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Mariners Hot Stove: Sleepy in Seattle

December 12, 2010

This Mariners off-season's major accomplishment maybe who was let go, rather than who we've picked up

It’s beginning to look like the Hot Stove League in Seattle is over before it ever really began. With no Adrian Beltre/Richie Sexson type announcement like in 2005, a manager in Eric Wedge already in place (until at least June), and a GM Jack Zduriencik getting a vote of confidence (until a major losing streak), it’s shaping up to be a lame duck off-season for the Mariners and their fans.

The Mariners have managed to unload under-achieving 3BJose Lopez to the Rockies for 24-year old RP Chaz Roe. They have been linked to names such as OF Laynce Nix, RP/SP Mark Hendrickson, and SP Rich Harden.

The M’s have made a series of minor moves thus far, signing DH Jack Cust, C Miguel Olivo to be the starting catcher and ending the Adam Moore expiriment.

With a number of upgrades still needed, Moore may be packaged in a deal if one materializes. Trader Jack doesn’t like to sit on his hands and one can only hope that Santa sprinkles some magic dust on his hat and is able to make some quality moves and doesn’t make moves out of sheer desperation.

What we don’t need in Marinerville is another Rich Aurilia or Jeff Cirillo signing.

“This one will FLY, FLY AWAY!!!”-R.I.P. Dave Niehaus (1935-2010)

November 10, 2010

Dave Niehaus in the Kingdome press box

I tried coming up with a Dave Niehaus memory that did not involve the Mariners magical season of 1995. This was the time many new Mariners fans were born and an important chapter in saving baseball in Seattle. But through it all, from 1977 when Diego Segui threw out the first pitch against the California Angels, Dave Niehaus was there.

I remember listening to M’s games back in the 1980’s (the team was SOOO BAD games were on radio only for the most part in those days). To do this though, I had to use my headphones and listen to the game after bed time. Niehaus, (depending on how tired I was that night) either kept me awake or put me to sleep and on many a summer night was the last voice I heard before drifting off to sleep.

I remember the nicknames he liked to come up with: Hendu (Dave Henderson), Val (Dave Valle), Little O (Omar Vizquel), Pee Wee (Greg Briley) and many others. They were all hereoes of my youth, and Dave Niehaus was the narrator.

Here’s to you Dave, rest in peace and may you “FLY, FLY AWAY!!!” to the baseball park in the sky! God bless the Niehaus family during their time of loss and thank you for sharing a remarkable man with the world.

Piniella: Average Player, Great Manager… Not Good Enough for the Hall?

August 24, 2010
Lou Piniella, manager of the Chicago Cubs, wal...

That is the stance Alex Remington of Yahoo! Sports is taking.

Piniella has been widely viewed as one of the best managers of the present era and usually mentioned in the same sentence as Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Jim Leyland.

This is what Remington has to say about Piniella:

 Contrary to Lou’s reputation as a turnaround artist, which prompted his hirings in Tampa Bay and Chicago, a Lou Piniella team could not be expected to be much more successful than it would have been with anyone else at the helm. The Devil Rays learned this the hard way, after Lou guided them to two last-place and one fourth-place finishes.There’s little doubt that Piniella was an above-average manager. But he wasn’t much above average, as indicated by both his won-loss percentage and his performance in Jaffe’s book. He was one of the most colorful figures in the last half-century of baseball.

But in my view, he wasn’t a Hall of Famer.

But how can you stack the deck against someone with credentials such as these?:

Piniella won one World Series title with the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, led the 2001 Seattle Mariners to a record 116 regular-season wins and guided six other playoff teams with the Mariners and Chicago Cubs.

Also consider this:

Piniella’s playing career was less distinguished, but it’s also worth mentioning, because the Hall of Fame explicitly instructs the Veterans Committee to consider every role within the game that a candidate has held. After winning the 1969 Rookie of the Year and being named a 1972 All-Star with the Kansas City Royals, he went to New York and won two rings as a platoon outfielder with the 1970s Bronx Zoo Yankees. He amassed 1,705 hits over an 18-year career. As ESPN recently reported, that makes him just the second manager ever with 1,700 hits as a player and 1,700 wins as a manager. (Joe Torre is the other.)

ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks Piniella as player-manager should earn him induction:

As a player, he wasn’t a Hall of Famer, with 1,705 hits, and if he were judged solely as a manager, he probably wouldn’t be good enough. But the body of work absolutely is enough.

The experts have weighed in. In which category do you think Piniella falls? Will he be a Hall of Fame manager?

What happened in Seattle?

August 15, 2010

Rangers free-agent-to-be SP Cliff Lee

On December 16, 2009 the Seattle Mariners became instant contenders… on paper anyway. That is the day that they solidified the starting rotation with the acquisition of Cliff Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies, giving them one of the best one-two punches in all of baseball.

There was reason to be optimistic in Seattle. In 2009 they improved their win total by 24 games from their disastrous 2008 showing of 101 losses.

However, the architecht of the 2010 Mariners, general manager Jack Zduriencik’s blueprint was pitching and defense.

The result is a team that is last in the major leagues in almost every offensive category. They are averaging only 3.22 runs per game with a team batting average of .236 with 67 homeruns.

The starting rotation has largely been victim to lack of run support. Felix Hernandez record sits at 8-9 despite a 2.71 ERA. Only Ryan Rowland-Smith has truly struggled all year. He is 1-10 with a 6.96 ERA and has more walks (40) than strikeouts (39). Lee, traded to the division rival Texas Rangers was the standout of the five, going 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and only three walks in 103.2 IP prior to his trade to Texas.

Like most seasons, Ichiro leads the team in hitting with a .313 average. The rest of the lineup drops off from the leadoff spot. Franklin Gutierrez, hitting .249 on the year, leads the team in homeruns (10) and RBI’s (48). Neither are numbers that put fear in opposing pitchers.

The addition of Lee to the top of the rotation was supposed to push the Mariners over the top, but even a second ace to join Hernandez was not enough to prevent the sinking of these Mariners.

That makes this off-season of paramount importance. The number one priority will be hiring a skipper with a proven track record. This will be key in deciding the type of free agents the Mariners will be able to attract.

Of course that is unless Trader Jack has another trick up his sleeve to replicate (and improve upon) 2009.  

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Daren Brown bio

August 9, 2010

Mariners interim manager, Daren Brown

Daren Brown, interim manager of the Seattle Mariners was a 29th round choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1989 major league draft. He pitched four years with the Blue Jays organization before continuing his professional career in the independent leagues.

Brown joined the Seattle Mariners organization in 2001 as manager of the single-A San Bernardino Stampede. He became manager of the Mariners affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2003. He managed the Inland Empire 66ers for the 2004-05 seasons.

In 2006, Brown managed the Mariners AA affiliate San Antonio Missions and has been manager of the AAA Tacoma Rainiers since 2007. He led the Rainiers to a division championship last year, edging Colorado Springs to clinch the Pacific Coast League Pacific North division title on the final day of the season.    

Brown and his wife Cindy live in Amarillo, Texas.

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Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu gets the axe

August 9, 2010
Don Wakamatsu
Former M’s skipper Don Wakamatsu

Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu was fired today by the team. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Tacoma Rainiers manager Daren Brown.

Bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Rick Adair and performance coach Steve Hecht were also fired by general manager Jack Zduriencik. The vacancies will be filled by minor league coordinators Roger Hansen and Carl Willis. Hansen, who was previously the catching coordinator for the organization will serve as Brown’s bench coach. Willis, in his first year with the Mariners organization, will be serving as the new pitching coach for Brown’s staff.

Wakamatsu led the Mariners to a 2009 record of 85-77 in his first year as a big league manager. This year however has been rocked by scandal; first with the story about Ken Griffey Jr. napping in the clubhouse and abrupt retirement in the aftermath. There has been speculation that Wakamatsu lost respect with some of the veteran players in the handling of the Griffey situation. Then in July, seconbaseman Chone Figgins and Wakamatsu got into a physical confrontation in the dugout after Wakamatsu pulled Figgins late in the game for lack of hustle.

Greg Bell of the Associated Press was a guest on Kevin Callabro’s show for 710 ESPN Radio in Seattle and specualted about the timing of Wakamatsu’s firing maybe to have an early gauge on the managerial market at the conclusion of the season.

Some names have already been thrown around as early rumor mill candidates. Bobby Valentine, Willie Randolph and Eric Wedge are among the names who have been mentioned in the who’s-who of  possible Mariners candidates.

Time will only tell who the next Mariners manager will be, but the firing of Wakamatsu should come as no surprise. While names are being mentioned, I will throw one out there as well. Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha has been on the Mariners radar in the past, has familiarity with Jack Z and the American League West division and is also a name that has been mentioned as being on the hot seat with his current club.

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Second half, rumors about to get underway

July 14, 2010

With the completion of the All-Star game, which the NL won for the first time since 1996, it is officially the start of the second half of the MLB season. It is also the time for trade rumors to start seriously swirling. A bad series can also move a team from buyers to sellers and vice versa.

So who are some of the biggest names on the block this year?

Prince Fielder, 1B Milwaukee Brewers

Brewers 1B Prince Fielder

Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras reportedly turned down a $100 million plus offer from the Brewers recently. This is pushing the Brewers hand to make a trade to get a return for Fielder before the July 31st trade deadline or in the off-season.

Of course you can count on the usual suspects making a push at the heavy hitting 1B. Consider these teams to strongly make a run at him:

1. Yankees– They always seem to have a deep farm system of over-rated talent, but when you have your own network, such as the Yankees YES Network, you have a national stage to hype them.

2. Red Sox– Big Papi’s aging body can’t turn on a fastball as quickly as it once did, despite his winning showing at the Homerun Derby earlier this week.

Long shots

Mariners/Mets/Dodgers– It’s not that the Mariners don’t have the payroll, it’s that they are unwilling to spend it. The Mets and Dodgers have plenty of room, but have other big contracts that they also have and it is unlikely that the Brewers would take any of it on in a trade.

Jayson Werth, RF Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies OF Jayson Werth

The Red Sox have been named as potential suitors for Werth’s services, as well as for Kerry Wood. What mid-summer rumors don’t involve the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers or Mets this time of year? As mentioned the Sox have an interest in the rightfielder, as do the Yankees and Rays. It will not only be a three way race for the AL East division, but will also likely include the AL Wild Card team. So all three teams will be competing for the same players as well as against each other.

The Cubs

Cubs 1B Derek Lee

No player is safe and the team will likely be looking to unload some of the stagnant salary from the roster of the under-performing Cubbies. Derek Lee, Kosuke Fokudome, and Ryan Theriot seem to be the most likely candidates to be moved, if teams are willing to pick them up.