The one about Rodney. I sign my anonymous entries at the end, if it helps. Separates me from that other brilliant fella. (I like "fella" because it can refer to a man or a woman, right?)
Grizzle tapes on the tinfoil for this morning's festivities:
I'm with you, Matt. But it runs far deeper than just the guys calling the shots with respect to player development. There was, to my recollection, a fairly complete turnover of those folks that came in the seasons after Jack was hired, with no real improvement. The minors are churning out pitchers, but then the M's minors have been pretty good at that for quite a while.
I would clean house in the organization, top to bottom. There is some kind of cancer gnawing at the bowels of this organization and it's going to be tough to get it out. It's not just Jack, just like it wan't just Bavasi. It's not just Mather just like it wasn't just Armstrong. It's not just #Lincoln. It's not just Gwynn. Some healthy flesh (ie good employees) will have to be sacrificed in order to get that cancer all out. Coaches, trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, marketers...I advocate a near complete purge. The trick, I suppose, is finding the person or persons to manage the organizational rebuild. People that can manage big organizational change are rare...and almost never the person you want running things in the long run.
Rick, we presume, sez
Maybe Paul Allen should buy the Mariners. Then he could trade for Russell Wilson, and sign him to a rich guaranteed MLB contract to avoid the NFL salary cap! Contract issues solved for the Hawks! Win forever. In all seriousness though having a unitary involved owner can't hurt.
And maybe Chuckster will hold a "We Tried"-style press conference in which he says "It's time to get carried away." The idea of Allen purchasing the M's has come up and M's reps always respond in the chilliest way possible. The suits are having fun, kids, even if we're not. There's an air of royalty you breathe in the back recesses of the Safeco facility.
That said, Pat Gillick was able to reprise his Toronto / Balmer / Philly shtick here with absolutely the greatest of ease. We've got to find a way to hammer that square peg into the round hole. Gillick, and to a lesser extent Piniella, were able to get their top hands onto the knob of the bat in the "Who's Up First?" game played against the lawyers.
How could it be reproduced, 15 years on? Do you know any Gillicks / La Russas to whom Lincoln would defer this time around (post-Gillick grad study era)? Me either.
It stinks that Rodney gets to just slide back into the closer role... Smith has TOTALLY earned it and thrived with it! I really hope they are just doing this to showcase that Rodney is back and pitching well so they can trade him... Surely a contender out there needs a closer or setup guy like FRE right??
Anonymous (Rick?) sez,
Lloyd doesn't think they can win pennant without a successful Rodney as closer. He may be right. Rodney needs to be solid then. Rock solid.
Seems that Smith HAS earned it :- ) but may we shift paradigms on yer for a sec? Since the 1990's, at least -- since Mariano Rivera was throwing the 8th setting up an aging John Wetteland -- Dr. D has waxed ecstatic about bullpens with (1) their Beast in the 8th, deployed at a time of the ballclub's CHOOSING, and (2) some overrated big name pitching a clean 9th inning with a 3-run lead and a full windup. Bill James has also tilted at this windmill for 20 years, that a baseball team's dominant relief pitcher should be used in tie games or 1-run games either way. That's how they do it in the playoffs, most a' time.
Would a single man here oppose that idea? Your one dominant relief ace, you'd like to be able to CHOOSE when he enters the game? As opposed to having baseball convention dictate it?
If the M's want to pitch Carson Smith against Trout and Pujols, and give the "save" to Rodney, iss' OK wit me. Serendipity baby.
Trade Rodney? There's a juicy thought. Last time the M's traded a "Mr. Magic Closer," they got back Franklin Gutierrez and a standing ovation from the USSM/LL set. Let's start following MLBTR :_ )
Trade a buncha guys? There's a juicy thoughts too. Question is, who should do the dealin' ... Dr. D is warming to the idea of having Mojician do it...
OBF sez, speaking for many SSI amigos,
All that being said... It may still be that Mike is in a nadir of that curve and soon he will be on an asymptotic rise to super stardom. My hope is that finding a calmer ki, taking a few more pitches, using a singles swing a little more as opposed to the 450 ft swing (especially with 2 strikes) will be the key for him, and so far in June we are seeing his first consistent attempts at that. My main point was to fight this rhetoric that a player can be "ruined" by being promoted to quickly... It is something we love to beat the drum about as fans, but I have never actually seen evidence to support it. It is just a convenient scapegoat for when one of our favorite players is not developing the way we hoped.
Leave us recall that (1) Mike Zunino is very unlucky in 2015 and that (2) Jason Varitek was batting .262 in the minors at Zunino's age. It was two years' frustration later that we flipped Varitek for a rental pitcher. In other words, if you gave up on Zunino TWO YEARS ON, you'd be pulling a Varitek sale. How many such catchers could you find, who didn't hit in the majors until age 26 or 27? Like, most of 'em.
The hitter development curve is no myth; it's as close to a law of physics as you're going to get in the game of hardball. The M's brought Zunino up to take the good with the bad.
Nothing for it, but to wait for the BABIP rule to kick in .... and to get a platoon partner for the keed.
OBF, it's possible you're right, but my problem with what you're saying is that you are assuming that the ability to hit in the major leagues exists as a binary condition, that the player either possesses the talent or he does not. I don't think that squares with what we know about any sort of talent or ability in any area of human endeavor.
Anonymous (Rick?) sez,
I DO think that the inherent talent to hit in the major leagues is somewhat binary. Certainly it can be coached up, massaged, etc. Hot zones can be incrementally grown, cold zones shrunk, but I will never learn or train myself to hit a 95 mph inside fastball... It's just not in my DNA... I think eye can be learned a little more than pure hitting, but even then, when was the last time you saw a player fundamentally change his patience? Growth, development, coaching, learning they are all real, but the basic talent bases is what it is, and that learning and growth can happen in the majors just as easily as in the minors... all I was suggesting is that unless Zunino is very mentally weak, him being "rushed" did ruin him, it just moved his growth curve into his major league seasons, and it also doesn't limit or even slow that curve.
Bill James tends to take GLS' position here. His logic is that the bottom 1/3 of MLB players OVERLAPS the top 1/3 of AAA players, so how could you have anything other than a smooth continuum? One league blends softly casual into the other.
Jeff Clarke tends to think that James is overly-provoked by 9,000 meetings' worth of listening to scouts intone "AAAA player. Can't hit good velocity and is a DH." There are players with holes in their games; when I was a kid they were known as "5 o' Clock Hitters." If you can find us a single man in uniform who hasn't observed the Jeff Clement Syndrome, we'll rent you This Space Free.
I'm gonna go swim some laps in an outdoor pool. Beats P90X. Maybe the M's will spend the day reading The Inner Game of Tennis. That, or bring in Ichiro for a seminar. There is a man who understands Flow. :- ) ... but then again, so did Edgar. Whatever the 24 men around him did, Edgar dialed in.
I think we know for a fact that some hitters are more talented than others. Bryce Harper is more innately talented at hitting a baseball than Seth Smith. Both are major league hitters, but one is obviously more talented than the other. So we can't really say that the talent of hitting the baseball is binary. It clearly exists on a spectrum. But of course everyone knows this and I don't think OBF or whoever meant "binary" in the literal sense of the word. The underlying question was if whatever innate level of talent the player has could be "ruined" by exposing that player early to major league caliber pitching.
I don't think we know the answer to this question or if it's even possible to get to an answer. The skillset is rare to begin with and even players that top out at AAA are marvelously talented individuals.
I worry about Zunino because I suspect that, for all but the very elite level level talents (like Bryce Harper), learning to hit is a process in which the brain and the nervous system adapt from constant exposure to pitching, where the quality of that pitching is ratcheted upwards over time. Can that same adaptive process work in Zunino's case? I suppose we'll find out at some point. But, if he fails, we probably still won't have the answer to our question.
I'm with OBF and I think Moe is onboard as well. I think it IS possible to "ruin" a ballplayer by rushing him. But my guess is that it is harder than we think to do so, and I don't think we're ruining Mike. Call me a Zunino Denier (sorry, Bat). I don't think we "ruined" Ackley. The Rangers didn't "ruin" Smoak, and nobody ruined Montero. Players get exposed, and so long as you're playing regularly and giving the team plus performance at a glove position, you are probably better off with major league coaching, major league attention, major league resources and major league learning, you can probably learn to deal with the exposure up here as well as down there. Gonna be tougher, for sure. Of course, watching the Mariners run the bases this year, I may have to re-assess that suggestion about superior coaching.
So long as Mike's WAR is above half a win and no one better is on the horizon and so long as the pitchers love pitching to him, I say leave him in there. Of course, Steve Baron has a million or so minor league at bats, got exposed at every single stop in the minor league system, but eventually overcame every challenge, more or less, to reach Tacoma, and supposedly has a good glove and is hitting (SSS alert). Maybe he can give us half a win. Nobody's gonna worry about ruining Steve Baron....NAH. Let's try to figure out who ruined Cano instead, since that's our real problem.
You say you don't think we're ruining him, but how do you really know? If he eventually succeeds and hits 5+ years in the range of .270/.315/.415, then you can probably take that as confirmation that talent eventually won out. But, if he continues to hit in the .150 to .220 range, all you'll know is that he never really learned to hit.
I dunno for sure if I'm right. I've suggested we look at NBA and NFL college players who leave after their sophmore season for clues. But the response is "baseball's different" - and it is. But I rarely hear a convincing case that an NBA or NFL regular who played two years of college would have been far more successful had he stayed two additional seasons - even if those players just sit at the end of the bench for those first two seasons. Unlike Ackley and Montero, Zunino never had the "can't miss" star tag on him - maybe I'm remembering wrong. But unlike those two, we couldn't easily envision our team without him for all his skills. When we picked him up on draft day, there was a big collective, "meh". The one big thing in his favor, everyone agreed, was his proximity to the bigs, because he was a solid leader and backstop, and he had some real plus power. Seems to me he came as advertised - big league ready, good power.
But I now see he's dropped below 0.0 in Replacement value, even as he leads the entire majors in Defensive Runs Saved. So I'm ready to concede that his bat is so bad it's probably the wise thing now to send him down, in case I am wrong. I've always said (or meant to, anyway) that if he's at or below replacement value, we should replace him. We can play 8 games below .500 without him as well as with him.
A fire sale is not in the Mariners' best interest. Here's why:
Suppose for a second that you wanted to cut calories out of your diet by drinking diet soda instead of regular soda. The logic behind this is that regular soda has lots of calories, and diet soda has zero calories. This sounds good on paper. The problem with this theory, is that nine out of ten healthy people don't drink diet soda. They generally abstain altogether, or reserve regular soda for special occasions. Diet soda has aspartame and gives you diabetes. I think.
Teams that have a good track record of signing desirable veterans don't have massive upheaval every July. Players don't like that.
The Orcs make their fire sale system work, but their fandom has the most nauseating ride at Six Flags. Cut bait on Dustin Ackley and Willie Bloomquist as best you can but keep the rest of them. I think that Ackley is upsetting the team mojo with his self pressure and beard, and Willie Bloomquist is upsetting the team mojo by hitting like a shortstop but not being one.
If the team didn't have to watch Ackley grind himself into dust every day, it might be able to chillax and get something going.
...it seems a virtual certainty at this point that Jack Zduriencik is on his way out. It either happens in-season or very shortly afterwards. When the new GM is selected, I believe he'll come in with much more of a "win-now" mandate, and to accomplish that he'll need to take a fresh, top-down look at the roster and then commence some wheeling and dealing to right the ship.
Now, that doesn't have to mean a complete fire-sale. But, it probably will mean moving players with a perceived high level of future value for players with perceived higher present value. There's lot's of room for this sort of roster shuffling to go wrong. Let's hope it goes right.
1. Yes to Doc's point about Smith/Rodney. If (IF!) Lloyd is going to mix and match Smith to face the better lineup i the 8th or 9th, then I'm all in with using he and Rodney interchangeably as the closer. It has yet to be proven that such is Lloyd's intention, however.
2. Yes to Doc's point about Zunino. Great reference to Varitek!
3. Yes/Yes to Rick's points about Zunino/Smoak/Montero. They were not ruined by getting to the bigs early. They simply had flaws that were/have been exposed. Those flaws would have likely been exposed even if they had two more years of bashing AAA chuckers.
4. A bonus Yes to Doc's mention of Ichiro. Two days ago (just before heading out on a steelhead trip) I nearly proposed we get Ichiro (he will be pretty cheap) and use him in LF as a cack-handed platoon in LF. He's ripped lefties to the tune of .300+ the last 3 years. And he would bring a winning presence.