1997, part 4

=== Echoes, Dept. ===

The second thing that angered the faithful was (2) their weird insistence that Jose Cruz Jr. was a likely future Hall of Famer.  They saw Cruz as a franchise player for the next 15 years.  The Mariners' administration (and, incidentally, Jemanji) cried from the rooftops that Cruz was not going to be a great player. 

This was one of the great 2-on-1,000 firefights in which Silentpadna and Jemanji tried to single-handedly hold back the cyber lynching.  We had exactly as much success as we did in the Bedard trade.  :- )

And in this case the M's were right.  Cruz finished his career with a 102 OPS+, but to this day the M's faithful remember the trade as a hijack.

You can draw the obvious parallels to the Adam Jones trade.  He is currently running a 77 OPS+ for the season, 90 for his career.  If he finishes with Cruz' 102 OPS+, it won't affect the visceral reaction to giving him up.  He was perceived as a franchise player when traded, and that's the emotional imprint we're left with.


It's almost beside the point that Slocumb, Timlin, and Spoljaric did ransom the 1997 season:  Slocumb saved 10 straight games, Timlin and Spoljaric pitched reliably, and the M's won the division by 6 games.  

Weirdly, the Pat Gillick - Davey Johnson Orioles had little trouble dispatching the M's roster of HOF'ers.  The Mariners have always suffered a huge advance-scouting deficit.  In this case, the Orioles executed an interesting anti-Unit strategy:  protect the knees against fastballs.  When they got fastballs down, they hit them - enough to beat the Big Unit, anyway.

Though it's not remembered that way, the 1997 Jose Cruz Jr. trade was one of Chuck Armstrong's most baseball-savvy moves -- he had the guts to give up a fan favorite with huge upside, and redeem a chance for the 1990's M's to take their place in history.


=== 2010, the Punch Line ===

On Sunday, as the M's lost their 2nd straight game on a walk-off homer, the 2010 M's entered the same twilight zone as was inhabited by the 1997 Charlton-Ayala club.

I don't know how it's happening or what the explanation is, but something is going on with the 2010 M's that goes far, far beyond a weak offense or a zapped will to win.  ... you can't lose 15 April-May road games in the other guys' last at-bat.  It's unpossible. 

This is worse than 1997.  I'm now tuning in, in morbid fascination, to see what piano is going to fall on the M's heads next.


In 1997, they traded for three relievers.  I don't know what you trade for, in order to stop a 15-walkoff losing streak.   Relievers, I think, but you tell me.

Jack Zduriencik, in his wisdom, is using his head and not his heart.  He continues to believe in the M's chances, as he should. 

SSI commends this, but if it were in Capt Jack's shoes it would do something drastic.  The offense has revived, and the pianos continue to fall.  Something needs to happen to break the M's pattern.  Walkoff losses will eventually convince a ballclub that it's not going to win.

In the meantime, discount game at the ballpark tonight.  Should be very amusing.  :- )



Dr D



Taro's picture

People may be tired of hearing this, but the RP actually isn't bad (just unlucky). We have a 4.06 ERA and 721 OPS against. Its not a great bullpen, but its closer to league-average than you'd realize.
The problem this year has been a completely terrible performance in "leveraged" situations. This may be partly mental as negative mindset like this can snowball, but mostly its just horrible luck and also a bit of poor bullpen managing.
In '97 the bullpen had a 5.47 ERA and a 824 OPS against. That includes the "better" 2nd half stats. Its not even remotely the same situation.
Overpaying for some relievers this season with our best prospects would be the worst move since Bavasi's trades of Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo for a platoon DH IMO. We've been a slightly below-average team overall and very unlucky. Either way, we're several games out and not a team with an elite base of talent. Win or lose, this group of players is going to have to figure it out, or not.

Taro's picture

The biggest dissapointment this year bullpen-wise for me is Brandon League. Whatever happened to that '09 splitter? Otherwise, everything else has panned out about how you'd expect asides from the terrible performance in leveraged situations.
Really though, any bullpen trades are going to have a much smaller impact than you'd realize and chances are the cost won't be worth it. In an era where top prospects sometimes aren't even traded for #1-2 starters or 4+WAR position players, its just a really bad idea to give up one for a reliever.
If we're talking about shedding some medicore/fringe specs to get adequate relievers in the back end of the bullpen, then that would be a solid suggestion IMO.
If you were really desperate though, you could just add Michael Pineda to the bullpen. He has a skillset that will probably be immediately successful there, and you don't have to make a bad trade. Ultimately I think thats his destination anyways (I know I'm in the minority though on that).

RockiesJeff's picture

The 90's wanted to win so bad....but it was like watching CNBC to pick your investments.  No real planning but lots of hype.  That is how you end up trading a Jack Sikma for a flashy anyone. Those days of spinning the roulette wheel hoping one relief pitcher ends up on red only made for good trivia not baseball.
Good article.  Thanks.


I remember them very well.  It was in my early days posting on line, but the biggest arguments were the Cruz ones.  Of course, conventional wisdom, er, selective memory for some paint the the Slocumb trade as the most controversial.
You hit on another extremely key point in this group:  the fact the M's have been consistenly beaten by advance scouting over the years.  Without a playoff team since 2001, it's been hard to tell whether or not that's still an issue - but I've actually begun to wonder if there isn't something odd with this.  This walk-off thing would be hard to do if you tried to.  I don't think I've seen anything like this in my 30-something years of watching baseball very closely.  Doc knows this well - he and I come from exactly the same baseball roots, in terms of our age, and baseball following - except that I followed the team that came up short against the Big Red Machine at that time (though they were no slouches themselves - the Dodgers).
You can't panic here, but you do need something to stabilize - what that is is what Z is going to earn his paycheck for....

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