Saturday, December 31, 2011

Well Mariners fans, what's next? Start by telling the writers to stick it!

It would be cliche to suggest that for Mariners fans, this is a winter of our discontent.  Yesterday the M's announced they'd finally signed George Sherrill, a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY.)  Great, I'm excited.  George is a good guy and may help keep things close in our usual 2-0, 2-1, 3-2 games (note: Mariners are always the guys with the lower score.) but I don't think this does much to help our offense.  I know it's not even January yet, but it's difficult to see the parade of player transactions go by and see little action from Jack Z to improve our offense.  Yes, adding John Jaso as a backup catcher is nice.  But that's it. Even signing Munenori Kawasaki as a back up minor league infielder isn't a done deal.

It's actually pretty fun to watch Jeff Sullivan try to fill the day with his daily efforts to rally the troops and share his exasperation with the lack of action on the trade and free agent fronts. On the other hand, I find Geoff Baker's investigation into the Mariners' financial status, and their relative economic competitiveness  versus the rest of baseball strange and verging on hysteria. Dave Cameron's calls for patience seems to lack urgency and energy, and meanwhile there are no trades, signings, Prince Fielder sightings.  Nil. Nada. Nothing.

What's a Mariner fan to do?
Trade Felix Hernandez? Scoff, cough, harumph! Never-well maybe never.
One thing a Mariner fan has to do is endure the litany of articles written by a host of writers and bloggers urging the team to trade Felix Hernandez.  I always find these articles at once amusing and hateful.  Given the teams and players involved in said financial transaction, it's like the stories all originate from the same location, um, like the devil's asshole, and then with a few modifications they're printed as original thinking by Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark, or some other writer with time on his hands during the winter doldrums and no news to speak of.

The stories all start the same:  The Mariners could speed their rebuilding program by trading Felix Hernandez.  To the Yankees. Grr.  The Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics traded good players to the Yankees, did it help them?  The St. Louis Browns anybody?  Last I checked their best players were Ned  Garver and Eddie Gaedel and the team was pulling up stakes and headed to Baltimore. I don't care whether the target team is the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies or whoever else is pouring money into players for their team, the Mariners are not a plantation for the big boys.  We can't trade away our best for another team's leavings.  Felix Hernandez is one of the five best pitchers in baseball, he's the most visible member of the team, draws fans to the ballpark, and he needs to remain a Mariner. 
The King's Court-An island of supporters in a sea of empty seats at Safeco Field.
What I especially love, however, is the players touted for such a trade. The "trade Felix" crowd regularly tout the Yankees (grrr) and the players they could offer.  First on the list is Jesus Montero.  A right handed catcher, who can't catch well, they argue Montero has the kind of power the M's need in the middle of their line-up.  Sure.  Montero has 60 major league at bats.  He's proven nothing.  If Montero is so good, why didn't the Yankees call him up earlier?  Pitcher, Ivan Nova is also a name included.  Nova had a great year last year, with a low ERA, showing his 18 wins weren't just because of Yankee offense. It will be interesting to see if he's able to put together back to back successful years.   Another player mentioned is pitcher Dellin Betances, who has pitched exactly two games in major league baseball.  Ken Rosenthal and David Schoenfeld graciously throw in minor leaguer Manny Banuelos, another pitcher, who hasn't pitched above AAA.  Some include Brett Gardner in such a trade.  I like Gardner, but he is still a role player, a table setter, not a transformational bat.  He'd bring speed and defense to the team, but wouldn't be able to drive himself in.
Hi, my name is Manny Banuelos and I may pitch for the Yankees some day when they let me out of high school.  Okay, that's not fair, he may be good, great or really suck.  He's just a prospect so we don't know. 
 See what's missing here?  Proven offense.  We're asked to trade the 2010 Cy Young Award winner, the 2009 runner up, a 25 year old with 85 career wins for prospects, mostly pitches.  With the exception of Nova, who may end up being quite good, they are guys who have proven nothing.  And how does this help our offense again?  Montero, by all accounts will not be a major league catcher.  He will be a DH.  A right handed DH at Safeco.  Now I also believe you can be a successful right-handed power hitter at Safeco because I've seen players do it.  Frank Thomas could hit at Safeco, maybe Montero could too, but we don't know if he could even be successful at Fenway because he hasn't done it.

What I don't like is the insinuation the Mariners should gamble here.  It's Felix, you won't be able to sign him so you've got to trade him to New York (grrr) where we all live and work (grrr) because frankly the Mariners just aren't worthy of having such a wonderful player.  This is plantation thinking-other teams must develop players to fill the needs of the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies, or maybe the Angels, because they're the ones with the money.  We'll give you leavings, dress up the deal with lots of prospects and say it's all you deserve. Prospects are nice but in the end they're just prospects.  We already are playing a team that is almost entirely composed of prospects-Smoak, Ackley, Seager, Carp, Wells, Robinson, the bullpen and a couple of projected starters-they may be good, but they haven't shown anything yet. Would you seriously look at Justin Smoak and say with certainty he's the real deal?  Yes, but my fingers are crossed.

Hey wait a minute, writer/asshole how about giving us some proven talent?  I'm not above trading Felix, but give us somebody good as a centerpiece.  I'd take Robinson Canoe.  He makes about the same amount of money as Felix, and then we could move Ackley out to left field, which he played in college.  Curtis Granderson would fit in well with this team-he's a legit centerfielder with pop; that's a deal I could live with.  How about Texeira with your Manny dude?  Mark's fading a bit but plays a good first base and hits with power from both sides of the plate.  Don't tell me I'm lucky to trade one of the best pitchers in baseball for a bunch of question marks, give me (the fan, the team, the players) respect and trade straight across for a player who can help this team improve on the field now.

What? Trading Texeira puts a hole in your lineup?  Gosh, I hear that Montero guy can really hit, and it shouldn't take too much to make him a first baseman.  Your fans will understand.

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