Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I fail to see the fascination with Rich Aurilia. Sure he's got a little more pop in his bat than Carlos but he's 32 years old and makes 2.5 times the money. Reports in the papers state that the M's want to go after him because he's "been in the middle of the Giants playoff teams". If this is indeed the reason to go after Aurilia my Bavasi centered fears continue to climb.

The only good news is that the M's are only offering a 1 year deal. If we had a competent GM then I'd think we were preparing to make a run at Nomar next year, however we have Bavasi so I think there is no real plan in place except to get rid of Carlos. I'm still trying to figure out why getting rid of a cheap, serviceable shortstop became priority issue #1 for this team. Oh yeah, I forgot that the M's had no plan this offseason.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Dave's blog has broken down the moves so far of the AL West teams. Wow, the A's have lost a bunch of players. The offseason is far from over but their hitting looks very bad right now.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

By the way, Steve has changed the name of his blog to Mariners Wheelhouse. If you haven't been checking, he has been doing some good posts through the holidays. Thanks Steve!

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I'm on vacation for another week and I hope to get even more relaxed :)

Watching the Seahawks yesterday reminded me of how precarious I think the Mariners situation is. The Seahawks were a major draw in Seattle for years, but a number of losing seasons brought the popularity of the team to a devastating low. The Sonics teams of Payton and Kemp were extremely popular. It seems to me that the formula for making money with pro sports in Seattle is incredibly straightforward - win and you will be popular.

For not recognizing the team's weaknesses, the Mariners have been out of the playoffs for two years now. The last similar stretch they had was the 1998-1999 seasons. Of course Safeco Field was new during the '99 season and in 2000 they went to the playoffs. Here is the attendance trend in the Safeco Field era:
Year  Game Ave.  Total

1999 35,999 2,915,908
2000 35,983 3,148,317
2001 43,362 3,512,326
2002 43,710 3,540,482
2003 40,351 3,268,509
(via baseball-almanac.com)

Missing the playoffs in 2002 looks like it had an effect on the 2003 attendance. I think this trend will continue this year. Mariner attends always starts slow in the cold April weather. In both '02 and '03 the M's go off to great starts, which helped bring the fans in. Will this happen again this year? The Mariners have a truly great situation right now with their fans - but this is not Chicago or Boston. If the current trend continues and the Mariners continue to miss the playoffs the fans will not be there.

I've often said over the past few years that the strength of the Mariners pitching will always keep them at least competitive. The departure of Cameron has me wondering if this is really true. Yes, Safeco is a pitchers park, but the effectiveness of the Mariners defense cannot be denied. Winn in center and to a lesser extent Spiezio at third is going to have an impact. It's not clear that the offence this year has been upgraded enough to simply cover this gap, much less cause a move to the "next level" that Mariners fans have been waiting for.

There will be good things to watch this year, and indeed, in a diminished AL West, the M's could compete. The question that the M's front office needs to ask themselves is how long will competing be enough.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Just some housekeeping while we try to figure out what Guillen did to become the most hated man in the the Seattle front office - isn't this the guy that played through TB for an entire season??

I've added a bunch of links to the sidebar, including all of our Mariners blog brothers. I've also set up an RSS feed for you fellas that prefer to take your blogs with a news aggregator (I use NetNewsWire on my Mac). The feed is via a service from BaseballBlogs.org. They can hook you up even if your blogging tool does not support RSS (like Blogger).

I'm on holiday now with family and I can't tell how much I'll be able to post. If I don't see you, Happy Holidays!

Basic stream of consciousness entry today....

Firstly, thanks Mike for updating the template. It's much easier to read now. Secondly Merry Christmas, happy New Year and the generic "Happy Holidays" to everyone. I'll be sporadically writing until after the 1st of the year. Now on to the M's.

Various people are slapping themselves on the back about Freddy's one year deal for the same salary as last year. Frankly I'm not that enthused about it. Paying a guy worth $3 to $4 million a year, $6.875 million doesn't seem to be an act worthy of congratulations. Various scribes have mentioned that several other teams would have bid up his price if he was allowed to enter the free agent market and he would have "earned" an increase if he'd gone to arbitration. They also mention that he's more "tradable" now. Frankly I dispute all the above. I don't think the bidding would have gone over $4 million a year for his services, I don't think he stood a chance in winning an arbitration contest and I don't see why over paying him by 100% makes him more tradable. About the only argument I can't dispute is that the M's wouldn't have done anything better with the money so they may as well give it to Freddy instead of getting Derek Bell.

There are also kudos going around for the Ichiro signing. Reading between the lines leads me to believe that this was entirely a Yamauchi deal. He dictated that Ichiro was going to get a long term deal, not go to arbitration and get higher than market value. Hey, it's his money just don't throw the whole "budget" thing at the fans during the year when we know there is flexibility.

The continued efforts to trade Guillen perplex me. He must have really pissed someone off in the organization. The names being thrown about (Visquel, Aurilla, Valentin) just don't seem to amount to anything resembling a significant upgrade.

Having locked up most of the starting 25 the M's have very few areas left to upgrade. I don't see them being savvy enough to package some of their excess and turn it into upgrades.

Regarding Cirillo nixing the Mets trade. The guy wants to get released so he can go pick his next team. My question is, can he be sent to the minor leagues? My thinking is, if you're going to pay the guy, you may as well have him in reserve in case of injury. He does have value as a late inning defensive replacement. My guess is that if they tried to send him to the minors he could demand his release instead and they'd still owe him the money. Cirillo is right about one thing. It's not about the contract. It's the fact that he's no longer a MLB hitter. The contract just makes him untradable unless the M's get as big a boat anchor in return.

A parting word about the A-Rod shenanigans. First of all part of me is reveling in the delicious irony that, the contract he so proudly signed 3 short years ago is the reason he may get stuck on the Rangers for another 4 years. His ego and agent demanded that he get a contract that included every bonus clause possibly available (even some that don't exist), a price that was beyond reason and a length that was beyond sanity. Being forced by the union to honor that deal makes me giddy at some primordial level.
That being said I think that whenever both sides want to get out of a binding contract with no coercion evident, that they be allowed to do so. A-rod is under no pressure from the Rangers to renegotiate the deal, Alex has also made it quite clear that he would not pull a Randy Johnson and tank his performance if he is not traded. It is mutually beneficial to both sides to renegotiate the deal. The union should not have stepped in and squashed the renegotiation.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Heh, I really should finish surfing before I post. The excellent Management By Baseball blog has an entry on Bivasi's early run as the Mariners' GM. He can't figure out what is going on either:

He's been hyperactive in the trade and signing area since he was hired six weeks ago. Not a single one of the deals seem to make sense, and the pattern clearly follows none of the old or new team development models observers recognize, including:
  • Sign a bunch of recognizeable names,
  • Use sabermetric theories
  • Build for power
  • Build for pitching and defense
  • Use succession planning to bring in two very young players per season & let the veterans break them in
  • Replace your lowest/most disappointing performers with those who have a chance to be your highest
  • anything else recognizable.

  • This pretty much echos the blogsphere's feeling on the matter.

    I've added this blog to the sidebar here and I highly recomend it.

    You probably read Finnigan's piece on Cirillo not allowing the Mariners to trade him to the Mets. Oh my. Look, I don't begrudge players what they make. They get paid what the market dictates and they provide a great service, certainly as worthy as other entertainers who also make more than school teachers. My problem is with Cirillo's attitude. I can't do pull quotes with my hiptop, but Cirillo basically said that if he is going to sit on the bench he'd rather do it in Seattle than in New York. Uh, what ever happened to competing for a starting job? He knows, as we all do, that it's not going to work in Seattle. But does he really think that if he goes to spring training with the Mets and plays well that he won't play? The Mets need all the help they can get.

    Cirillo is essentially wanting to get cut..frankly I don't know what happens to him then. Does he become a free agent? If he signs for someone else does he get two paychecks? Either way this is the act of someone who has no pride or confidence in their work.

    Friday, December 19, 2003

    Thanks to Steve's blog for pointing out how Baseball News Blog is making fun of our spontaneous Mariner blog generation.

    New weblogs not really:

    Mariners Knothole
    Mariners Sandlot
    Northwest Baseball (Mariners)
    Twenty-Nine Times Four (Mariners)
    Pronounced "EE-chee-roh" (Mariners)
    Box of Rocks (Mariners)
    We Miss You Ruppert Jones (Mariners)
    Fenway Fever (Mariners)
    Wil Wheaton dot net (Mariners)

    Damn! They took out some great names!

    Thursday, December 18, 2003

    More on the A-Rod issue. A Boston Globe article brings things up to date including interesting comments from new Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling:

    As a player, if Alex Rodriguez wants to go to the Boston Red Sox, I can't imagine the players' union stopping him from doing that," Schilling said yesterday in a phone interview.

    "At the end of the day I hope it's not greed that kept this deal from getting done. I would think if Alex Rodriguez wants to come to the Boston Red Sox, he'd sit down and find a way to get it done. God forbid if he did that and the players' union said, `No, you can't.' The last time I checked, I pay money to pay the salary of Don Fehr and Gene Orza. I understand they say there would be a ripple-down effect if Alex wants to change his contract, but what other player would be affected by the restructuring of Alex Rodriguez's contract? None that I know of."

    Orza, apprised of Schilling's remarks, noted that the union's executive council, which comprises players, agreed with the decision to reject the restructuring. "If Curt Schilling has a problem, he should take it up with the board," Orza said.

    I agree, I don't believe any other players would be effected. No player has a contract anything like Alex's and no one can force a player to change their contract.

    Let's talk about non tendering Freddy Garcia....

    During the course of 2003, if you asked me whether the M's should offer arbitration to Freddy Garcia my immediate answer would have been "No way. Time to cut bait on this guy." Never was the pitcher know as Franken Freddy more apparent than 2003. His year ending ERA of 4.51 does not accurately tell the tale of his season. In fact Freddy had 5 mini-seasons over the course of 2003.

    Games IP Runs ERA
    1-7 42.1 18 3.84
    8-12 29.2 24 7.39
    13-17 36.3 6 1.48
    18-23 26.7 33 11.10
    24-32 62.6 16 2.30

    Freddy was the 9th flakiest starter in MLB as rated by Baseball Prospectus.

    Which Freddy will show up in 2004 and is he worth $6 million a year? (Assuming the M's win any arbitration case they have resulting in a ~10% pay cut).

    I took a quick look around ESPN's site and ranked pitchers with an ERA close to Freddy's. Then I took a look at their respective salaries and years of service. Just like in most businesses there are several "tracks" to and through the major leagues.

    Track 1) Player becomes integral part of the major team early in career. Team decides to sign player to contract through arbitration years. Contract pays player initially more than base pay but quickly becomes a bargain for team if player continues to perform through arbitration years.

    Track 2) Player becomes starter at early age. Team decides to not make long term investment, instead paying less for early years but having to make decision each year on offering arbitration in years 3-6 of MLB career, if player performance falls into top 17% of players in MLB. Arbitration amount based on performance not years of service.

    Track 3) Player enters free agent market prior to 6 years of service. Usually spends career as fringe player.

    Freddy is a track 2 player. The few comparables I came up with are Cory Lidle ($5.3 million, Roy Hallday $3.8, Kevin Millwood $9.5). Only Cory Lidle had a worse 2003 than Freddy but his career numbers are better.

    The M's (probably wisely) chose not to lock Freddy up through his arbitration years. The unfortunate side effect of that is the team now has to decide if they are going to non-tender him by Dec 19th letting him go as a free agent.

    What are the possible scenarios?
    a) M's offer Freddy arbitration, he accepts and wins some ungodly sum like the $9.5 million Kevin Millwood gets.
    b) M's offer Freddy arbitration, he accepts and loses to the tune of $6 million
    c) M's non tender Freddy saving $6 million
    d) M's offer Freddy arbitration and sign him to a contract at a significant pay cut.

    I think the M's brass is leaning toward option c. They're not convinced that he will ever become a #1 starter and can't afford to pay him $6+ million a year to be their #5 starter (as he was last year). By publicly taking this stance in the local papers, they've been unable to find any takers in trade (why trade when you think you can negotiate with a free agent instead in another week?) Frankly I can't dispute the thinking that he's not worth the money.

    It's a difficult choice but I still think the correct decision is to let Freddy go and move some of the youth (Soriano) into the rotation. The risk of getting stuck with a $6 million albatross is just too great. Freddy may develop at a later age into a #1 starter. He's got the movement and velocity but he doesn't have the control. He throws too many pitches to get through each inning (16.7 P /IP) and his K/BB ratio radically declined this year. Empirical observation shows that his successful outings have mostly come against the dreg offenses in the AL (TB, Detroit, Bal).

    I disagree with the way the M's have slandered Freddy in the media (remember the "Freddy parties too much" stories leaked in spring 2003?) and I disagree with the lack of negotiating savvy they've shown. I can't disagree with what I think the ultimate decision will be. Time to cut bait.

    This players union ruling is disappointing. Maybe most disturbing is that it's forcing me to be on the owner's side on an issue! It's a very uncomfortable feeling.

    Clearly the only thing that matters to this "union" is money, which is quite sad considering most of its members are financially set for life. When you reach that level of money don't other quality of life issues like where you live, and maybe even, God forbid, winning, take priority. Obviously they do in Alex's case.

    Don't get me wrong, Alex made his own bed when he signed the contract and he knew the rules going in. It just seems like in the game the union is playing, money is the only way to keep score.

    Steve's Mariners and other stuff blog has his take on the union.

    Update: Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus has also posted today on A-Rod and the union. He makes some good points in his argument but I stand by my original post. If Alex essentially wants to buy changing teams, I see no reason why he should not be allowed to do it - if he thinks it's worth it. There is nothing to any of this if the player does not agree. Joe Sheehan implies a slippery slope here:

    We saw this, only with less subtlety, when MLB basically extorted more road trips from the Expos by threatening to go Rachel Phelps on them if they didn't agree to another 22 games in Puerto Rico. Is it that hard to see, if this deal goes through with Rodriguez taking $20 mil., $30 mil., $40 mil. less, a future where teams actively alienate their superstars in an effort to push them into trades in which they have to take less money to get out of town?

    I'm not sure how much sense this makes. First of all, how much alienation can someone take for $20 Million. I'm sure there are plenty of folks with truly terrible jobs that would be willing to put up with a LOT for that much cash. It's just interesting to me that the union is drawing a line here after totally caving during the last CBA negotiations. For all intents and purposes there is a salary cap is baseball today, something that I cannot believe the union agreed to. To take this stand for one player after that is closing the barn door after the horses are already out.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2003

    Hello...I wish it were under better circumstances.

    Thanks to Metz for letting me join Sodo Oh No. He's off to a great start and I hope I can help. I've been ranting about the M's off season on my personal blog for a few weeks but there's to much other weird stuff there (Magic: the Gathering?!?) to hold a hard-core, enraged fan's interest. Here is a sample. The funny part is I really thought that night, after inexplicably trading for McCracken, that at least it could not get worse. Well, it only took to the next morning and the news of the Omar trade to sink to total hopelessness.

    Really, I understand that we fans don't understand everything to goes along with the job of GM. I can appreciate that you can't be up on every new statistical finding (although the M's should have quite enough money to pay people that will keep them up to date, I mean how much does Chuck Armstrong make and what, exactly, does he do...Bavasi/Gillick is the GM, they're lousy with scouting and development guys, and Lincoln is a hands-on owner, what does that leave for Armstrong, is he the Safeco Field office manager?). Hey, I'd love it if Bavasi set his home page to U.S.S Mariner and really tried to understand what the blogsphere had to say. But the Omar deal has absolutely nothing to do with any advanced thinking. Who in their right mind would even consider trading a relatively inexpensive 28-year-old shortstop for a 38-year-old one coming of knee surgery AND costing $3 Million more?

    Well, I guess it's not called Sodo Oh No for nothing! Hopefully in some lighter moments I'll talk about what is was like growing a Mariners fan in Pennsylvania in the '80, and for goodness sake why!

    Nothing better than nursing a head cold while the GM of your home team act like he's on valium. It just keeps getting better doesn't it? Reportedly the Red Sox ,my original home town team and my 2nd favorite team, but on a rapidly rising trajectory to #1, have a deal in place to deal nomar to Chicago for Maglio Ordonez. Nomar would then reportedly go to either the Dogers or Angels.

    The Red Sox are involved in one of the most amazing makeovers of a ALCS finalist of all time. The audacity of their owner hiring a 28 year old GM with no "baseball" experience. I'm really glad we got one of those old fashioned family patriarchies instead. Can you just hear the sarcasm dripping off my keyboard? I may need a sponge to soak it up.

    If Ordonez and Nomar are both on the market the M's should have been in the middle of negotiations to get them.

    Omar failed his physical. The cynic in me thinks that he actually failed it, the optimist is hoping that someone got into Bavasi's office, closed the door and smacked him upside the head with a copy of Baseball Prospectus, then proceeded to choke some sense into him. Judging from excerpts of his last interview, that didn't happen.

    Bavasi's answer to making the M's a playoff contender....The regulars need to play better than they did last year. That's a plan isn't it? Just the Mariners email list (link on the right) to read some great discussion on the hot stove.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2003

    Omar freaking Visquel ????

    Let's get older, worse and spend more money.

    IMO the M's should be right in the middle of the A-rod to Boston deal. Boston will have 1 shortstop too many and be looking to restock their farm system with some young arms after this off season of wheeling and dealing. There is no risk in trading Freddy to Boston for even 1 season of Nomar. If he continues his regression out of the shortstop pantheon you might be able to sign him for cheap(er) next season. Even if he leaves as a free agent I'll gladly trade one season of Nomar for a season of Franken Freddy.

    Trading for Omar if you don't have an heir apparent in the wings is just plain old foolish. The M's are rapidly becoming the laughingstock of MLB.

    Monday, December 15, 2003

    It's pretty apparent that the M's management has no idea what they are doing. Taking your $90 million and spreading the risk is one thing, spending it foolishly is another. The M's have apparently failed to look at the changing state of baseball economics over the past few years. Smart teams are investing in the best players and using cheap labor to fill in their rosters. The M's appear to be singly handedly trying to keep the middle class of ballplayers alive with their roster "strategy".

    Places where you fill in with cheap labor are;
    a) Long relief
    b) Utility players
    c) Places where you can't get good VORP (value over replacement player)

    Where have the M's spent money this year?
    a) Bullpen, specifically middle relief (Shiggy, Guardado)
    b) A fourth outfielder (McCracken)
    c) Investing in mediocre position players (Ibanez, Spezio, Guillen and in the past Wilson)

    Yes, their payroll will once again be among the league leaders. It should be given their extremely high revenue stream. Once again, they've failed to spend the money wisely.

    It's pretty apparent that this team is being run by a staff stuck in the 1980's.

    This is my first post on the Seattle Mariners.