In 1881 the future National League wanted to upgrade its image and target a more upscale fan base by doubling ticket prices, banning gambling, and outlawing alcohol sales. Several team owners who happened to be brewers refused to accept the new rules and banded together to form what would eventually become the American League. The National League attempted to discredit the new league by dubbing it the Beer and Whiskey League. This, of course only made the new league more popular. Duh!

Monday, August 09, 2004

The future's so bright, I got to wear shades

A quick note on why people hate the Yankees and why Mariner fans should not fret:

There are two kinds of baseball fans: those who love the Yankees and those who hate them. I, of course, fall within the latter but, to be honest, it’s not so much that I hate the Yankees but, rather, that I hate what the dumb-ass media has to say about the “most storied franchise in baseball.”

A few days ago I was sitting around watching the Yankees/A’s game on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball. At one point, Bobby Crosby made a throwing error to first and the commentator (who was, quite fortunately, not Joe “The Idiot’s Guide to Baseball” Morgan) proclaimed, “If you want to beat the Yankees, you can’t make mistakes.” Oh really? So does that mean you can make mistakes and still win against every other big-league team? I realize the Yankees won Saturday’s game but that had absolutely nothing to do with the throwing error.

The next day I was stuck at the car dealer getting my car fixed. Fortunately, they had a TV in the waiting room and I got to watch a bit of the Yankees/A’s afternoon rubber match. When Olerud hit his two-RBI single early in the game, the commentator mentioned Olerud’s hitting woes this season in Seattle and then added, “but things are a little different when you put on the pinstripes.” No, jackass, things are a little different when you have Bernie Williams hitting behind you rather than some sorry-ass switch hitter like Spiezio.

And while we’re on the subject of Olerud …

Jim Caple had an article about a week ago on the sorry state of the Seattle Mariners with particular focus on Mr. Olerud himself. For those of you who may not be familiar with the story or just don’t want to suffer the ordeal of reading through an entire article written by Caple, Olerud’s one of those “fan favorites” because he’s a local boy who has done his hometown proud (as well as his alma mater, Washington State University).

The Mariners at this point are just sad beyond sad. In 2001 they had that magical 116-win season and then followed up with back-to-back 93-win seasons (although they missed the playoff both times). While most everyone, myself included, thought the Mariners would hit hard times I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how hard those times would be. For all the talk there is on the miraculous turnaround in Detroit, scant attention seems to be paid on the incredibly disastrous turnaround in Seattle.

The Mariners are on pace to LOSE 100 games this season. This following three seasons in which they averaged 100 wins! As Aaron Gleeman pointed out a month ago in the Hardball Times, Seattle’s winning percentage at the time was .252 less than last year’s while the Tigers winning percentage .211 better … and this was before the Mariner’s began their 2-21 road-losing streak.

Oddly enough, however, following the boys in teal has been just as exciting (if not more so). Sure, it’s never quite as fun when your team loses game after game after game but at a certain point a fan has to stop thinking about wins and losses and instead just think about individual performances especially when those individuals happen to be a bunch of rookies.

The most notable of these young rookies is, of course, Bucky Jacobsen. While he’s certainly not the second coming of Hank Aaron he certainly may be our generation’s Harmon Killebrew (and that ain’t bad). While he can certainly look more than a tad silly when he misses on a breaking ball, he’s also shown some amazing plate discipline. In 67 at-bats, he’s posted a .328/.418/.642 (avg/obp/slg). That ain’t no typo either … he’s really got a .418 OBP. I know that 67 at-bats is a paltry sample size but still … a .418 OBP would put him second amongst qualified leaders in the American League, right behind Melvin Mora (.430). At 28, Bucky should be hitting his peak and he will most likely show signs of some major decline in three or four years but considering that this is his rookie year and he won’t be eligible for arbitration for some time, he would certainly make a nice short-term replacement for Edgar. (note: I wrote this before Edgar's announcement that he was to retire at the end of the season ... more on that later).

The supposedly pitching rich Mariners farm system, however, has so far proven to be a bust in the majors. The two call-ups who have received the most playing time, Clint “Sweats a lot” Nageotte and Travis Blackley have shown signs of promise but they seem another year or two away. Both Nageotte and Blackley have serious control problems and seem to lose it after four or five innings. The latter problem I would chalk up to inexperience … major league hitters are making adjustments and the pitchers are not so that after two or three times through the lineup, the hitters have pretty much figured them out. More of concern, of course, is their walk to strike ratio. Nageotte has a disappointing 21 walks to 20 strikeout but Blackley has an unbelievably bad 22 walk to 16 strikeouts.

I like to think myself an optimist and so I’m hoping that these control problems are due mostly to their youth. A 1:2 ratio is considered pretty good. In 361 innings pitched over three years in the minor leagues (at all levels) Blackley had a great BB/K split of 135 BB to 386 K – that’s almost a 1:3 ratio. Blackley is only 22 years old and I think still has a lot of upside in him. So, despite his painfully bad major league numbers, I still think he can be a pretty good middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.

A year older than Blackley, “Sweats-a-lot” Nageotte also had a minor league K/BB ratio of 1:3 (in 617 innings pitched over four years). While I certainly do not expect either pitcher to repeat those numbers in the majors, I do think that once they get their heads on straight, we should be seeing much more consistency from these two.

Bottom line, I think at least one of them should turn out pretty well (my money is on the left-handed Blackley) but the Mariners need to bring him in slow. The front office has already indicated that they are planning to acquire a number one or two starting pitcher via free agency. Basically, if Moyer, Piniero, and Franklin stay in the rotation (and regardless of what others might say, I think Franklin is a fine number four pitcher) and the front office does manage to get a good starter then we can have Blackley or Nageotte as the number five.