Monday, June 16, 2008

Baseball Musings

I'm no longer angry or sad about the hapless Mariners. Occasionally its almost funny how bad they are. Seattle is the worst team in the AL and they've just been swept at home by the worst team in the NL. Its ridiculous. I'm still pretty confident that a lot of our players will somewhat revert to their median level of play and its possible to emerge from the MLB basement (Beltre has put a lot of line drives in play that just end up unlucky, Ichiro always does better the second half of the season than the first). Still, this team sucks. We need the rest of the season to start to retool: make some trades, releases, and call ups.

So how do we build a team for 2009 and beyond? The elements for great pitching are here. Though he's not as good as advertised, Eric Beddard is still a very good pitcher. He and Felix will remain a great 0ne-two punch. Brandon Morrow should be stretched out to become a starter and a few replacement level pitchers can fill out the end of the rotation. Still, its offense that needs major retooling the most. Now is probably the time to trade Raul Ibanez. His decent offense of the last couple seasons will fetch some good prospects before age catches up with him and he regresses. Ownership won't let go of Ichiro or Kenji Johima, so we need to start working Jeff Clement out at first base. Wlad Balentien is a decent defensive outfielder and I think his plate discipline will improve with experience. The power in his bat is worth sticking with him despite the fact he's below the mendoza line right now. Essentially what needs to happen is that we need to start dipping into the farm system better. The Mariners have the 9th highest payroll and the worst record in baseball and have the potential to become one of the first teams to spend over $100 million and lose 100 games. That's idiotic. There are great young players out there who can make this team competitive for years to come at a much better price efficiency.

Perhaps what needs to change most is management. The M's have made atrocious decisions putting together their team. Richie Sexson may be an overpaid washup, but he's no worse a hitter for avg than Miguel Cairo and he's certainly got more power. To win games you need to be able to put the best team out on the field that you can. Benching a bad player in order to play a worse player is not good. Last year I was of the mind that we should put Ibanez in at first since he's played the position before and he's terrible in the outfield (the other option was to DH him). Now they're working Jeremey Reed to perhaps play first?!? Reed would be a fine fourth outfielder for this team, but he's never going to be an everyday player again. If Johima is to remain the team catcher (another questionable decision), then it makes better sense to work Jeff Clement out at first. Reed has nowhere to go offensively but down, Clement seems to have a lot of potential to excel.

So yeah, I'm hoping/expecting Bill Bavasi and John McClaren to be out of a job by the All-Star break. Then perhaps we can start working on 2009. The efforts to maintain an illusion that we are still competitive this year are insulting. I think fans are smart enough to know that now is the time to retool and they'll come out to Safeco to catch a glimpse of new younger players who the future of the team will be built around.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying watching the Cubs much more. They are a fun team to watch in part because they produce runs in all kinds of ways and all throughout their line up. The Cubs bullpen is sometimes a little shaky but still competitive. I don't anticipate the Cubs to be this ridiculously dominant for the rest of the season, but they are certainly are impressive and fun to watch right now. Its a fun time to be a Chicago sports fan as this is the first time in years both baseball teams sit atop their division in June. If there is potential for a crosstown series this October, I will not be disappointed that we are still in Chicago this fall.

On the state of baseball as a whole, there is a good take over at bizofbaseball.com where a couple dozen baseball writers all come to a general conclusion that baseball is thriving right now with exciting competition. But I also share some of the concerns that the revenue boom is not good for the game. I love baseball, but it frustrates me that local governments are subsidizing new ballparks that are more and more designed to cater to the wealthy. It may end up being that cash will taint the game more than performance enhancing drugs ever did.

UPDATE: Just across the wires the Seattle Mariners have fired General Manager Bill Bavasi. It will be interesting to see who will soon be sent to the trading block and what the new outlook is for rebuilding this team.

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