As the Mariners season started this year, hope sprang eternal. Pundits predicted a potentially pennant-winning season for the hometown club – their top-heavy pitching staff and stout defense surely would make for a playoff worthy team. Most importantly, the Mariners undoubtedly had the best clubhouse chemistry in the league; Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney provided veteran leadership in the clubhouse that would keep the team in check all year.
If only that had been the case. Griffey and Sweeney were supposed to be the rocks of the clubhouse, the collective emotional backbone of the team. No one could’ve seen what happened next.
In reality, Griffey and Sweeney ended up being clubhouse cancers. Griffey pouted incessantly about his lack of playing time, and the team began coming down with him. Sweeney backed Griffey wholeheartedly, simultaneously threatening violence to naysayers and offering hugs to anyone who wanted them.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, these two were the leaders. With Griffey and Sweeney leading the way, the rest of the team followed suit, and subsequently lost trust in manager Don “Bob Melvin 2.0” Wakamatsu. When Griffey walked away, the Mariners were doomed. The team gave up, and the season went down the drain.
However, most fans hailed Griffey’s departure as a turning point for the Mariners. No longer would his vastly below-average performance negatively affect the team’s play. By taking dead weight out of the lineup, the Mariners should have become a better team.
But they didn’t. Baseball is a sport that is, more than any other, absolutely dominated by statistics. The sabermetrics movement has captured the hearts of fans, analysts, and front offices alike. But statistics can only tell us so much about baseball.
Baseball is about more than just batting average, on base percentage, BABIP, WHIP, ERA, and all the other stats sabermetricians have deemed “good” and “bad.” The Mariners should have been a better team after Griffey retired, and they simply weren’t. Many baseball experts now attempt to disregard clubhouse chemistry as unimportant. But this year’s Mariners team proves that it is. Without Griffey, Sweeney, and the Wakamatsu debacle, the Mariners this year have a totally different season.
People can point to things like BABIP to try and prove that a player has had bad luck as a reason for his low batting average (see Figgins, Chone). But in order to get the whole picture, watch every Mariners game for a month. Figgins has a low BABIP because he gets weak ground balls every time at the plate; not because of bad luck.
BABIP as a stat also has several problems – baseball is a game of many attempts, and large numbers. Players change from year to year, and stats should not generally be compared between years as a result of this. Luck can have an impact on a player’s statistics perhaps on a scale of 100 at-bats. Maybe a little bit more. But because the average starter steps up to the plate over 500 times per season, eventually statistics that are below mean or above mean have to simply become the mean. The law of large numbers states that everything returns to mean after awhile. Basically, if after 450 at-bats Chone Figgins still has a BABIP of .240, that’s not because he’s unlucky – it’s because he’s hitting the ball weakly. Luck just logically can’t have an impact across an entire baseball season. It’s extraordinarily improbable based off the laws of statistics.
After that rant, I’ll get back to my original point. It’s ironic that the Mariners problems this year can mainly be attributed to the two members of the team who were supposed to be our best men – Griffey and Sweeney. Clubhouse chemistry isn’t something that can be forced through people like this, it’s something that happens naturally. Hopefully next year the Mariners front office will go with the flow, and not try to force things off the field. And hopefully they watch every game too, instead of just depending on statistics to make their every decision.no comments
It's almost like a bad dating show. Manager after manager is eliminated until, well until what? Including Daren Brown, the Mariners have now had six managers since Lou Piniella.
The most recent failure was Don Wakamatsu, and although some believe his firing was premature, the deed is now done. Fans have lost faith and believe a solid manager to be as unattainable as the Holy Grail. The Mariners need a leader. They need someone who can excite the fan base with personality and energy. They need someone who is established, who won't be so easy to throw into the fire with the rest of the mangers they have hired.
So who should be behind door number seven? Bobby Valentine.
Bobby Valentine fits the mold perfectly. First off, he knows baseball and he knows winning. He made it to a World Series with the Mets, and he was a winner in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines. In the U.S, helped produce 9 seasons of 82 wins or over and two seasons with win totals in the 90's.
Important to Seattle, he also knows the Japanese market. Because of his experience in Japan, he will be able to relate to the Japanese ownership of the Mariners, and he will also have an edge when pursuing Japanese players. The Japanese market is one the Mariners have always taken advantage of since the arrival of Ichiro, and Bobby Valentine is the perfect manager to continue that.
However, what is most undeniably unique about Valentine is his personality. He is the type of guy that can get Seattleites to rally around the Mariners and be excited about baseball season. For example, in 1999 Valentine was ejected while managing the Mets. Instead of staying in the clubhouse, he returned to the dugout an inning later with a fake mustache as disguise. That is someone that players love to play for.
He will be a leader in the clubhouse and stand up to upper management. Like Piniella, he speaks his mind, and he would not take the crap that recent managers have.
And this is not just wishful thinking. According to a recent Seattle Times blog post by Larry Stone, Valentine has privately expressed great interest in the position.
It is time for the Mariners to get a manager who has proven himself in baseball. The ownership and Zduriencik just need to say to Valentine, "Here, you have our trust, turn this team around." The M's cannot continue to start over with a new "our guy" every two years.
If the Mariners hire Bobby Valentine, they may have finally found their winner.no comments
In the sports world, as well as in society in general, people prefer to believe that there is a reason that everything happens, and when we do not fully understand something, we tend to attribute that to something or somebody, instead of simply accepting randomness. Baseball is a game where randomness rules, where the result of any one MLB game, regardless of the teams, is nearly impossible to predict with complete certainty. The sports media and most fans usually attribute this to the team's manager, who is often presented as the face of the organization. As a result, managers in baseball receive far too much credit when their teams win, and far too much blame when they lose.
After a disastrous second season as manager and a few weeks of media speculation, Don Wakamatsu has been fired, along with pitching coach Rick Adair, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, and performance coach Steve Hecht. Despite being talked of as a possible manager of the year candidate last year and presiding over a clubhouse whose closeness would sometimes overshadow the actual on-field performance of the team, Wakamatsu becomes the latest casualty of the 2010 Mariners.
I remember driving home from a Mariner win in May of last year with the sports radio station playing. The radio host claimed that Wakamatsu's work in the clubhouse had already translated into about four or five wins for the Mariners that season. I turned the radio off at that point because this was a preposterous idea: the impact of a manager is estimated to equal about one win over the course of a full season. However, it was clear from this unfalsifiable claim that the media in Seattle loved Wakamatsu. Wakamatsu's management style has changed little since he took over. The only thing that has changed is the performance of the players and the team.
Is it Wakamatsu's fault that Chone Figgins, Jack Wilson, and Jose Lopez, among others, suddenly and simultaneously have the worst years of their careers? I have not yet seen a reporter make that claim.
However, by asking for Wakamatsu to be fired, they are blaming him for the things that he cannot control.
Perhaps this was a move the organization needed to make. By blaming Wakamatsu, the rest of the organization has taken some of the heat off themselves. Maybe the team felt that the players had turned against Wakamatsu and that even if they turned it around they would not respect him.
Regardless of the reason, however, Wakamatsu did not deserve to be blamed for this season. Maybe, if nothing else, this move will serve as more evidence of the volatility of "team chemistry."
I do not see this as a step forward for the organization, but it is not a step backwards either. Regardless of who their manager is going forward, the Mariners have a lot more before they can return to respectability.no comments
Via MLB Trade Rumors:
The Mariners fired manager Don Wakamatsu, tweets Brock & Salk of ESPN 710. They add that pitching coach Rick Adair, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, and performance coach Steve Hecht were also let go. The Mariners confirmed the moves in a press release, stating that Daren Brown will step up from Triple A to manage the club and Carl Willis will take over as pitching coach.no comments
Here's a guest post courtesy of Tim Chalberg, from Mariners Musings Enjoy!
As the trade deadline looms, the Mariners obviously made their biggest move at the start of the month, when they sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers for a quartet of prospects. It is fair to call it one of the more prominent trades in franchise history.
The Mariners have come up both winners and losers in previous deadline deals. I like the M's end of the Lee deal, but it is too early to say if it turned out to be good or bad.
Here is some of the competition that the Lee deal faces. I present to you the worst and best deadline deals the Mariners have ever made:
The Worst: July 31, 1997 – Mariners acquire RHP Heathcliff Slocumb from the Red Sox for C Jason Varitek and RHP Derek Lowe
Let's start with Slocumb; he had over 30 saves in 1995 and 1996, sporting ERAs in both years around 3.00. By traditional numbers, he looked fine, but the wheels started to come off in 1997, to the tune of a 5.79 ERA with only two fewer walks than strikeouts at the time of the trade. Looking beyond Heathcliff's ERA (or watching him in person for that matter), Slocumb always struggled to throw strikes, and didn't counteract that with an eye-popping strikeout rate.
His split-finger was a swing-and-miss type of pitch, but hitters often felt no need to expand their strike zone with his questionable control. Still, despite the obvious signs the Slocumb wasn't a strong rebound candidate; M's GM Woody Woodward bit the bullet, and put some trust in him.
In Woodward's defense, Slocumb was added to one of those epic mid-'90s Mariners bullpens. Although Heathcliff wasn't that great, he was 1 of 20 pitchers used in relief by the 1997 Mariners, which says plenty about the talent level of that bullpen. It should be noted that Slocumb did rebound down the stretch in 1997. In Seattle the rest of the season, as the closer, Heathcliff got about a strikeout an inning, and his ERA went down nearly a couple runs. However, Slocumb showed his true colors again in 1998, and was gone by the end of the season.
In the end, the deal sort of worked for three months. The price was excessive, to say the least. Derek Lowe, who made his MLB debut for the 1997 Mariners (and was ineffective in his nine starts), did not take long to establish himself as an All-Star caliber pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Jason Varitek was still a prospect in the Mariners system, but went on to become the next Red Sox captain, ending up with some All-Star selections of his own along the way.
What makes this far and away the worst deal in M's history though is the story behind how it happened. The trade happened literally minutes before deadline, and apparently Woodward was working the phone lines really hard. He ended up with too many irons in the fire, and as everything fell apart, he came back to Heathcliff Slocumb. Rumors leaked out that the Red Sox were asking for Derek Lowe or Jason Varitek, and it was the Mariners that came back offering both of them. Needless to say, it didn't take long for Boston to agree to the deal.
The best: July 30, 1996 – Mariners acquire LHP Jamie Moyer from the Red Sox for OF Darren Bragg
The Mariners needed pitching in 1996, a common theme throughout the 1990s. Bragg had become a fairly dependable outfielder, but seemed expendable with Jose Cruz Jr. coming through the system. Plus, it's just not a traditional M's ballclub without a question mark in left field, right?
Moyer wound up having a highly successful 10-year run with the Mariners, establishing himself as a leader in the local community, and a fixture in the Mariners record books. Bragg did not go on to similar success with the Red Sox. At the time, it seemed like the trade would be one of those types where it would wind up being a win-win, but in the end it was a steal for the Mariners.
One noteworthy side story to this trade is that then-GM Woody Woodward, the same architect of the Slocumb deal, not only had the smarts to acquire Moyer, but also to keep him. A day after acquiring Moyer, the M's acquired veteran southpaw Terry Mulholland from the Phillies. Both Mulholland and Moyer were free agents at the end of the 1996 season, and Seattle only had enough cash to keep one of them moving forward. Jamie Moyer outperformed Terry Mulholland down the stretch in 1996, the Mariners decided to keep Moyer over Mulholland, and the rest is history.
The Mariners have come up big winners and losers at previous trade deadlines. It is hard to trade a player the caliber of Cliff Lee and end up somewhere in the middle on a trade. Here is hoping history looks upon this most recent deadline deal favorably when it is all said and done.no comments
Baseball is a statisticians dream, and there is no stat hotter since the influx of Moneyball tactics than on -base percentage. Most major league organizations are now stressing it as a focal point in the success of a young player. Players like Kevin Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks, have practically made careers out of superior pitch selection. A high on base percentage leads to so many benefits. At its most basic level, having a player on base simply increases the likelihood of a team scoring.
Batting average, though now often considered less important, is also usually increased with a good eye because players are pickier about what pitches they go after. Additionally, with each ball not chased, the batter gets his team closer to the opposing team's bullpen. Yet, the Mariners perform quite poorly in this area. They currently rank 29th in the league in OBP.
In order for the Mariners to turn the tide, they need to catch up in OBP with the league’s top teams. The league average OBP floats around .340. Currently, the M’s have one, yes one, everyday player with an OBP over .340, and that would be Ichiro. The Yankees have eight. The Rockies have around seven. The AL West leading Rangers have five. Even the Royals have three or four. Clearly, the Mariners have a problem.
From the minute their prospects hit the minors, they need to know that OBP is what the Mariners want. Also, the Mariners need to go after players in the market that have proven themselves in OBP. Successful clubs don’t have room for guys like Jose Lopez or Jack Wilson. Improving in this category would do great things for the Mariners. For example, in 2006 the Tampa Bay Rays ranked dead last in OBP, and they finished last in the AL East once again.
But maybe it's just a bigger issue. The Mariners just can't plain hit. I'm sure Zduriencik wanted to add some bats this year, but they just weren't available last winter.
By 2008, the Rays improved to 10th in league in OBP, and guess what? They finished first in the AL East in one of the biggest turn a rounds in the history of Major League Baseball. That change in success was largely driven by the team’s success in OBP. The Mariners could do the same or better with a payroll which is much larger than that of the Rays. All it takes is the organization, starting with the minor league affiliates, refusing to accept such terrible plate discipline.no comments
The Mariners have gone from the cover of ESPN the Magazine to the cellar of the AL West. The team is batting .235; Griffey is retired; Milton Bradley is making $11 million this year. The list goes on, and without a doubt, all hope is lost for 2010. The Mariners are in need of a serious overhaul. This will be the start of a series of posts on Seatownsports that details how to fix the troubled Mariners.
Let me preface this by saying that I have every reason to be rooting for Don Wakamatsu. I loved his hiring, I loved what he did last year, and I was excited to see what the next season brought. As a fellow Japanese American, I wanted to see Wakamatsu succeed this year. I really did.
But the bottom line is, he hasn’t.
Some detractors point to his poor management of the bullpen. Others question his handling of the batting order. And while these points may have merit, they are not enough to result in Wak’s firing.
The truth is, Wakamatsu just has not won enough games. Just as last year’s M’s exceeded expectations, this year’s team has underperformed. And just as Wak took part of the credit for their success last year, this season he take blame for their fall.
Sure, the fault does not lie entirely on Wakamatsu. Zduriencik has lost his Midas touch of yesteryear. Acquisitions such as Figgins, Bradley and Kotchman contributed next to nothing. Wakamatsu has not had the tools to put together a playoff-worthy team this year.
Nevertheless, Wak has been a factor in the Mariners’ lackluster performance. The “belief system” that he often references is falling apart among fans and players. Although Wak was praised for acting as a steadying presence in last year’s rejuvenated clubhouse, this year he has contributed to their growing dysfunctionality.
Part of this has to do with losing. But also, part of it has to do with Wak’s handling of the Griffey situation. Sure, it’s easy to vilify Wakamatsu for forcing Griffey out of the clubhouse. But I’m not going to judge whether or not Wak really did push Griffey out of Seattle. What I do know is that due in part to the way he took care of the Griffey situation, Wakamatsu has lost control of the team.
Last night’s “fiery dugout confrontation” between Wakamatsu and Figgins was further proof that Wak has lost the clubhouse. And it’s not just Figgins. The entire dugout seemed to be involved in last night’s fracas. Jose Lopez was seen pulled out of the fight, and did not talk to reporters after the game.
Now, some may say team chemistry plays little to no role in baseball, which is largely an individual sport. But do you really think last night’s confrontation was not on the players’ minds, affecting their play even in the slightest? Do you really think the play of Figgins and others will not be disturbed by the confrontation? Do you really think Wakamatsu’s decision making will remain unaltered, despite the knowledge that he is losing control of his team?
I believe chemistry does affect team play. I saw the Mariners suffer from poor chemistry two years ago, and benefit from good chemistry last year. Now, I watch them endure the pains of a dysfunctional clubhouse once more, with Wak in the middle of it all.
The M’s cannot afford to give Wak another year. I saw the effects of this when the Huskies gave Ty Willingham one year too many. We wouldn’t want the Mariners to go 0-162 next year, would we?
Wakamatsu talks often about holding players accountable. Well, he must be held accountable too. And as Wak himself said, “my accountability above all else is to win games”.
Wakamatsu has lost games. He has lost his clubhouse. And now, he must lose his job.no comments
10:10 PM EST: “I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, but the flight has been cancelled.”
Not only was I annoyed by the pilot interrupting my episode of South Park on my complimentary satellite TV on JetBlue, I also realized my I would be stuck in New York until morning. Getting a flight cancelled and losing all of my television options all at once made for a depressing sequence of events. But fortunately I realized the mariners were playing as we deplaned ten minutes later.
Thanks to a recent investment, I could gametrack the Mariners on ESPN. As people had psychotic freakouts all around me in the terminal about where they would stay that night, I relied on my iPod Touch to keep me connected with the one grounding force I could find, what I observed was a classic pitching duel and a game played the “Mariner Way.”
Felix Hernandez and Gavin Floyd spun gems and were unhittable. Although I wasn’t watching the game, I could tell Felix was on-point. His stats said it all, two hits in eight innings. While Felix pitched one of his best games of the season, the offense performed to its best---laying an egg against Floyd.
The Mariners failed to get a runner past second in the first ten innings and every time they got a base runner, they found a way to squander the rally; Chone Figgins got caught stealing, Jose Lopez grounded into a double play (what's new?), and Josh Bard failed to bunt somebody over.
As JetBlue tried their hardest to find every displaced passenger a hotel for the night, I watched helplessly as the M’s tried to do something to help their ace and best player get the win he deserved. My heart sank as the Mariners failed to score in the eighth and King Felix was yanked before the top of the ninth for David Aardsma. Possibly the work of a minor miracle, the D.A. foiled Alex Rios and Paul Konerko to finish the ninth.
As I learned I would be sleeping on the inviting floors of JFK airport for the night, the Mariners built momentum in the bottom of the ninth. After Figgins walked and Gutierrez sacrificed him over to second, Jose Lopez was intentionally walked to bring up pinch hitter Milton Bradley with runners at first and second and one out. This was the perfect time for the Mariners to pull it out and at least make something out of a gem from Felix.
Bradley hit a flare to left that was nabbed on a dive by Andruw Jones, who proceeded to double-up a confused Lopez at first.
God Lopez sucks.
When the Mariner’s other shaky reliever Brandon League came in and walked the first batter, I got that hopeless feeling again. As I complained about League to my family, my brother said: “just face it, the Mariners suck.” League finished the tenth quickly after he got a double play off the bat of Jones immediately following the lead-off walk.
But the Mariners failed quickly in the tenth, and the game continued. As I got into “bed,” which was really a blanket at least a foot too small on the floor of gate 23, I was crushed. Omar Vizquel broke the scoreless draw with a base knock to right off of an overworked League. League finished the inning, but realistically the Mariners were finished too. They had two runs in the series, and none in the first ten innings Wednesday.
Bobby Jenks took the hill for the White Sox. Jack Wilson got aboard and then was sacrificed to second by Ichiro. Up stepped Chone Figgins. I found myself praying for Figgins to get a hit.
And my prayers were answered, as Figgins drove one into centerfield. Watching the gamecast, I couldn’t believe that Jack Wilson didn’t score. But it didn’t matter. After Figgins swiped second, Guti hammered one into right-center and Jack and Figgins scored. The two run scorers embraced at the plate and the team pounded Guti with the typical flurry of celebratory punches.
Amidst a fistpump from the floor of Gate 23, it occurred to me why I love the Mariners so much. For a couple of minutes, I wasn’t stranded in a terminal sleeping on the floor. For a few brief moments, I wasn’t forced to listen “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch” which tortured the stranded travelers on almost full volume from the terminal monitors.
For just a little bit, my team wasn’t 21 games under, the season wasn’t over, and it wasn’t absolute torture being a Mariners fan. Even though five minutes later we were still one of the worst teams in baseball, For those five minutes Franklin Gutierrez was a hero and my team was on top of the baseball world. Though I had to sleep on a dirty carpet 3,000 miles from home Wednesday night, the Mariners made sleeping just that much easier.no comments
I went to the Mariner's game Tuesday night for only the second time all year; it was the first time sitting in seats I purchased (cheap ones!). There were some valuable lessons I learned from attending:
1. Alex over at Seattlesportsnet.com is absolutely right - gate checkers are ruthless about checking pockets now. I had a slight bulge in my pocket from my wallet, and as I walked up to the gate, already five minutes late, the bag-checker decided she needed to know what was in my pockets. But apparently I just needed to tell her, I didn't need to show her. I told her I had my phone, wallet, and free granola bar given away outside the stadium.
As I began to display these items, she just said, "Okay, you don't need to show me." And shooed me forward.
So, let me get this straight, bag-woman. You think I might have contraband in my pockets, so you ask me what's in them. But when I tell you, you don't need me to show you what I am actually carrying. So, if I were to be carrying a vuvuzela in my pocket, but I told you it was my cell phone, I could get away with it. Look, lady, don't waste my time if you're not actually going to bother checking.
And way to not check the pockets of any of the other five people with me. Jerk. Lesson learned: If you want to bring your crack pipes, alcohol bottles, or noisemakers into the stadium, put them in your pocket and tell the bag checker they're your cell phone.
2. Mariners tickets are one of the best deals in town. My friends and I shelled out only $48 for six tickets. Centerfield bleacher seats are fun if you want to go sit in them and enjoy yourself, especially at an afternoon game (which this wasn't). Thus, we six never actually sat in our seats.
To be honest, I don't even know what section they were in. We started out leaning on the railing above the bullpen, watching John Wetteland and David Aardsma sign a ball for who I can only assume was a new, or substitute security guard. We then moved on to better seats, which leads us to...
3. Unless your ticket is there, don't go sit in section 102. The extremely old usher with a massive gobble will come down and pester you. Now ordinarily I wouldn't mind, since this is his job. But his uppity-ass explanation made me furious. We were sitting in roughly the 11th row. There were literally 6 open rows in front of us, and about 10 behind us. We were isolated. But the usher came over, and we had this exchange.
Usher: So, do you guys have tickets from anywhere around here?
Me: Well, close by, yes. They're up there (points to centerfield bleachers one level up behind).
Usher: That's what I figured - well unfortunately the seats you're sitting in cost $40, and you have $10 tickets. I can't allow you to stay here and bother the people who paid all $40 to sit here.
Are you f***ing kidding me? I was surrounded literally by 60 open seats. What's the problem with staying there? Are we bothering the THREE OTHER PEOPLE IN OUR SECTION?? WHO ARE 10 ROWS AWAY?? I was so mad I was shaking. But nonetheless, we all moved up and claimed our own section in the right field bleachers, 300 level, 1st row.
4. The Mariners suck way more in person. We got shut down by John Danks. I know, he's a good pitcher. But the Mariners literally couldn't touch him. I was constantly getting bored. I just couldn't watch another Chone Figgins at bat. I couldn't.
5. Mariners games are easy ways to make money. I bet two of my friends a dollar, giving them 100-1 odds, that Chone Figgins wouldn't hit a home run in the game. They bit. I made two dollars. I admit, my heart rate rose like a hot air balloon when Figgins hit that fly out the end the 8th, but naturally he didn't get it out of the park.
6. Hecklers are absolutely awesome. While sitting in the 300 level, we were leaning out over the railing a little bit. We saw a guy below us yelling at Andruw Jones, the right fielder for the White Sox. Since the stadium was deathly silent, I was able to catch the end of his rant, hearing the phrase "butt-pirate" uttered. Naturally, I had to go sit by him. I waited until the end of the game, but in the middle of the 9th, I headed down to hear the last shots he fired at Jones.
However, during that time, a fan ran onto the field, and got his short, pudgy rear tackled before he even reached second base. Thus, the usher came down to the bottom of the section, near where the man was sitting. As the man began yelling, the usher stood up, turned around, and told him to sit down. But as the game let out, I went up to him and told him I heard his butt-pirate insult from the 300-level.
He was absolutely plastered, and was ecstatic when he heard this. He gave me a giant hug and asked if I heard his first insult. I told him no. Naturally, he told it, "Hey Jones, this is baseball! If it was easy, it would be called your mom!" And I left the game having made a new friend. It almost rectified the rest of this crappy experience. But not quite.no comments