Mariners Analysis

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bob Fontaine gone

Like many of you, I woke up this morning and read Larry Stone's article on Fontaine being dismissed.

My initial feeling.

Good news.

I know this goes against the grain, but hardcare fans have all agreed the only way the Mariners get back on the winning track is a complete overhaul. The Mariners are not one GM away from the playoffs. They need a fundamental process overhaul... they way players are scouted, trained, evaluated, drafted, managed.... you name it, they aren't doing it correctly.

So if Zduriencik is going to be successful, he needs people around him he trusts. He needs his support, so he's not the lone figure trying to steer the ship.

The counter argument to this is why Fontaine. Some feel Fontaine is one of the good guys, the few bright spots, the guys who should be retained and you replace all the other bums.

But is Fontaine that great?

I've never really seen it. Smarter people than me tell me his drafts are excellent. I have deferred to their opinion consistently, but looking back I more often then not have been critical.

Fields as a number one? Terrible idea. No idea who selected it, but I argued at the time this was a monumentally bad pick and Fontaine was in charge.

Morrow pick? He looks like a solid pick, but you can't ignore the team picked the oft-injured guy with upside over the local boy who is likely to win a Cy Young this season. Not to mention they passed on Miller. Not Fontaine's fault you say? So I guess everything is on Bavasi, or does Fontaine deserve any second guessing here?

Clement? Clear draft choice based on need, not best athlete.

We could go on.

If you look over the draft, while there are some misses he also found players like Lowe. So like every scout, he has some questionable picks and some great picks. So how do we weight them and decide if he was part of the solution or the problem? The answer to me is pretty clear. Fontaine has some impressive selections on his resume, but along the way he has some head scratchers as well. If the worst team in baseball selects a reliever in the first round, somethings wrong. And to argue Fontaine had nothing to do with it is difficult to believe.

I guess I'm ok with a few good guys getting shown the door if it fixes this team. If Fontaine is so good, he'll have little trouble finding work and our new GM is supposed to be a great talent evaluator.

I hope more changes are coming.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Moyer unbelievable

I thought the Rays were the better team, and until last night we saw incredibly close and exciting games being played. Watching Jamie on Saturday, he was simply unbelievable.

All of his pitches were on the edge of the strike zone, and you could feel the frustration through the TV on the part of the Rays batters. He left nothing over the plate, his command was perfect and he was the Moyer we wanted to see- baffling major league hitters with 78mph strikes.

I wanted the Rays to win, expected them to win, but wanted to see Moyer do well. I got to see the second part on Saturday. Is a win tonight too much to ask?

I'm not ready for this season to be over, even with the dreck we watched at Safeco all summer.

A win gives us a shot at a 7th game. THAT would be a nice way to end the season, even though it looks very unlikely at this point.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Phillies and the media

I've already written it's pretty hard to not consider the Rays the prohibitive favorite to win the Series. Of course I add it would hardly be shocking if Philadelphia wins, as the nature of sports is part unpredictability, but the Rays are still the best team from the best league with home field advantage when we started. It's their Series to lose.

But of course the media doesn't like to deal with reality, when instead cliches are so much more fun. Instead of writing "Phillies wrestle home field advantage from AL champs" or "Surprising Phillies play tough in Series" we get something like:

The Phillies, Suddenly Futile -- NYT
Phils suffer from poor RISP management -- espn
Phillies are the definition of a tight ballclub -- The Philadelphia Enquirer

The underdog team has played the 97 win AL East champions in two games scoring 5 runs while giving up 6 on the road. They have the best starting pitcher (Hamels) available for two more games, and have home field advantage.

But instead, we hear about all the negative play the Phillies have shown in splitting the Series. Why?

Because to the vast majority of sports writers, the Phillies are the experienced team losing the series, as opposed to the more talented Rays winning. It's easier to focus on the lack of timely hitting by the Phillies than to admit the Tampa club is more than "plucky" or "happy to be here" or "we sure never saw this Tampa club as this good"

East coast bias? Veteran team bias? Hatred for anything Florida after the election fiasco?

Who knows. But I can certainly say something is wrong. The media and fans who picked Philadelphia should be incredibly happy... the team was a hit or two away from having a commanding 2-0 lead and still has home field advantage.

But listening to most writers who should know better, the Phillies are the choking team who put all those base runners on board but had the audacity to let the Rays win a game.

I say let's enjoy the Series and keep things in perspective. The Rays should win, the Phillies might win and have put themselves in a great position after two games. To argue otherwise says more about the writer than what goes on the field.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not impressed, but willing to keep open mind

First instinct when hearing Jack Zduriencik is our new GM?


Let's see, by the time this thing turns around we'll have a 60 year old GM who hopefully has learned enough on the job to actually make a World Series appearence not seem like a joke. Is that the plan?

Sorry to make a big deal about the age, but I want someone who understands computers. I don't want a McCain, I want a 21st Century GM.

Now of course the counterargument is to have our new GM surround himself with young whippersnappers who understand how to build a world class repository of baseball data. There is nothing to suggest that won't happen.

But why beyond hope (like the Phillies thing) would we actually think this WILL happen? What evidence do we have that Zduriencik even acknowledges he has a weakness in the area? He just won a job presumably on his strengths, and this is his first job as GM. Pretty hard to imagine he went in to the interview and said "look, I don't know FIP from F/X but I'm going to find someone who does and we'll work together to rebuild this team."

We have a scouting director who has never been a GM as our new hope. A guy who will learn on the job, with Lincoln and Chuck as his guides. (Oh, and Lee lurking in the background.)

I'm willing to keep an open mind and judge him on his actions, not my fears. Hopefully he comes out, connects with the community and makes our team better. He is certainly better than Bavasi.

But I have to say, right now I'm underwhelmed by the announcement.

Rays should win

Watching various baseball shows on TV and of course reading lots of articles on the series, there seems to be plenty of people picking the Phillies. Certainly no one is dissing the Rays in doing so, but rarely do you see the Phillies folks acknowledge the Rays are the favorites and the Phillies pick is purely emotional.

  • The Phillies have made the playoffs the past two seasons as much because of the Mets collapse as anything else.
  • They played Milwaukee in the first round (nuff said).
  • They played LA in the second, "winner" of the weakest division in baseball. (The Dodgers would not have made the playoffs based on W-L record in any other division.)
  • The NL is universally agreed upon as the inferior league (almost no one has argued in any coherent fashion otherwise for years).
  • The Rays have home field advantage.
So to wrap up, we have the Rays winning the toughest division in baseball and beating last years champions in the process of getting to the WS. They consistently have played the best baseball of anyone all year, they have strong pitching, defense, balanced attack and well regarded managers, not to mention a bullpen that is top notch and has this guy named "Price" or something.

In other words, Tampa is good. Really good. And yet some people who aren't actual Phillies fans are picking Philadelphia to win. Doesn't make sense?

We all understand anything can happen in a 7 game series. If Jeff Weaver and the 83 win Cardinals can with the WS, ANYTHING can happen. No one is arguing otherwise. I would not be the least bit shocked if Philadelphia did win.

But if you had to put your money down, and made the bet straight up, you'd be crazy to pick the Phillies. The Rays demonstrated over and over this year they are a really good team. The Phillies have nothing on their resume as impressive. You may want the Phillies to win. You may figure anything can happen and the Rays will lose, and that's fine. But to argue the Phillies are better and you expect them to win?

There is no evidence to suggest it.

The Rays have confounded the "experts" all year. No matter that many people warned the Rays were going to be much better this year than expected. (The people who pick the Phillies are generally people who don't read or listen to those same people who predicted the rise of the Rays.)

The only thing that will get certain peoples attention is Tampa winning this series. I hope they do.

Sorry Jamie. But sometimes it's better to have the best team win.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tampa Bay can play

My daughter used to say "Tampa Bay can't play" all the time, but with the Bucs having already won a Super Bowl and the Rays getting to the WS I think it's safe to say "Seattle can't play."

I'll be rooting for the Rays, and would like to take a minute to ask all the traditional baseball types to pause and reflect on what they saw- a young, talented team beating "experience" and "veterans" and every other tired cliche you can think of.

Remember when some analysts opined the Rays made a mistake by not trading for a veteran bullpen arm? What did they think when Price closed out the game?

It's human nature to try and cherry pick stats. I ask all the "traditional" minded baseball fans to remember this series the next time an argument is made that favors experience over talent. I'll take the talent every time.

So now we have Moyer versus the Rays. I hope Moyer pitches well in his start, but the Rays win in 5. I don' think it will be that easy, but I do expect the Rays to win the series.


Now quickly on the M's GM search.

The team blew it.

I know that seems strong, but I really feel the team made a mistake in the hiring process. The list of candidates is hardly the worst you could put together, but let me ask you a simple question.

Would you rather have the selection pool be A or B:
A- The current final four list.
B- The list of people who rejected the teams interest.

Frankly, I'll take B every time. The list of people who declined included my personal favorite, Hoyer from the Sox. And here's why I think the team made a mistake in the process.

The team has decided to go in to the interview process completely open minded. Lincoln and company compiled a list and invited every one with an equal invitation. Come and explain how you would build this team, and we'll listen and pick the answer we like best.

Nothing wrong with that, some would say. But here's the problem with that approach.

It's not how execs like to be chosen.

The reality is politics and apperance play a huge role in job selection at the highest level. No rising exec wants to interview for a job and get turned down. Instead, they want their body of work to speak for itself. Those with the big egos and minds don't feel an interview should determine who gets a job. Instead, the interview process is just a meet and greet, more to do a final relationship and getting to know each other than actually pick a "winner."

Imagine you are a "hope to be GM" hot shot like Hoyer. You want the phone call conversation to be something like...

"Jed, we love the work you've done for the Red Sox. We've done our homework and think you've got what it takes to be the next GM for Seattle. We'd like to sit down with you and discuss the opportunity and get to know each other in the process. The jobs yours if you want it."

Instead, Howard and Chuck went with this...

"Jed, we have heard a lot of good things about your work with the Red Sox. We've already interviewed seven people for the job. Why don't you come in and make it number eight? If you do a good job, you might even make the short list, but be prepared! We are going to ask some tough questions in the interview process. We have not made any decisions but want to hear how you would go about turning this team around."

Is it a big suprise guys like Hoyer turned down the opportunity?

If you really, really want someone who have to go after it. If you wanted a Cashman, you need to quietly send the word no check is too big to make it happen. If you want Beane's right hand man, you go after him first. The interviews with the Ng's of the world who are just happy to have a shot can wait. You get the person you want, not wait to see who will show up for the interview.

The good news is the team will definitely end up with a better exec than Bavasi. It's the advantage of starting from absolute bottom. But I'm not all that impressed with the final four, and I think the M's made a classic mistake in the interview process.