the albatross that was Jose Lopez. By god, Slopez was an All-Star once.
Trade No. 25: December 12, 2010
Teams involved: St. Louis Cardinals
Assets relinquished: P Maikel Cleto
Assets acquired: SS Brendan Ryan
As mentioned earlier, Cleto’s greatest contribution to the organization after being obtained in the epic Putz/Gutierrez deal was in bringing us Ryan, who’s been a defensive stalwart at shortstop. Now a hard-throwing reliever that’s gone back and forth between the Cardinals and their Triple-A affiliate, Cleto’s ceiling is low enough to give the overwhelming victory in this trade to the Mariners.
Trade No. 26: December 21, 2010
Teams involved: San Diego Padres
Assets relinquished: C Rob Johnson
Assets acquired: Cash
Rob Johnson was supposed to be a good defensive catcher who would struggle with the bat. Problem is, he was actually a subpar defensive catcher who couldn’t hit worth a lick. That ultimately led to his being pawned off on San Diego, where he never became anything more than he was in Seattle.
Oddly enough, Johnson resurfaced a few weeks back with the Memphis Redbirds, St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate, where he was a battery mate of…Maikel Cleto.
Trade No. 27: March 2, 2011
Teams involved: Cleveland Indians
Assets relinquished: INF Matt Lawson, cash
Assets acquired: P Aaron Laffey
Lawson, acquired in the Cliff Lee with Texas, was a nobody going nowhere. In all likelihood, he was probably the throw-in to this deal, as well, a sweetener to the money being ponied up for the left-hander Laffey. Laffey joined the M’s and had an up-and-down half-season before being waived and claimed by the Yankees. He’s since embarked on an odyssey around baseball, playing in Kansas City, in New York with the Mets, in Toronto, back to the Mets, back to the Blue Jays, and now with the Dodgers organization.
Trade No. 28: July 29, 2011
Teams involved: Arizona Diamondbacks
Assets relinquished: OF Ryan Langerhans
Assets acquired: Cash
The worst part about the selling of Ryan Langerhans was the fact that his departure coincided with the rise of Mike Morse in Washington D.C. The move that brought Langerhans to Seattle was a disaster; the move that jettisoned him was none too surprising.
Trade No. 29: July 30, 2011
Teams involved: Detroit Tigers
Assets relinquished: P Doug Fister, P David Pauley
Assets acquired: P Charlie Furbush, INF Francisco Martinez, OF Casper Wells, PTBNL (P Chance Ruffin)
Yet another deal that has bombed in spectacular fashion for Zduriencik and Co., Fister is now one of the better pitchers in the American League, while only one-half of the return the Mariners netted is still part of the organization — Furbush and Ruffin remain, while Wells was waived in April, and Martinez designated for assignment in recent days.
Of the remaining assets, Furbush has established himself as a solid left-handed option out of the bullpen, while Ruffin appears to be little more than Triple-A filler at this point. Fister, of course, has continued to blossom with the Tigers, while Pauley’s 15 minutes ran out shortly after he was dealt to the Motor City (in an odd bit of news, Pauley was signed to a minor league deal by the M’s in 2012 before getting suspended for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy; Pauley is now a free agent).
It’s become en vogue as of late to cite this deal as the worst trade of the Zduriencik era. Though there are other contenders in the field, the continued excellence of Fister certainly makes this transaction one of the leaders in the clubhouse when it comes to futility.
Trade No. 30: July 31, 2011
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers
Assets relinquished: P Erik Bedard (Boston), P Josh Fields (Boston)
Assets acquired: IF/OF Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF Trayvon Robinson
Heralded as two could-be prospects upon their arrival, neither Chiang nor Robinson still exist in the M’s organization. Chiang was designated for assignment in 2012 and now toils in the Rangers’ organization. Robinson was dealt to Baltimore for Robert Andino, was was recently designated for assignment, himself. In all, the M’s have nothing to show for their dealing of a guy who, when healthy, was a serviceable big league starter, as well as a former first-round pick in Fields who now finds himself in the Astros’ bullpen.
Trade No. 31: August 31, 2011
Teams involved: Atlanta Braves
Assets relinquished: SS Jack Wilson
Assets acquired: PTBNL (INF Luis Caballero)
Caballero is just 20 years of age and, thus far, has only suited up for the Mariners’ Dominican Summer League team. At this point, he has to be considered a longshot to make the major leagues anywhere down the line.
Wilson, upon being dealt, was an aging shortstop who couldn’t hit and was on the verge of the end of his career. In Caballero, the Mariners were able to get about what anyone would expect them to get for a player of Wilson’s caliber.
Trade No. 32: November 27, 2011
Teams involved: Tampa Bay Rays
Assets relinquished: P Josh Lueke, cash
Assets acquired: C John Jaso
Reminiscent of the David Aardsma-Fabian Williamson swap of a couple years prior, Zduriencik found a diamond in the rough in Jaso and gave up little to obtain him. That Jaso would go on to land the M’s a middle-of-the-order power bat in Mike Morse a year later made the legend of this deal even greater. One of the better trades of Zduriencik’s tenure.
Trade No. 33: January 23, 2012
Teams involved: New York Yankees
Assets relinquished: P Jose Campos, P Michael Pineda
Assets acquired: C Jesus Montero, P Hector Noesi
It’s only been 16 months since this deal became official and yet the wheels have already fallen off for both teams. Pineda has yet to appear in a game for the Yankees because of his injury, but who really cares about the Yankees, anyway? Upon returning to action, Pineda can only hope to regain the form that made him an All-Star in his one season in Seattle. On top of that, the left-hander Campos has shown promise throughout his tenure in the minors and could make an impact down the line.
For the Mariners, the highly publicized travails of Montero culminated in his demotion to Triple-A Tacoma just a few days ago. His return to the big leagues is indefinite and may come later rather than sooner; a transition to learning first base could slow development, though the future is entirely dependent on Montero’s bat. Regardless, things don’t look so great right now for the former top prospect.
The only temporary hope for salvaging this deal comes in the form of Hector Noesi, who has struggled to be anything more than a bad major league pitcher over the past year-plus. If he can ever supplement raw ability with command of his pitches, he may just be able to figure things out. Until then, we cringe and we wait.
Like Justin Smoak before him, Jesus Montero’s success is inextricably linked to the fate of Jack Zduriencik. Should neither of these prospects bear fruit with the M’s, Zduriencik will be forced to go down with his metaphorical sinking ships.
Trade No. 34: July 23, 2012
Teams involved: New York Yankees
Assets relinquished: OF Ichiro Suzuki
Assets acquired: P Danny Farquhar, P D.J. Mitchell
To think that a legend with an expiring contract could only net the Mariners two journeymen pitchers is almost sad. The reality is, the organization was so paralyzed by Ichiro’s presence that disposing him for nearly nothing in return was the only option the Mariners saw to be viable. Hence, the Ichiro era hastily became the Danny Farquhar/D.J. Mitchell era.
Though Farquhar is trying to make a name for himself in the Mariners’ bullpen as we speak, Mitchell has already come and gone, having been waived by the M’s at the start of the 2013 season. Will Farquhar, a hard-throwing right-handed reliever, be able to justify the Ichiro trade on his own? It remains to be seen, but is certainly unlikely.
Who knows if the team could have received anything more for Ichiro had Ichiro been willing to play elsewhere (he did have to approve a trade to New York before it could be made). No matter, the reality is that this trade happened and there ain’t too much we can do about it now.
Trade No. 35: July 30, 2012
Teams involved: Toronto Blue Jays
Assets relinquished: P Steve Delabar
Assets acquired: OF Eric Thames
Delabar was a hard-throwing reliever who the Mariners plucked from the substitute teaching ranks (seriously, he was a teacher). Thames has never gotten a real solid look at the big league level, though has produced in Triple-A. Where will this trade take us down the line? Only time will tell.
Trade No. 36: July 30, 2012
Teams involved: Los Angeles Dodgers
Assets relinquished: P Brandon League
Assets acquired: P Logan Bawcom, OF Leon Landry
Both Bawcom and Landry are currently present in the Mariners’ farm system, Bawcom at Triple-A Tacoma, Landry at Double-A Jackson. Neither one, however, is forecasted for a future filled with stardom.
Perhaps the greatest travesty in dealing Brandon League for a pair of middle-of-the-road prospects is that just one year prior the organization could have dealt League for so much more. As an All-Star closer in 2011, League was in high demand around baseball. The M’s opted to hold onto League for reasons unknown and League rewarded them by regressing in 2012.
Maybe it’s just that the Mariners have never been great at selling high, or maybe they truly didn’t believe they were selling low on League. Either way, the team’s former closer hasn’t done much to hurt the M’s, having endured some equally awful ninth innings with the Dodgers.
Trade No. 37: November 20, 2012
Teams involved: Baltimore Orioles
Assets relinquished: OF Trayvon Robinson
Assets acquired: INF Robert Andino
In time, this trade will likely be forgotten about. Right now, however, it’s a total bust thanks to Andino being cut just a few short days ago. Who knows what Robinson may or may not become, the fact remains that he is still a member of the Orioles’ organization. Thus, one has to figure that the team could have installed damn near anyone else in their vacant utility infield role and spared themselves the relinquishing of an asset at the same time. Alas.
Trade No. 38: January 16, 2013
Teams involved: Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics
Assets relinquished: C John Jaso
Assets acquired: OF Mike Morse
Read above for all the details that led up to this trade. No need to elaborate further.
Trade No. 39: February 13, 2013
Teams involved: New York Yankees
Assets relinquished: P Shawn Kelley
Assets acquired: OF Abraham Almonte
Though Kelley may be an active big leaguer, he is what he is and will likely be nothing more than that. As that vague as that statement may be, Kelley’s ceiling has likely been reached; he’s destined to be, at his peak, a middle reliever on a big league club. While middle relievers are a necessity for any bullpen, they’re basically a dime a dozen. Giving up Kelley for a 23-year-old outfield prospect was entirely worth it.
We don’t yet know what Almonte’s future holds, but he has been hitting well at both Double-A and Triple-A so far this year. Whether or not that translates into a big league career remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Kelley was a guy who filled a roster spot while Almonte is a beacon of hope, if nothing more.
Trade No. 40: February 20, 2013
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox
Assets relinquished: OF Mike Carp
Assets acquired: Cash or PTBNL
Having not yet obtained the infamous Player to be Named Later in this deal, we don’t really know what we’ve acquired in return for Carp, whose time was basically up in Seattle. On the verge of his 27th birthday, it will be difficult for Carp to salvage his career and make the Mariners pay for giving up on him. But who knows. Stranger things have happened.
Trade No. 41: April 11, 2013
Teams involved: Colorado Rockies
Assets relinquished: P Steven Hensley
Assets acquired: P Aaron Harang, cash
Harang was brought to Seattle out of desperation: failures among the candidates filling the fifth spot in the team’s starting rotation necessitated an acquisition. Harang has been nothing if not inconsistent since arriving, providing a bit of an adventure each time he takes the mound. His starts range from a complete game shutout in his most recent outing to sub-five-inning blowups resulting in seven and eight runs, respectively, just a few appearances back. Whether or not Harang can provide a lift as the season wears on matters little — he’s here to eat innings and help us get through the summer, nothing more, nothing less.
Hensley is a 26-year-old right-handed reliever closing games for Colorado’s Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. Should he find his way to the bigs, his ceiling will be tempered by the fact that he’s just a bit too old to be considered a prospect anymore.
This trade happened. It was a thing. Long-term, it won’t matter at all.
Filed under: Mariners
In the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the title character, Borat Sagdiyev, imparts the story of his younger brother Bilo, a tragedy-stricken young man who lives in a cage. For years Bilo is taunted by his sister, Natalya, the No. 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan. Natalya, who has even earned a trophy for her whoring efforts, often dances before her confined sibling, flashing her “vazheen,” shouting, “You will never get this, you will never get it, la la la la la la!”
Restricted to a life behind cold, metal bars, Bilo cries. He cries, says Borat, as everybody laughs. And as they laugh, Bilo’s older sister issues a firm decree: “You never get this.”
As far as the Seattle Mariners are concerned, a .500 record might as well be their mystical “vazheen.” Like the cage that imprisons Bilo Sagdiyev, the M’s are seemingly bound to a certain cosmic futility that prevents them from achieving so much as sustained mediocrity. Forget division titles, wildcard berths, playoffs, or championships. No, the immediate goal should be much less than that. Every team has to start somewhere, and for the 2013 Mariners, success commences with a balanced record.
It’s almost cruel the way equilibrium toys with the Mariners. The last time the team had an even mark was way back on April 8, following a 3-0 disposing of the Houston Astros that brought the ballclub to a stable 4-4. Since then, the M’s have lost 20 of 36 games — bad enough to not feel good about things, but not so bad that par can’t easily be attained.
On May 16, just a few short days ago, the Mariners cut their win-loss deficit to a mere one game for the first time since a defeat on April 9 dropped the team to 4-5. Entering a weekend series in Cleveland, the team was poised to level its record anew. What happened next? If you’ve been following the fate of the club, you know all too well: three consecutive losses at the hands of the Indians, dropping the Mariners to four games under .500. It seems like every time the team chips away at their debt to victory, a losing streak rears its ugly head and sends the organization spiraling back down into the red.
For fans, remaining bullish despite such a bear market is difficult, to say the least. While some may write the team off in the heat of the moment, however, there are few who have truly given up on the Mariners. Hope springs eternal…at least through May, I suppose. Pessimism may surround losing, but there are plenty of reasons for fans to believe in a more optimistic future.
For starters, the Mariners have gaping holes at a number of positions. And while the holes themselves aren’t cause for celebration, the imminent patching of those holes should bring about a few smiles.
The most glaring void is at shortstop, where Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino have combined to hit the weight of a supermodel. Neither player has emerged as a winner in this slapfight for playing time, leading to public outcry for alternate solutions. Those alternatives can be found at Triple-A Tacoma, where Carlos Triunfel and Nick Franklin wait patiently for an opportunity with the big club.
Though fans ooze enthusiasm for the left-handed-hitting Franklin, the team may wait on their uber-prospect in favor of the more seasoned Triunfel. Once an uber-prospect himself, Triunfel has had his cup of coffee in the bigs and can provide serviceable ability with both the glove and the bat. Triunfel may not hit .300, but this lineup would be markedly improvement by even a .200 batting average at the shortstop position.
Catcher is another area where upgrades need to be made. Jesus Montero simply isn’t cutting it in the majors, whether as a starter or part-time backup. Montero has struggled all season with the bat (he’s currently hitting .210 with a .596 OPS), but it’s his defense that has warranted the most criticism of late. The 23-year-old has trouble making the routine plays behind the dish, which presents a whole new set of problems since the Mariners are oddly committed to Montero as a catcher.
The M’s stubbornness to keep a mitt on Montero’s left hand seems like it might be a ploy to boost his trade value. Long term, Montero has no future donning the tools of ignorance for Seattle. But with another organization? It’s possible. Hence, the franchise continues to believe in Montero, the catcher, rather than just Montero, the hitter. Either way, Jesus has not earned his roster spot with the bat nor the glove, so what’s he still doing here? It’s a question that has yet to be answered.
Finally, the back end of the starting rotation continues to be an area of weakness. Between the inconsistencies of a rookie (Brandon Maurer), the road woes of Joe Saunders, and the perpetual sadness that is Aaron Harang, the team could use some stability beyond their one-two punch of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
If a move is made in the near future, expect Harang to be the departing party. The 35-year-old right-hander appears to be in the twilight’s twilight of his career, and frankly if Harang can’t succeed in the pitcher-friendly confines of Seattle, where can he succeed?
The M’s have their share of Harang replacements grooming in Tacoma. The most immediate option could be 30-year-old reclamation project Jeremy Bonderman, who, if promoted, would essentially serve as a stopgap until a younger arm proved worthy of a call-up. Bonderman has been good, not great, in Triple-A; the same could be said for his more youthful teammates. Undoubtedly, fans would like to see top prospects Danny Hultzen or James Paxton make their Mariners debuts, but Hultzen has been on the disabled list since mid-April, while Paxton has had an up-and-down year.
Right now, the Rainiers’ best starting pitcher is probably 26-year-old right-hander Andrew Carraway. Carraway is as unassuming as they come, blessed with a low-nineties fastball and ho-hum off-speed pitches. He gets outs, though, and that’s all that really matters. Once upon a time the Mariners had another minor leaguer in the Carraway mold who you may remember, a guy by the name of Doug Fister. Carraway may not turn out to be a Fister clone, but if he induces blanks on the scoreboard, he could ease the pain of having to watch a pus-throwing Harang every five days.
Hesitation to pull the trigger on any of these promotions hangs on a variety of different reasons. Promoting Triunfel or Franklin would likely result in the team designating Andino for assignment, all but ending his tenure in Seattle. Demoting Montero would mean promoting an unproven backup in Jesus Sucre, or rushing Mike Zunino. And bestowing the fifth spot in the rotation to anyone not named Aaron Harang would mean entrusting significant innings pitched to a call-up with whom the ballclub may not have much faith. Each move comes with a bevy of question marks, yet each move has become warranted.
Change may be difficult for this team to embrace, but it’s time for change to occur. The M’s have been staying afloat with four key contributors (or three-ish, if you count Ryan and Andino as a tandem) doing almost no contributing. It’s unfair to keep everyone wondering what contributions in each of those roles could do for this ballclub. If nothing else, we have to believe that positive changes would lead this team to a .500 record. And from .500, who knows what’s next? Getting back to even has a way of becoming something more, something greater. Division titles, wildcard berths, playoffs, and championships all start with a .500 record or better. But for now, our goals remain simple.
The tale Borat Sagdiyev tells of his younger brother does not end with Bilo sobbing behind bars. Like all good tales, this one has a happy ending. Amidst daily taunts of “You will never get this,” Bilo perseveres in his quest for both his freedom and his sister’s vazheen. And then one day, one magical day, it happens. “One time,” reveals Borat, “he break cage and he ‘get this.’ And then we all laugh!”
It’s about time the Mariners break from their cage and “get this.” We could all use a good laugh.
Filed under: Mariners
I know how you feel, Sonics fans. I feel the exact same way. We’re frustrated, exhausted, angry, disappointed, all of the above. Why should we care about the NBA anymore? Why should we give a damn about David Stern and his godforsaken league? All valid questions. All valid reasons to walk away from this situation that won’t seem to find its happy ending.
Frankly, it would be easier to quit at this point then continue investing our energy in a dream that may never become a reality. It would be easier to throw our hands up, turn our backs on the Association, and be done with pro basketball altogether.
But what would that say about us? What would that say about the legacy of the hope we’ve kept alive all this time, this flame we’ve kept burning, this battle from which we’ve never backed down? Did Benny Rodriguez stop running when The Beast chased him? Did Frodo abort the journey to Mordor when he got tired? Did Phil, and Stu, and Alan give up when they were handed Black Doug in the middle of the Nevada desert? No, no, and no. There is no quit here. Now is not the time to stop fighting.
In all seriousness, and before we go any further, a reminder: The decision made yesterday by the NBA owners, the decision to deny the relocation of the Sacramento Kings, was wholly anticipated. Sure, we hoped that the owners would find it in their hearts (e.g. wallets) to allow the Kings to migrate north to Seattle, but we knew that result wasn’t likely. Ultimately, our suspicions were correct and relocation was voted down. Seattle’s prospective ownership group invested a ton in pushing for the move and sale of the Kings — money, time, resources, all of that. Likewise, Seattle fans like you and I invested a great deal of energy and emotion. It’s not easy to get rejected upon investing so much. But it happens. And now we need to move on.
There’s a future here. In order to embrace that future, we need to remain committed for the long haul. Yes, we had the Kings situation fall in our lap rather quickly amidst all this madness that commenced when Chris Hansen voiced his initial intention to purchase an NBA team. But that’s just one opportunity. It appears today that that opportunity may not come to be. Think of it like dating. You aren’t necessarily going to find your true love on your very first date. There’s an investment of time and emotion, not unlike the investment we’ve made to this basketball team of ours, that requires a certain amount of patience and resolve. We dated the Kings. We need to date someone else now.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Hansen and his ownership group have agreed to with King County and the City of Seattle allows for a five-year term in which a new arena can be built in Seattle’s SODO district. That term elapses in September, 2017, which essentially gives Hansen, et al, a little longer than four years to secure an NBA franchise. Per the terms of the MOU, once an NBA franchise is secured, ground can be broken on the construction of the new arena. That gives us our most important asset: time. We have time on our side. Time to find another existing team on the auction block, time to engage in expansion talks with the league, time to figure everything out. If nothing else, we have that.
Beyond a MOU and 50-some-odd months in our pocket, we should have more reasonable power players to deal with in the coming months. The hated Stern is on his way out, retiring in February. In his stead, the NBA’s new commissioner will be the seemingly more affable Adam Silver, who went so far as to profess his desire to bring basketball back to Seattle during yesterday’s press conference following the owners meeting. Who knows for sure if Silver will act upon his declarations, but just knowing his predecessor is out of the picture is encouraging. David Stern hates Seattle and we, in turn, hate him. Having that evil little bastard depart for old age can only make the prospect of a Sonics return much more viable going forward.
Power players aren’t just limited to the NBA, however. In Seattle, the political charge is spearheaded by Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine. With these two individuals working hand-in-hand with Hansen’s group, the climate around a Sonics return will always be favorable. It should be noted that 2013 is an election year, though. To ensure a continued favorable political climate, it wouldn’t hurt to cast a vote for our friends in office. But hey, don’t let me influence you or anything.
Finally, we have us, the fans. We’re as critical to the future of the Sonics as anyone with billion dollar bankrolls or governmental wherewithal. It’s up to us to keep the nation aware of our existence, to remind the NBA what they lost when they let Clay Bennett march into town, deceive everyone, and steal our team. We need to keep sporting the green-and-gold colors, keep rocking the gear, keep reminiscing about the greatness that was 41 years of local basketball history. Without the fans, without our spirit, the Seattle Supersonics are nothing more than a fading memory. We are responsible for keeping hope alive. I implore you to not give up.
This will happen. The Sonics will return. There is no doubt in mind. Keep fighting the good fight, sports fans. Our day will come soon and when it does, all of this will be worth it.
Forever and always, Go Sonics.
Filed under: Sonics
With all due respect to Steve Ballmer, the Nordstrom family, minority stakeholders, ex-players, political figures, activists, media members, and anyone else who has helped lead the charge to bring the Sonics back to Seattle, I have to dedicate the following letter of thanks to one man, Chris Hansen. Without Chris, none of this “Bring Back the Sonics” mania even exists. Without Chris, we aren’t sitting here trying to wrap our collective heads around the real possibility that we may get our beloved green-and-gold-clad squad back. And without Chris, we lack the most important thing we need to keep the memory of our team and the prospect of its return alive: hope.
I still remember the day that Chris Hansen came riding into town on a proverbial white horse, seemingly out of nowhere, determined to bring the Sonics back to our fair city. It’s been more than a year. The first time I wrote about the guy was February 9th, 2012. I didn’t even know him, but I wanted to hug him. He got me believing in something that had been comatose, on life support. Who knew if the Sonics would ever come back? It had been three-and-a-half years since they’d left and the political climate from both ends of the spectrum — in Seattle, and with the NBA — was far from favorable.
But then this dude, this hedge fund manager, this guy no one knew — Who? Chris Hansen? The Dateline guy? The predator catcher? — changed all that.
I can’t be more clear about this. I don’t care what Chris Hansen does from this moment forward. I don’t care how he’s gone about trying to get our team back. I. Don’t. Care. The fact is, he’s made one hell of an effort. He’s put this entire town, this entire citizenry of basketball fans, upon his shoulders and carried us to this point. He’s done what no one before him could do. He’s made those who wanted to say “No,” say “Yes.” He’s forced non-believers to believe and believers to believe more. He’s been, if nothing else, inspirational.
It doesn’t all come down to today. Today, the NBA owners decide whether or not the Sacramento Kings can be relocated to Seattle. A vote in favor of relocation would pave the way for Hansen and Co. to buy the team, unencumbered, from the Maloof family. A vote against relocation would essentially allow for a Sacramento-based group led by Vivek Ranadive (and, let’s face it, mayor Kevin Johnson) to seize the team from the Maloofs, assuming the Maloofs would be willing to relinquish their asset to said group. A vote for the latter is what’s expected, the latter that likewise favors the opposition. Regardless of what decision is voted upon, however, there will be backlash. So no, this won’t be over on Wednesday. Not at all.
But let’s say the vote, as anticipated, were to favor Sacramento, not Seattle. And let’s say that the NBA, as anticipated, tried their hardest to get the Maloofs to sell the Kings to Ranadive’s group. Let’s say expansion failed to appear as a viable near-term option. And let’s say that, by Thursday, the situation looked bleak, at best. If Chris Hansen were to give up at that very moment, I wouldn’t blame him. I’d be a little surprised, but I wouldn’t blame him for walking away. And when I looked back upon Hansen’s legacy, I’d be happy for what he gave us over the course of a year-and-a-half. Because he’s given us a ton.
I don’t think Chris will give up, though. I don’t think he’ll quit. Not until the Sonics are more than just a memory. Not until there’s an NBA team inhabiting our city once again. What Chris Hansen and his cohorts have done is beyond amazing. They’ve given us hope, yes. But they’ve also given us clout with a league that turned its back on us just a few short years ago. They’ve given us a voice, they’ve made the world take notice. We’ve scratched and clawed our way back to relevance when it comes to professional basketball, and that’s thanks in large part to one individual who was brought to action by his own bubbling source of civic pride.
Maybe that’s why it will be damn near impossible to ever speak one ill word of Chris Hansen. Because unlike so many other guys who have propped themselves upon pedestals high above us average Seattleites, Hansen is one of us. He cares about this cause as much as we do. He loves Seattle as much as we do. He’s as average as they come, as average as the rest of us, and yet above-average in so many ways. As far as I’m concerned, this guy can do whatever the hell he wants. He’s a saint in my book. He deserves a holiday in his honor. Preferably something in August, because August needs a goddamn holiday. Who wants a day off in August? I know I do. Saint Hansen Day sounds like a good way to spend a summer afternoon.
No matter what happens today, tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, I have two words for you, Chris: Thank you. You’ve made all of this possible. You’ve brought a legion of fans together. You’ve united a city. You’ve given us passion, you’ve given us fuel, you’ve given us reason to believe. We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude and I can’t tell you how much all of this means to us. We are the Sonics, all of us. You, me, every fan emblazoned with the Seattle skyline in a green-and-gold semi-circle. Until our ballclub returns, this team is thousands upon thousands deep.
As they say in one of my favorite movies, Remember the Titans, “attitude reflects leadership.” You have led us remarkably. And we are one badass group of basketball fans.
Thanks, Chris. Go Sonics.
Filed under: Sonics
You know those “Jesus is _____” bumper stickers? Every time I see one of those, I want to walk up with a pen and write “only hitting .203″ on the blank line. Sure, the vehicle’s owner might not get nor appreciate the joke, but hey, don’t buy a fill-in-the-blank bumper sticker next time.
In fact, you could make all sorts of “Jesus is” wisecracks when it comes to Mariners catcher Jesus Montero. Jesus is 0-for-15 in throwing out stealing base runners. Jesus is unable to hit a curveball. Or how about this one: Jesus is destined for Triple-A. It’s that last “Jesus is” that might be most concerning. But based on current circumstances, it should become the team’s reality.
Montero has been abysmal both offensively and defensively in 2013. He hasn’t hit for average or for power, and he hasn’t even been close to adequate behind the plate. As alluded to earlier, Montero has yet to nab a base-stealer in 15 tries and has often looked stiff and uncomfortable receiving pitches. Were he hitting .300 with a handful of home runs, no one would care that the 23-year-old was providing less-than-serviceable defense. But as the owner of a .203/.250/.324 slash line, Montero certainly isn’t atoning for his shortcomings in the field right now.
Recently, it’s been rumored that manager Eric Wedge has been pressured from the organization’s front office to play Montero on a more frequent basis. Montero has received (note: not earned) a slight bump in playing time, taking about two-thirds of the starts to backup Kelly Shoppach’s one-third. Even with increased opportunity, however, the second-year big leaguer has yet to deliver. In his past 10 games, the ex-Yankee is performing no more remarkably than he was at the season’s outset, compiling a .194 batting average along the way (though, in fairness, he has belted his only two home runs of the year in that span). Nevertheless, settling in around the Mendoza Line does not a major leaguer make. Montero doesn’t necessarily have to hit for both average AND power (it’d be nice, though), but he can’t get by with a sub-.200 line.
Aside from his hitting struggles, where player and team have most failed to align is in their commitment to one another. The franchise seems committed to giving Montero a long look at catcher. Montero, meanwhile, seems committed to proving he is not that at all. Rock, meet hard place. The end result of this mutual stubbornness is a big ol’ crap sandwich. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Everyone and their mother knows that the M’s catcher of the future currently resides at Triple-A Tacoma. The uber-prospect that is Mike Zunino has had an up and down start to his 2013 campaign. This isn’t unanticipated. Zunino has yet to play a full season in the pros, and were all to go according to plan, he wouldn’t see his first action at Safeco Field until 2014. Problem is, Montero’s struggles have accelerated the demand for a Zunino call-up.
Zunino and Montero are mutually exclusive entities. No one should believe a demotion of Montero will necessarily result in a promotion of Zunino. Montero has done nothing to earn his spot on the big league roster, however, and shouldn’t be here anymore. Not if this team is truly committed to winning.
It’s clear that if the Mariners really want Montero to experience life behind the plate, he should be playing every single day. It’s also clear that, based on the way he’s been playing, Montero has done very little to warrant an everyday spot in the lineup. Therefore, all signs point to sending Montero to the minors, giving the majority of the big league starts (for now) to Kelly Shoppach, and promoting anyone else with a pulse not named Zunino to be Shoppach’s understudy. In this case, that might be Triple-A backup Jesus Sucre, who is nothing special with the bat, but can actually live up to his job title and, you know, catch.
Of course, this begs the question of what to do with Zunino in the interim. If Montero and Zunino share a clubhouse, only one can log time behind the plate. Fact is, the Mariners need to make a hard call on their catchers. Could they teach Montero how to play first base? Maybe. Could they let both players work on their hitting while splitting time as backstops? Possibly. Could they send Montero to Double-A to work on his receiving skills? That’s also an option. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter what the organization does so long as they jettison Montero to the farm and prove to both players and fans that they a) want to give opportunities to the most deserving players, and b) believe the 2013 Mariners aren’t losers. Seriously. Because, to date, the current regime has never shown much in the way of faith for their ballclub, regardless of how many wins the team can string together at any given moment. It’s about time they display some commitment to a winning mentality, and that starts by demoting those who deserve to be demoted.
Jesus is not for long in the big leagues. It’s time the Mariners filled in the blank.
Filed under: Mariners
I hate losing. I once sat in a 1991 Toyota Previa in the Factoria Square parking lot and bawled for an hour because I had pitched poorly in a Little League game and had cost my team a victory. My family went inside to eat dinner and I stayed in the van, refusing to eat, refusing to move. I don’t do well with defeat. I never have. Even now, there is little that can be done to assuage me when my team so much as drops a rec basketball game. I will either a) sit in grim silence for an entire car ride home, or b) verbally break down every single thing that went wrong on our failed quest for triumph. My friends deserve a lot of credit for dealing with that version of me that, to this day, struggles to cope with losing.
I guess in many ways it’s ironic that I am a Seattle sports fans — I don’t know how to lose, and seemingly all my teams do is just that. My whole life, I’ve encountered failure from these entities I hold so dear to me, and yet I’ve never learned how to accept the bitter taste of defeat. I sat through an entire childhood of Seahawks futility, labored through thousands (literally, thousands) of Mariner losses, had seats in the upper level for every home game of the only 0-12 season in University of Washington football history, then paid witness to the ultimate heartbreak when the Sonics were taken from us and moved to Oklahoma City.
When I started this website and began writing in a public forum, I didn’t really know what would happen next. On the day I embarked upon this journey — November 12th, 2008, officially — Seattle was in a rut. We were only a couple months removed from losing the Sonics, in the midst of that fateful 0-12 Husky football campaign, had just suffered through a 100-loss Mariners season, and were on the verge of watching the Seahawks put together a miserable 4-12 finish. Things were worse than usual and I felt compelled to share my emotions. For me, it was the only way to cope with, at that time, 24 years of misery come to a head.
Over the course of four-and-a-half years, I’ve witnessed firsthand what bonding over tragedy truly looks like. We tend to think of the loss of human life as one of the few instances where the term “tragedy” applies. On a much smaller (and undoubtedly, less important) scale, however, losing a game, a playoff berth, or a team is viewed as a tragedy in the microcosmic world of your typical sports fan. Knowing that, Seattle sports fans must be some of the most grief-stricken people in the history of organized athletics. We should be miserable. At all times. And occasionally we do get that way. But for all the shit we go through so frequently, there is this perpetual hope existing amongst all of us that bears mentioning. It is not at all insignificant in its existence.
I remember the day the Sonics left town back in 2008. I didn’t mourn that day, or anytime shortly thereafter. It took me until the opening day of the ’08-’09 season to realize that we weren’t getting our team back anytime soon. Up to that point, I had refused to accept the inevitable. I just could not do it. That might make me the least credible person in the world when it comes to saying what I’m about to say, but screw it, I’ll say it anyway.
I may be naive. I may be on an island. I may be the only one who still believes after the events of Monday afternoon that Seattle is destined to get its NBA team back. But I truly have faith that this good thing, this return, is going to happen. I have no sound logic behind my faith, because really, that’s not what faith is. Faith is believing in something not knowing if that thing actually exists. Faith is blind and sometimes stupid and often irrational and possibly inane. But faith is necessary. Faith exists to give us hope and reason to get up each morning. Faith exists to make us smile even though we’re sad, to persevere when times are tough. I have faith that, even though the NBA has told us we won’t get someone else’s basketball team on this day, we will still get our Sonics back.
On this day, things kind of suck. We’re hurting, and no one wants to hurt. We’ve been down this road before, this path to what appears to be yet another tragic ending. All along, though, we’ve never given up. This city and its fans have pulled together time and time again for reasons unknown. We’ve bonded in moments of adversity on countless occasions and we’ve done so with little more than faith holding us together. I don’t really know what it means to be truly exceptional, but I like to think that Seattle sports fans are exactly that. We don’t settle for the tragedy of losing. We fall, and then we rise again. Every single time. So why should this time be any different?
If the NBA spurns us — if the NBA spurns Seattle and Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer and all the good people who have made this new arena we’re going to build a reality — it will be a blow to our collective psyche that I don’t want to try to process right now. It appears today that the NBA may be one step closer to disappointing us, but I like to think there’s something else going on, something good, that maybe we don’t know about yet.
I have this unreasonable amount of hope for us. I know that. I may be foolish for that. Whatever. When you’ve been through as much crap as we have, there really is no other way to approach obstacles as they present themselves.
I believe in Seattle. I believe in Seattle’s sports fans. We are strong individually and even stronger together. We’re destined for good, I just know it.
So I leave you with this clip. As dumb as it is, it makes sense on this day. Because nothing is over until we say it is.
Filed under: Other Sports
Before reading the following, I encourage you to read Jason Collins’ first-person piece in Sports Illustrated, the article announcing the 34-year-old’s sexuality. No matter your stance on the issue, the article is incredibly well-written, insightful, and moving. Aside from such a groundbreaking announcement, Collins’ personal reflection is admirable and intelligent. The column should serve not just as a revelation in its message, but also as a lesson in self-awareness. Regardless of Collins’ status as a professional athlete, it’s absolutely clear through the strength of his voice and the content of his character that he is more than capable of being a vocal leader in the gay community. Props to Jason Collins on being a trailblazer and, in his words, starting the conversation.
Jason Collins is the first athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay and my first reaction is not one of shock over his sexuality, but shock that he still plays in the NBA. Because in all honesty, I thought Collins had long since gone the way of Mouhamed Sene and departed for a league overseas or the sanctity of retirement. Alas, to my stunned surprise, that isn’t the case at all. In reality, Collins is still an active NBA player. Imagine that.
My reaction is just one of a litany of reactions that will be inspired by Collins’ announcement. Personally, I don’t care whether a guy is gay, straight, or what-have-you. Maybe that’s why I was more shocked to learn that Collins is still an active NBA player as opposed to a former one — my ignorance is limited to Jason Collins, NBA player, rather than Jason Collins, gay NBA player.
In general, we’re progressing as a society. The world hasn’t stopped dead in its tracks with Collins’ revelation coming to light this morning. A quick gauge of my Twitter feed shows that people are just as concerned with the likes of Tim Tebow getting cut by the Jets as they are about a gay basketball player. Maybe that says more about Tebow and the media spin cycle (thanks, ESPN) than it does our views on sexuality, but I choose to believe that this is less a show-stopping news story than it is a natural progression. We know that a statistically significant percentage of the population identifies as homosexual. In acknowledging that, we understand that in every sport there will always be gay athletes. Whether or not those athletes choose to come forth with information on their personal lives is what makes this news.
For those of us who identify as straight, there is no comprehending the weight of the decision that individuals face when coming out. We can listen and react. We can express compassion or malevolence, countenance or condemnation. But we cannot truly empathize. Being straight doesn’t require an unveiling. Being straight doesn’t cause others to reevaluate how they feel about you. Straightness is an assumption we make of just about everyone until proven otherwise. So to minimize what Collins has done on this day would be incredibly stupid.
No matter how we choose to interpret his announcement, there is no denying that a heavy dose of gravity sat upon Collins’ shoulders as this revelation was being considered. In opting to thwart secrecy and face the unexpected, Jason Collins is many things for which we only have so many descriptors: brave, heroic, a pioneer. None of these defining terms miss their mark. They are as accurate as the words we use to describe Collins’ physical traits on the basketball court: tall, strong, energetic, rugged. We all may not ooze emotion in finding out that Collins, or any athlete for that matter, is homosexual. But we should take a moment to acknowledge the magnitude of what this individual has struggled with in preparing for this announcement. It is not insignificant.
As mentioned earlier, there will be a litany of reactions inspired by Collins and his sexuality. It’s crazy to think that the life choices of one solitary individual who, as recently as yesterday mattered very little to us, now have such an amazing impact on so many. Thing is, we don’t know Jason Collins. We aren’t impacted by his actions or his life choices. He’s just another guy. He made a courageous announcement — many of us will applaud that and move on. With any luck, there will be others who hear Collins’ message and are given the courage to face similar revelations with as much aplomb.
At the same time, there are those who will be upset over this announcement, those who can’t process what this means for sports or humanity, those who are filled with intolerance for reasons that people like you and I may never fathom. Those people will always exist. Those people are the reason why this announcement is considered groundbreaking, why it’s new and important, why it’s worth a feature on the cover of Sports Illustrated. As a society, we’re lucky Jason Collins has opted to speak up so publicly. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s unfortunate that we have yet to achieve a point in our history where this is considered normal. Perhaps we’re on the way there today.
This one announcement by a journeyman center will bring out the best and the worst in us. Jason Collins was tested every day he lived a life shrouded in secrecy. He passed that test and overcame any doubts or fears he had when this decision to come out — to everyone — was made.
Now it’s our turn to be tested. We will be tested in the way we react to a guy that has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game over the course of a 12-year pro career. From a basketball perspective, all that should matter is whether or not Collins can keep crashing the glass, putting the ball in the hoop, and setting the blistering screens that have kept him on NBA rosters since 2001. From a societal perspective, all that should matter is that Collins seems like a good dude who happens to be well-spoken and well-rounded, alike.
Can we pass this test? Let’s hope so.
Filed under: Other Sports
This is not looking good. I’ve been feverishly checking my inbox and have yet to run across a 100-page manifesto on the failures of local sports journalists, a manifesto I was expecting to receive no later than today. Granted, there’s still a ton of time before Friday comes to a close, but the situation is grim, to say the least.
I don’t even know what to think right now. I’ve gone to all this trouble clearing 100 pages of online space right here on this site and now? Now I’m at a loss as to how I’ll fill that space if my columnist doesn’t come through.
You may be wondering how I came to be fortunate enough to be promised a 100-page manifesto in the first place. Great question.
It all started on Tuesday night, when our would-be author John Stringer (@johnpstringer on the Twitter) went on a rampage, sending a flurry of tweets to a handful of local media members, including our good friend Ryan Divish. Stringer, it seemed, had a problem with Divish’s lack of subjectivity (???) towards the Mariners and let him know about it in a less-than-friendly manner. That spawned a revolt of sorts from Divish and his colleagues (myself, included), which led to the following pledge:
@ryandivish then where is your negativity about this team??? I havent read 1 line of it from you or anyone else..over the last decade?
— John Stringer (@johnpstringer) April 24, 2013
@johnpstringer If you can’t give examples of how that’s being done, your point is moot. I want a 10-page paper with references by tomorrow.
— Seattle Sportsnet (@alexSSN) April 24, 2013
@johnpstringer Then do it. I’ll give you til Friday. email@example.com. Send it there.
— Seattle Sportsnet (@alexSSN) April 24, 2013
As you can see, plain as day, we were promised a 100-page paper. Now, the deadline for this paper was set by me, which as I would later mention to John, comes with the territory. Having worked for a newspaper before, I can tell you that deadlines are not often in the writer’s control. That’s why I initially offered John the opportunity to write a 10-page paper, as opposed to something ten times bigger. But John being the ambitious sort opted to go the extra mile, which I can certainly respect. However, his failure to follow through up to this point is disconcerting. Who knows for sure, though. Maybe he’s feverishly scripting his manifesto as we speak. Let’s hope. Because people are legitimately excited about this manifesto:
I gotta be honest, as completely idiotic as this guy and his point are, if he ACTUALLY sends @alexssn a 100 page paper I’ll love him forever
— Tyler Hansen (@Thans3) April 24, 2013
Regardless, if fans are going to hold journalists to a certain level of unattainable accountability, then demand that those same journalists simply “do their job” to an ambiguous standard set by those without the credibility to determine such a standard, well, two can play that game.
You have thirteen hours remaining, John.
Filed under: Other Sports
Over the past decade, the Mariners have been really, really, really good at spawning anger and dissent amongst their fan base. Really good. I can’t tell you how good they’ve been at this. To the credit of the affected population, rather than commit crimes or go on villainous rampages, fans have taken to the world wide web to voice their displeasure for the organization, because frankly, what else is this online environment good for, anyway?
You’d think that people would be relatively unified in their angst over a team that hasn’t been to the postseason in twelve years, but that’s not the case at all. So what if we all agree that the team sucks? Some people out there don’t agree enough. Some people out there show signs of occasional optimism, others show too much pessimism, some aren’t as critical as we’d like them to be, others are far too critical. We can agree that the Mariners are bad, but we can’t agree on the way in which we all agree about that very thing we originally agreed upon. If this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.
The internet tells me that Albert Einstein once defined insanity as the act of doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. If that definition holds true, then Mariner fans have literally gone insane over the better part of this millennium. Since Y2K hit (Remember Y2K? That was a fun time…), the M’s have finished dead last in their division seven times in thirteen tries. By the same token, they have finished first just once. Four of those last place finishes have come in the past five years, including three straight heading into 2013. As the team has done the same thing over and over again, fans have expected different results. And in expecting otherwise, we’ve driven ourselves mad.
The craziest of the crazy aren’t so much fanatics as they are trolls. For the uninitiated, a troll is defined by Urban Dictionary as “one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” In the case of today’s trolls, the act of trolling is frequently taken off message boards and brought to the forefront of public consciousness through social media. Twitter, especially, has become a breeding ground for the troll community. Unlike message boards, Twitter provides trolls a distinct following in the form of, well, followers. Whereas on the boards it can often be hard to gauge how many people are paying close attention to the “deliberately provocative” messages one happens to be spewing, Twitter ensures that there is always a dedicated group of people devoted to the “maximum disruption” being caused.
On another level, Twitter gives trolls access to the people they most want to argue with. Fans, media, and the team itself are targets for the disruption and argument trolls seek to cause. Beyond simply ejaculating non-sensical ire to the masses, trolls can direct their attacks to specific individuals or groups and needle the shit out of them for any reason they desire. This isn’t anything new, of course. This sort of thing has happened since Twitter was invented, and likewise has occurred for generations in other formats: letter writing to a media outlet, phone calls to the newspaper, emails to TV stations, etc. And we all know that voicing displeasure is much easier when a certain level of anonymity is secured. Trolls have always existed, however it’s the internet — and to another degree, Twitter — that grants them more anonymity with greater impact than any other forum.
While every sports team has its trolls, the Mariners and their losing ways seem to breed more trolls than most ball clubs. For the antithesis of this, we need look no further than right across the street from Safeco Field. If the Mariners are your typical Seattle sports fan’s most acute pain point, then the Seahawks are surely the foil to that.
The Seahawks win, they’re fun to watch, they’ve been relatively successful for over a decade now, and they breed positivity moreso than troll-dom. Where the Seahawks are concerned, there is very little in the way of fan dissent. Contrary to the Mariners, we all agree that the Seahawks are great. And in being great, we don’t have a whole heckuva lot to argue about. When it comes to our football team, we rarely argue. Sure, Seahawk trolls exist. But with each passing victory, their voices are squelched beneath the tenor of jubilation. We celebrate wins and the trolls can’t help but join in and be happy. Winning, it appears, cures all ills.
The Mariners could certainly eliminate fan antipathy by winning games, there’s no doubt about that. But after so many years of futility, the sentiment they’re most in danger of treading upon is fan apathy. People don’t care that the M’s suck anymore. They’ve stopped coming to games, they’re not tuning into increasingly-frequent blowout losses, they really do have more important things to worry about than a last-place baseball team. This is where the trolls intervene…in a positive way.
The one good thing about those looney bastard trolls is that they prevent apathy from spreading to the entire fan base. Their lives revolve around the Mariners (or, more accurately, revolve around criticizing the Mariners) and so they continue to vomit Mariner vitriol upon all who will listen, willingly or otherwise. With each message they send the team, with each tweet they direct towards a media member, with each reasonable fan they drag into their cesspool of stupidity, they actually keep the team relevant. Again, I’ll go back to a statement I made earlier: if this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. For all the conspiracy theories they passionately believe in, for all the hate they hold in their heart, for all the trouble they cause and havoc they create, these trolls are pivotal to keeping a flailing franchise afloat. Were it not for the trolls, would anyone be tuning in to watch a game? Who knows for sure. All we really know is that the team is struggling, many people couldn’t care less, and the few times those who consider ourselves sound of mind are compelled to talk about the squad is when some nutjob goes on a rampage about trading Felix Hernandez for a bag of crap, promoting a prospect from Single-A, or berating Ryan Divish for drinking Kool-Aid (if you were on Twitter on Monday night, you might know a little bit about that last bit of craziness).
Fact is, there are three common truths about trolls that we can all agree upon: 1) most of us despise trolls, 2) most of the time, trolls perform their due diligence in earning our loathing, and 3) the Mariners have spawned more trolls than any other professional team in Seattle sports history.
Until success finds its way to this organization, expect more of the same silly behavior from everyone driven insane by a ball club that can’t separate itself from failure. Losing and trolls go hand-in-hand, which in turn means the Mariners and trolls go hand-in-hand. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the trolls need this team to not win and the team, for relevance’s sake, needs its trolls.
Filed under: Mariners
Playing baseball on Sunday afternoons until the sky turned red and the shadows disappeared. Until my arm ached from hundreds and hundreds of tosses (forget pitch counts) and my legs tired from all the running. Until dirt stained my socks and sweat softened the bill of my cap.
I remember laughing for no reason and shouting for fun. Chasing ground balls and fly balls and bugs and just about anything else that was deemed worth chasing.
I think about diving into the grass over and over again, trying wholeheartedly to snag pop-ups that fell just out of reach. It wasn’t about the catch; it was about the leap and the fall. It was about the cushion that the cool, green earth somehow provided. That feeling of hitting the ground and caring about nothing else in the world besides getting up and doing it again.
These were nights when my biggest concern was making sure my homework got done. A set of math problems, a few lines of cursive, a book report on Maniac Magee, reproduced to the ignorance of my teachers on multiple occasions.
In the background, light standards would hum with electricity, their buzz commingling with the shrieks and yelps of those of us too young to worry about staying quiet for any amount of time.
The air would grow increasingly crisp as the hours wore on, the scent of a grill permeating the twilight, calling us to dinner without a word being uttered. We only ate when the playing stopped; barbecue in the springtime had a way of stopping the playing.
We would fight over nothing, make up minutes later after shoving and pouting, then return to the vagary of turning sticks into swords and trees into enemies.
These are the nights when I think about my memories here, all located in one neat little area of the map that sits between mountains and surrounds a sound. This is the one place on the globe that my spring nights are consistent, dating back forever and ever — or nearly three decades, if counting is a must.
See, when tomorrow hits and Monday morning lands squarely upon our calendars, we’ll go back to being adults. Our issues will center around work and finances and all sorts of varying realities. When it comes to sports, we’ll fret over a struggling Mariners squad and the fortunes of the NBA in this town of ours. We’ll agonize over so many things we can’t control and turn the littlest issues into the biggest deals. All of that will happen and we’ll accept it, because it’s who we are now.
But for today, for tonight, for every seemingly perfect spring evening that passes through this haven we call home, we can be young again. Enjoy the innocence.
Filed under: Other Sports