Category Archives: MLB Baseball

Cano, Cruz, Hernandez – What To Do, What To Do

So here we have the three most prominent and important players currently on the Seattle Mariners.

Of the three, only Nelson Cruz is performing at an acceptable level.  Robinson Cano is in the midst of an 80 game suspension and has become a disappointment to both his team and Seattle Mariner fans.  Felix Hernandez is a ghost of what he once was, a seasonal potential Cy Young Award pitcher.

There is going to be a lot of talk of what to do when Robinson Cano returns from his suspension.  Just how much can he contribute in a 6-week stretch to perhaps get the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time since 2001?  If he does help a lot, we lose his bat for the post season since he won’t be eligible.  And if he doesn’t he takes away critical at-bats from players the Mariners will have to lean on during the stretch run and the aforementioned playoffs.

There will also be a lot of talk of what to do after this year.  I suppose an optimist can view that what the Mariners have is a “happy” problem.  I’m not so sure.

Here is what I think is the best to do for this year and beyond for Cano, Cruz and Hernandez:

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano started 2018 decently enough before his suspension.  The 6′, 210 lbs. was hitting .287 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI’s as well as playing 2B as smooth as anyone.

But right now, he isn’t the best 2nd baseman on the team.  That honor goes to Dee Gordon who, despite starting out in centerfield, transitioned perfectly back to a position in which he was a two-time All Star.  Granted, Gordon will need some days off and to have a player the caliber of Cano is fantastic.

But even if Cano goes on some sort of tear at the plate, the Mariners can’t keep Cano at 2nd because he can’t play in the playoffs.  Gordon will need to keep playing to prepare for the playoffs.

So that means Cano becomes a sub…but only at three spots:  2nd base, first base and designated hitter.

No problem with Cano playing 2nd or being the DH.  But he has never played first base in a major league game.  It shouldn’t be a problem for him though as he is a fine athlete.   But there are nuances at first that he needs to be aware of such as holding the runner, going to a different cut-off position, knowing when to stretch to help the infielders get a much needed out and the most obvious, searching for the bag on ground balls.

Ryan Healy has played a pretty good first base for the Mariners and has contributed decently at the plate, hitting .240 with 18 home runs and driving in 46.  As with Gordon, Healy will need some days off and Cano is a luxury to have.  However, I haven’t seen any news of him working out at first base and having a player learn a position on the fly during a playoff run isn’t a good idea even with the caliber of Cano.

Which leaves the third spot he can play:  Designated Hitter

Now you take the bat away from the Mariners most consistent and dangerous hitter, Nelson Cruz.

Cano and Cruz are pretty close statistically since 2015.

Since 2015 Age Avg. Hits HR RBI SLG %
Nelson Cruz 37 0.286 584 148 372 0.552
Robinson Cano 35 0.288 563 87 293 0.468

I guess the question would be is who do you want at the plate at the most critical junctions?  I’d take Nellie because he slows everything down at the most critical times.  With Cano, too often he strikes out, rolls a lazy grounder to second or flies out.  Nellie may get out but he always hits the ball hard.

The only luxury that Manager Scott Servias has is that Nellie is right-handed and Cano hits from the left side.  But there is no way I’d only use Nellie with left-handed pitching.

So what to do with Cano starting in 2019?  Not going to be able to trade him as is contract is too huge.  Mariners would have to pay him to play elsewhere and get little in return.  And if they release him, he still gets paid as his contract is guaranteed.

The most obvious choice would be move him to first providing Cruz signs next year.  But then you lose Ryan Healy who will be only 27 next year, has proven he can come up with some big hits as well as play a good first base at a fraction of the cost.  However, you could get a pitcher of value for Healy in a trade but in my estimation, you lose a superior first baseman over Cano…and with Cano a decade older, he will most likely start declining in production at the plate.

As stated before, Dee Gordon is the best 2nd baseman on the team.  He is six years younger than Cano, has far better range and has the knack for coming up with spectacular plays.  As far as offensive output, Gordon contributes way differently than Cano.  He steals bases and scores runs…he is a prototypical lead-off hitter whereas Cano is a typical 3-hole hitter who drives him in.

The edge goes to Gordon as the 2nd baseman for the Mariners based solely on his defensive skills and the fact he is six years younger than Cano.

Sorry folks, Robinson Cano’s days at 2nd base are over.

If Cruz does not sign next year, Cano becomes the DH, case closed.  But in my opinion, if the Mariners don’t sign Cruz, they are out of their fricking minds.

So Cano will either be the starting first baseman or the designated hitter for the next five years.

Nelson Cruz

Granted, Cruz is 37 years old.  But he has kept himself in fantastic shape and has remained consistent at the plate since joining the Mariners in 2015.

He is the most clutch hitter the Mariners have had since Edgar Martinez.  And don’t think that Cruz hasn’t picked the best designated hitter on the planet for all he’s worth.

Nelson Cruz is always prepared.  His exercise regime is borderline neurotic.  Check out this story from the Seattle Times for insight on his workouts:  Nelson Cruz Workouts.

The only blight on Cruz’s remarkable career was a 50 game suspension for his connection with the Biogenisis PED scandal in his last year with the Texas Rangers which also involved Alex Rodrigues and Jesus Montero.  Cruz has never tested positive for PED and accepted a 50 game suspension in lieu of a 100 game suspension after MLB had threatened to out him.

What is not generally known is that for the most part, the reason was medical and not a way to increase performance.  In 2012, Cruz had lost about 40 lbs. with no explanation.  Doctors couldn’t find out what was going on until they had discovered a parasite and doctor’s prescribed steroids to resolve the issue.  The full story can be found here, courtesy of the Seattle Times:  Cruz PED Suspension

Outside of that one “transgression,”  Cruz has been an exemplary player and teammate.  The Mariners would do well to sign him to a two-year contract and let him finish his career as a Mariner.

Unfortunately, if that occurs, Ryan Healy will be the odd man out as Cano would most likely become the everyday first baseman.

Felix Hernandez

One thing that almost everyone can agree upon is that Felix Hernandez is not the pitcher he once was.

I know that both GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have said that Felix is a vital part of the Seattle Mariners.  However, I think that is more for Felix’s benefit than it is for us fans.

Everyone lays some importance to statistics and I agree that they tell part of the story.  For instance, from 2005-2014, Felix complied a 125-92 record with a 3.10 ERA.  And he pitched for some pretty awful Seattle Mariner teams, most notably the 2010 season where the Mariners lost 101 games and the 2011 team that posted a 67-95 record.

Place Hernandez with the Boston Red Sox in that same time frame and everyone would be talking about Hernandez as a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.  He probably would have won 20 games at least 3 times and been in the post season within the first 3 seasons of his career.

But if there is one redeeming quality about Hernandez is the loyalty that he has shown the Mariners and they rewarded him in 2013 with a 7 year, $175 million dollar contract.  He has never wanted to be with any other team other than the Mariners and, at the time, it was one of the best things the Mariners could have done.

The only thing that the Mariners haven’t done for him is get him to the post season, something he could have easily accomplished since most likely, if had decided to go elsewhere, it would have been with a contender.

Felix’s contract is up next year.  And quite honestly, he is no longer the ace of the staff.  That belongs to James Paxton who has deferred to King Felix and rightfully so.

In fact, if the Mariners do re-sign him, it would have to be at a reduced rate and he would have to accept that he might be, at best, a number 3 or 4 starter.

No one can discount that Felix has given the Mariners everything he’s had for the past 14 years.  But at age 32, he is starting to break down and has had trouble getting out of the first inning of games.  He is not the strike-out artist that he once was (Side note here:  To all those in the King’s Court, please stop yelling “K,K,K,K” every time he get’s 2 strikes on a batter.  It only encourages him to do something he can no longer do:  Blow a fastball past a hitter) and has resisted changing his ways in order to extend his career.

Both Felix and Seattle Mariners fans need to face reality.  Felix is, at best, a number 3 starter.  And with the extension given Wade LeBlanc, I see the starting rotation for next year to be:

  1. James Paxton
  2. Marco Gonzales
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Wade LeBlanc
  5. Mike Leake

Even if the Mariners let him walk away, there is no way he’ll be the Ace of the staff again.

Seattle Mariners have some tough choices when Cano comes back from his suspension and ever tougher ones starting in 2019.

Let’s hope they make the right choices.

 

Seattle Mariners – Do Not Even Think About Trading Edwin Diaz.

Future Closer of Seattle Mairners
Future Closer of Seattle Mairners

Every time I see Edwin Diaz enter a game, I get the chills.  His stuff is absolutely electric and at 22 years of age, has the savvy poise of a seasoned veteran.

Since being called up from AA Ball, Diaz has appeared in 21 games, pitch 21.2 innings and struck out 44 batters.  That’s about an average of striking out 2 batters an inning.  He reminds me of Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee closer.  Not in style as Diaz has one all his own.  His fastball his in the 98 – 100 mph range and has thrown 101 mph.  Even  more devastating his slider which has become a very effective out pitch for him.

He reminds me of Rivera in the fact that he could tell a batter what pitch was coming, where it’s going to be placed and the batter still wouldn’t be able to hit it.

So here is a message to GM Jerry Dipoto:  Mark Edwin Diaz as untouchable…do not trade him even if Mike Trout is available.  Do not lose him to free agency and do not even think about changing his style.

Mariners have a history of letting players go that have gone on to have great success on other teams:  Adam Jones to Baltimore, Randy Johnson to Houston (who went on to win 2 Cy Young awards and a World Series ring with Arizona), Jason Varitek to Boston and, as much as I hate to say it, Alex Rodriguez to the Rangers then to the Yankees.

The Mariners have had some special players…Alvin Davis, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and of course, the soon to be Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. who in my opinion, is one of the best players to have ever played the game.

Felix Hernandez is also a special player and the Mariners owe it to him to keep Diaz in a Mariner uniform as I see him as the closer of the future.  And not just for a couple of seasons.  This kid has the stuff to be an elite closer for at least a decade.

Granted, he isn’t always going to be able to throw 100+ mph pitches…his awareness of that is evident of his developing a devastating slider now while he can hit 100+ fastballs.  At some point, I wouldn’t doubt that he develops a cutter like Rivera that would be just as knee-bending as his slider and mystifying as his fastball.

Dipoto talks about building for the future.  With current stars of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Felix, the Mariners have an exciting core group on the rise in players like Leonys Martin, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino and Ketel Marte.

Let’s peak into the future, say 2018, just as a pitching staff:

Starting rotation:  Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Nick Neidert, Luis Gohara.

Closer: Edwin Diaz

I don’t know how to address the rest of the bullpen since set-up pitchers and long-relievers are always in a state of flux.  But I do see the starting rotation being pretty close to that and Edwin Diaz, the Electric One, being the closer who could average 40-45 saves per season.

While this season may not shape up to what we hoped it would be, the future is in good hands.  And future leads will be protected by one Edwin Diaz.

 

 

Edgar Martinez – A Case For The Hall of Fame

Edgar Martinez

I am a little ticked off at the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

For the sixth time, the BBWAA has failed to get one of the best hitters ever to play the game elected to where he belongs.

Apparently, there are two major issues that are working against Martinez:

1.  Martinez, for most of his 18 year career, served as the best designated hitter ever to play the game.  Never mind the fact that since 1972, the American League requires a player to be a designated hitter.  Martinez is being penalized due to a requirement of the rules.

2.  That the BBWAA is going to submit a player purely as a hitter, in a time where offense is seems to count for everything, that those hitting statistics should be stratospheric.  Martinez could always hit during his career but his defense is what held him back.  Edgar didn’t become the Mariners regular third baseman until he was 29 years old.  Perhaps Martinez should file an age discrimination suit against the BBWAA seems it appears they are holding that against him as well.

I went to Baseball Reference web site and got all of the statistics for the current Hall of Fame members.  I took out any non-players and pitchers and ended up with 171 players to compare Edgars stats with.  I am also going to use Frank Thomas and David Ortiz, 2 players who are recognized for DH accomplishments than there defensive prowess.

Average:  Edgar’s .312 batting average puts him 61st among the members of the Hall, tying him with Hughie Jennings, Johnny Mize, Joe Sewell and Deacon White.  At.312, he is just above Freddie Lindstrom, Jackie Robinson and Luke Appling.  Frank Thomas, who played more games as a DH than at first, got into the Hall with a .301 average is ranked 83rd.  David Ortiz, also a player with more at-bats at DH comes in at .283 which would put him 120th in ranking.

On Base Percentage:  Frank Thomas, at .419 edged Edgar by .001 and is 14th among HOF players with Edgar right behind him at 15 coming in at .418.  Ortiz comes in at 75 with .377 OPB.

Slugging Percentage:  Edgar is in the top 30 among Hall of Fame Players at 28 with a .515, tied with the great Willie McCovey and just ahead of Ty Cobb, Eddie Matthews and Harmon Killebrew.  David Ortiz comes in at 17 with a .543 and Frank Thomas in at 12th with .555 slugging percentage.  Very comparable stats.

Hits:  Edgar’s 2,247 hits puts him 92nd among the Hall of Fame players, in the company of Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey, Joe Medwick and Willie Stargell.  He ranks 2nd among Frank Thomas (65th with 2,468 hits) and David Ortiz comes in at 93 with 2,241 hits though by the time Ortiz quits playing, he will have added more to that total.

Doubles:  A staple of Edgar’s hitting prowess, he comes in at 31 among Hall of Fame players, ahead of Ricky Henderson, Babe Ruth, Tony Perez and Roberto Alomar.  He is second to David Ortiz who is 17th with 564 doubles.  Frank Thomas?  At number 40 among HOF players, Thomas hit 495 doubles.

Home Runs:  With 309 career home runs, Edgar is ranked at 41 in the Hall, keeping company with Hank Greenberg, Gary Carter, George Brett and Rogers Hornsby.  David Ortiz is currently ranked 18th with 486 home runs and Frank Thomas is at number 11 with 521.

I could go on and on but the fact of the matter is Edgar Martinez deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  One more stat (and this is my own) that I can throw out there.  I did an average of all the statistical information available and assigned and Edgar scored 1,097 ranking him 96th among Hall of Fame Players.  Better than 77 players currently in the Hall of Fame.

And what of the American League naming the Designated Hitter Award after he won the damn thing five times?  That’s right, the winner for being the best designated hitter in the American League gets the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.

Among his other awards:

  • Five time winner of the Silver Slugger Award
  • Three American League OPB awards
  • Two American League Batting Titles
  • Named seven times as an American League All Star

He is one of only eight players to have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, career batting average above .300, a career OBP above .400 and a career slugging percentage above .500.  Five of those eight players are in the Hall of Fame.

Edgar had a seven year stretch of dominating offensive play.  During that time:

  • Batted at least .325
  • OBP of at least .440
  • Slugging percentage of at least .570
  • Hit at least 250 doubles
  • Played in 1,000 games

Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, both in the Hall, are the only players to match that level of offensive output.

He is also on of six players to hit at least .320 for six straight seasons.  The others are Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn and Todd Helton (Not in the Hall).

Not sure what Edgar needed to do besides get to the major league level sooner than 29 and play a position.  But the Hall of Fame requirements appears to look at offensive numbers more than anything to get in.  Really, the only player that was elected because of his glove was Ozzie Smith.  I know, Brooks Robinson was a vacuum cleaner at 3rd base and Willie Mays was the best centerfielder to ever live.  But look at Reggie Jackson…he was never known for his defense but those deficiencies were overlooked because he could hit for power and do so in some very clutch situations.  Ted Williams hated to play defense…all he wanted to do was hit.  Would have been the perfect DH if he could have played when it was a rule.

It appears to me that the BBWAA will overlook defensive deficiencies if a player had outstanding numbers.  Edgar has those numbers and yet they toss in that because he didn’t play defense, the numbers he has are a little inflated.

BBWAA, you can’t have it both ways.  Do the right thing and elect Edgar into the Hall of Fame.  You couldn’t have a better person representing baseball.

 

 

 

Seattle Mariners – Smart Move Bringing Edgar In As Hitting Coach

Edgar Martinez

First, let me say that the Seattle Mariners screwed up my idea for an article to bring Edgar Martinez in as a hitting coach.

Reason why I am so late in writing this article is because I needed to check my home, my car and all of my clothes for any listening devices or hidden cameras because surely someone is tapping me for all the great ideas I have!

All kidding aside, I really did have an article in mind about having Edgar come in as a hitting coach.  My wife and I went to the game Friday night between the Mariners and Astros and as we were watching the game, witnessing some of the futility the Mariners have at the plate is just painful.

Granted, they did win the game…but the margin of victory should have been much greater than the final score of 5-2.  Especially when, in the first inning, they had the bases loaded with no outs and can only manage to score 2 runs.   And even those were gifts by the Astros…Logan Morrison hit a pop-fly to left that should have been caught to start the game and Nelson Cruz drew a bases loaded walk to drive in the first.

After Kyle Seager struck out on 3 straight pitches, Mark Trumbo grounded out to the right side to drive in the second…Seth Smith struck out with men on second and third for the second out and Brad Miller flew out to the end the inning, perhaps the hardest hit ball of the inning.

But what really got me thinking about Edgar as the hitting coach was watching the futility of Mike Zunino.  If it wasn’t for his outstanding defensive abilities, Zunino would be toiling somewhere in Double-A ball.

Zunino, who’s averaged dropped to .160 after yet another 0-4 night, was pitiful with 3 strike-outs.  And what’s frustrating is you can see he has the tools to be at least a .240 to .260 hitter.  He also has enough power to hit at least 18-22 home runs a year and the capability to drive in 70-80 runs a year.

But right now, he is a black hole at the bottom of the Mariners line-up.  That’s not to say that Zunino is the problem to all of the Mariner offensive woes…our highest paid player, Robinson Cano, prior to this year, was a perennial .300+ hitter with some good pop in his bat.

Prior to this year, Cano had a .310 career batting average along with averaging 184 hits, 90 RBI, 22 home runs and an OPB of .357.  This year, he is woefully below all of those averages and yet McClendon still has him in the three hole hoping he will battle his way out of it.

And let’s not even get into the mental errors he’s had on the base paths.   I can remember at least 3 times he’s been picked-off or caught in a rundown that has ended an inning that could have been big.

Will the hiring of Edgar Martinez fix any of the Mariner woes?  Perhaps not right away…but I was encouraged by the fact that Edgar didn’t waste anytime yesterday getting with Zunino to work with him.  I don’t expect immediate results but I’m guessing if Zunino really pays attention, we’ll see his average start to rise by the end of the year.

But in the end, hiring Edgar isn’t going to resolve the hitting woes…unless the hitters put in the work.  Edgar isn’t the one batting anymore but I would dare say that even at 52, he could still hit for better average than any of the current Mariners.

Welcome back Papi!

Seattle Mariner Fans – Relax Will Ya? It’s Just The First Week!

No Need To Panic Yet...Mariners are just getting warmed up!
No need to panic yet…Mariners are just getting warmed up!

After Felix Hernandez’s opening day gem, the Seattle Mariners went on to lose three straight games.

Reading articles and posts of fans who respond to them, as well as listening fans who call in or test to sports radio shows, I get the sense that this city is having a panic attack.

I suppose some of that can be attributed to all the hype that has been heaped upon the Mariners with many folks predicting they will go to the World Series.  Even I made the bold prediction they will win 93 games.  I still stand by the prediction and I am not going to change it after only seeing them play five games.

This is baseball.  This game has highs and lows that are going to occur during the course of a 162 game season.  Granted, it would have been nice to have the Detroit Tigers or Kansas City Royals 5-0 start.  But last time I checked, no major league baseball team has gone undefeated.

This Seattle Mariner team is going to be in the thick of it.  And let’s all remember they need to do well enough to make the playoffs, where every team, regardless of what they did during the regular season, start the playoffs with an 0-0 record.

Mariners are stacked with a good, solid pitching rotation, anchored by Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and two veteran pitchers in J.A. Happ and Hisashi Iwakuma.  Also in the mix are two young rising starts in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.

The bullpen, one of the best in baseball last year, is back with essentially the same staff of Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina and closer Fernando Rodney.  New additions Carson Smith and Tyler Olsen will only make them stronger.

The line-up is stronger despite what folks think of the first five games.  Gone is Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin and Kendrys Morales all who were supposed to bring the pop the Mariners have been so desperately seeking.

Mariner front office made the commitment last year to Robinson Cano and that signing told Mariner fans they wanted to build a winner.  GM Jack Zduriencik, who had been under fire, had to breathe a lot easier when the team won 87 games last year.

This year, they deepened their commitment and started to build around Cano.  The signed budding superstar third baseman Kyle Seager to a long-term contract and brought it last year’s home run leader Nelson Cruz from the Baltimore Oriels.

The rest of the team is pretty solid with Dustin Ackley and Logan Morrison.  They are still a little weak in right field with the platoon of Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith.  And I am still not convinced that Austin Jackson is the true lead-off hitter they need.  He’s more of a number two guy but as of right now, Mariners don’t have a solid lead-off guy they can depend on so Jackson is it.

The point of all this?  This town cannot expect the same type of energy each and every game as they do for Seahawk games.  If they do, then the Mariners will be done before June.

What we can do is keep supporting them and understand that it’s a long season and anything can happen.  And I suspect there is some magic in this team that will surprise all of us.

Keep the faith and relax…The Mariners are going to be just fine.

Beer Thinker Prediction – Seattle Mariners Win 93 Games

Seattle Baseball

On Monday, the Seattle Mariners open their 2015 season against the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim.  It’s really the first time in many years that I am officially excited to see how this team does.

Last year, with expectations low, a new manager and one very high-profile free agent signing of Robinson Cano, many predictions were the Mariners would finish no better than .500 with yet another season of no playoff hopes.

Manager Lloyd McClendon, newly hired from the Detroit Tigers staff, had other thoughts.  I’m pretty sure he endeared himself to Mariner fans when he stood up for Robinson Cano when a Yankee official commented on Cano’s hustle.  “What’s he doing talking about my player?” has to go down as the best response to the uncalled criticism.  It was almost Piniella-esque!

With the guidance of McClendon and the leadership of Cano, the Mariners came within one win of getting into the playoffs.  Felix Hernandez had a record setting year and Kyle Seager proved himself to be one of the best all-around third baseman in the league with some great defense and clutch hitting.

You have to think the Mariners are going to do better this year.   They finally have an official big-bopper in the #4 spot in Nelson Cruz and the line-up is pretty much set.  I have concerns over the lead-off spot as well as getting offense from the shortstop position.  Defensively, the Mariners are going to be one of the better defensive teams in the majors.

I was listening to the Danny, Dave and Moore show on ESPN’s 710 Sports in Seattle on the way home from work.  They were doing a segment on bold predictions for the Mariners.  It got me to thinking just how many games the Mariners will win this year.

Jim Moore’s prediction is they will win 100 games this year.  Personally I think that’s a bit far-fetched but you got to admire Moore’s spunk.

Mariners went 87-75 last season and were in the playoff hunt until the last day of the season.  With the pitching they have and a much more dependable lineup, I think the Mariners will go 93-69.

As for other predictions, such as the number of home runs Cruz will hit or if Felix will win 20 games, I don’t really want to go there.

What I want to see is that the Mariners play good, solid baseball, score more runs than the other team and get into the playoffs.

If Nelson Cruz hits only 20 home runs but gets 120 RBI’s, I’m fine with that.  In fact, if Cruz, Cano, Seager and Mike Zunino all get 20 home runs each and drive in at least 80 runs each, I’d be more than happy with that production.  And it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that could occur.

I believe this team is going to be special this year.  With 3 bona-fide superstars in Cano, Cruz and Felix along with some superstars in the making such as Seager, Zunino, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the Mariners have few weak spots.  Add to that players in supporting roles in Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson and Danny Farquhar only makes them a solid and deeply talented team.

They still need to play the games and with McClendon, he won’t allow them to get to full of themselves nor let them wallow when things aren’t going well.

93-69 has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Go Mariners!

Pete Rose – Time To Let Him Into The Hall of Fame

Pete Rose

It has been far too long since baseball has punished Pete Rose.  It has come to a point where punishment no longer fits the crime.

Pete Rose is recognized as the all-time hit leader in the Major Leagues.  Yet despite his accomplishments as a player, he is being punished for stupid mistakes that he made mostly as a manager.  Everyone who knows baseball knows that Rose was never going into the Hall as a manger, not with his accomplishments as a player:

  • 24 year career
  • .303 lifetime career batting average
  • 4,256 hits – most in major league history
  • Three batting titles
  • Three World Series rings
  • One MVP award
  • 17 All-Star appearances for five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B & 1B)

Rose has admitted to betting while playing and managing the Reds.  He also states that he never bet against the Reds so there was no reason to throw games.  If anything, he had more incentive to win.

Outside of the integrity of the game, who did Pete Rose hurt outside of himself and his family?

Is his gambling more harmful than players using performance enhancing drugs?  You would think that would be more harmful to the integrity of the game.  Yet Alex Rodriguez was suspended for a year and is now back playing with the Yankees.

Many players have done more harm to the image of the game with drug and alcohol use as opposed to gambling.  Yet baseball allows those players back into the game but not those who have been caught placing bets.

Here are some interesting tidbits on players/managers/owners suspended for gambling and being reinstated as opposed to players/managers/owners being suspended for drug and alcohol use:

  • Since 1865, 41 people have been banned (not suspended) for some amount of time, either for gambling or drug related use.  This includes one umpire, Richard Higham in 1882 for conspiring to help throw a Detroit Wolverines game.
  • Of those 41, 27 were related to gambling.  13 of the 41 were reinstated and only three persons  banned or gambling related issues were allowed to come back.
  • To this day, 24 people associated to the game of baseball have been permanently banned for gambling related issues.
  • In contrast, only 2 players have  been banned:  Ferguson Jenkins in 1980 when drugs were found on his person on Toronto and Steve Howe in 1992 after receiving seven suspension related to drug use.

Both players were later reinstated.  Jenkins was reinstated by an independent arbitrator and elected into the Hall of Fame in 1991.  Steve Howe was also reinstated by an independent arbitrator in 1992 and he retired from the game in 1996 and passed away in 2006.

As a result, no player has been permanently banned from baseball due to drug related issues.

I am not attempting to minimize the effect of gambling has on the game of baseball or any major league sport.  But what bothers me is the disparity between the rulings regarding drug related issues and those related to gambling.  Baseball basically bends over backwards in their disciplinary actions when players are tested positive for drugs:

Failure to comply with drug or alcohol treatment program:

  • First failure – 15 to 25 day suspension and/or a fine up to $10,000
  • Second failure – 25 to 50 day suspension and/or fine up to $25,000
  • Third failure  –  50 to 75 day suspension and/or fine of up to $50,000
  • Fourth failure – Minimum of one year suspension and/or fine of up to $100,000 fine
  • Anything after the fifth failure, the level of discipline will be determined my the Commissioner of baseball

As for steroids or PED’s, a player gets 2 chances before receiving a lifetime ban.  First time tested, 80 game suspension, second time, 162 game suspension.

There aren’t any such tiered suspensions in regards to gambling violations.  Major League Ruling 21, paragraph D addresses gambling penalties as such:

Betting on ball games:  Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game with the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall be any  sum whatsoever with which the bettor as a duty to perform shall be permanently ineligible.

In other words, betting on a game where you don’t affect the outcome, you are out for a year; in games where you have any influence, you are gone for good.

Rose was never given the chance of tiered disciplinary actions such as players tested for drugs or steroids.  And doesn’t drug or steroid use do more to the determent of the game than gambling does?

Besides, Rose gambled more intensely has a  manager than he ever did as a player.  Fair thing to do is to allow him into the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player but don’t ever allow him to have any type of employment in baseball because of his actions as a player.  And of the man wants to buy a ticket and watch a game, for crying out loud, let him.

Rose knows he disrespected baseball.  But there is no one on this planet that loves the game more than he does.  His style of play and constant hustle endeared him to fans and still does to this day.

Hasn’t Rose paid his dues?  Isn’t it enough that because of his discretions, his life after baseball was full of turmoil and grief?  Has he not shown enough remorse for his actions?

Baseball hierarchy needs to re-evaluate its stance on Rose.  I believe Rose has paid his dues and it’s time to welcome the Hit King to his place in baseball.

So, How About Them Mariners?

Pitchers and catchers have reported to Peoria, AZ at the Peoria Sports Complex.

With last years surprising season, coming within in one win of making the playoffs, expectations are pretty high for this team.  Some MLB pundits have the Mariners going to the World Series this year.

It’s that time of year when everyone goes to sabermetric mode, looks at every single possible statistical analysis available and points to all the trends and indicators and puts forth a prediction that Stephen Hawking would be proud of.

I hate statistics.  Yes, I will use them to find some interesting things but stats take the joy out of watching the game and takes away the real understanding of it.

I played baseball in high school and for the most part I was pretty good.  Had a decent bat, pretty good speed and prided myself at being a good defensive center fielder.  Like most kids at that age, I considered going to the major leagues until I discovered that I had and never will have, a clue on how to hit a curveball.

But there is something about putting that mitt into your face and inhaling the leather, shagging fly balls with your teammates on a clear, cloudless day and smelling the fresh cut grass that statistical information will never give you.

So here is my gut feeling on the Mariners for 2015.  They are going to be right in the thick of it and I can see them taking the American League West this year.

It appears the first 4 spots in the pitching rotations is set with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and J. A. Happ (acquired in a trade with Toronto for Michael Saunders).  The fifth spot is up for grabs.

In my eyes, Taijuan Walker is the front runner for the fifth spot.  He had some good outings last year and being only 22 years old, has his career in front of him.  Mariners have been very careful with Walker but sooner rather than later, they are going to have to see what he has to stay at the major league level.

I’m not sure about the feel good story of the first half last year in Roenias Elias.  He is too much in love with his curve ball.  Granted, it is one of the best in the MLB but the more hitters see it, the more they will get used to it.   He needs to work on setting hitters up with his fastball…and to be honest, if he can develop a slider, he could be the sleeper for 2015.  If the Mariners were smart, they should hook him up with Randy Johnson who had one of the best sliders in the majors.

The bullpen, the strongest component of last years team, is pretty much the same this year with Fernando Rodney coming back as the closer.  Not a big fan of Rodney but can’t deny he had great success last year with 36 saves.  Along with Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsman, the Mariners have little to be worried about with leads after the 7th inning.

As for the lumber, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino and newcomer Nelson Cruz provide plenty of pop.  Cano will have his usual .300-plus, 20-25 home runs and 100 plus RBI year.  Seager could struggle a bit this year as pitchers are now aware of him.  I don’t see Zunino putting up 20 home runs this year but I do see him becoming a more dangerous hitter.  He was under .200 for batting in 2014 but I suspect he’ll be a .260 to .265 hitter this year and use the whole field.  And Nelson Cruz, who hit 33 home runs last year will solidify the middle line up.

Mariners are lacking a good lead-off man.  Austin Jackson, a very good outfielder, didn’t do very well with the Mariners after being traded from the Detroit Tigers.  Too many strikeouts and not enough walks.

For me, a leadoff batters main focus is to get on base.  Too accomplish that, the hitter needs to be patient at the plate, work the pitcher deep into counts and learn how to foul off pitches until he gets the one he likes.  Jackson, in 578 bats last year, struck out 138 times and only walked 50 times.  He has got to cut down on his K’s by at least 30% and walk in the 75 to 90 range for the year.

Dustin Ackley will have a solid, consistent year in 2015.  Everyone seems to want to write him off but I like this guy.  He has the ability to carry a team as he showed last year during an outstanding three week stretch.   He’s improving as an outfielder and has found a home in the lineup in the number eight hole.

The one spot where the Mariners have a real concern is shortstop.  Not so much from a defensive standpoint since both Brad Miller and Chris Taylor made some outstanding plays.  Miller is the more refined defensively and Taylor is probably the better hitter but not by much.  But if the Mariners concede that whoever plays shortstop will be no more than  a .220 hitter with a good glove, then they need to accept that and take whatever offense comes out is a bonus.

Manager Lloyd McClendon will keep this team on track, not allow them to get too high or too low.  He is, right now, the best temperament this team needs.  He’ll back his players 110%, won’t embarrass them to the media and won’t be afraid to sit a player down regardless of the player’s status on the team.

And as poet Alexander Pope once said “Hope springs eternal,” I look forward to sunny days listening to Mariners on the radio kicking some butt and taking names this year.

Go Mariners!