Saturday, January 31, 2004

I had to laugh when I read Bruce Garrioch’s commentary this morning about tonight’s Ottawa/Toronto game. The reporter seems to be implying that Tie Domi will have his beamers set on Daniel Alfredsson this evening, as the Senators captain reportedly mocked Mats Sundin by faking tossing his stick in the crowd during a January 8th contest between the two teams.

I understand what Garrioch is trying to do, and quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with trying to pump up a game between two provincial rivals. However, instead of focusing on the fact the Sens and Leafs are neck and neck atop the Eastern Conference standings, Garrioch's insistance on insulting his reader by hinting that we could bear witness to an episode of 'Domi’s revenge' is quite comical.

Reporters have a nasty habit of over-hyping supposed bitter rivalries, and this instance is no different. Gone are the days when players were held accountable for their actions (see the instigator rule). Fighting these days stems more from pre-meditation than sheer emotion. Even if Domi or a fellow Leaf were to exact a bit of revenge against their Swedish foe, you can bet Colin Campbell would levy an unreasonable suspension, not to mention a team fine.

In other words, if you’re looking for blood tonight, you’d best take in an old Friday the 13th flick.
- Tasca's Daily NHL Commentary

To quote tonight's commentary, Toronto came out playing "gutless hockey," reminiscent of the Charlestown Chiefs. For a little background, Mats Sundin was punished earlier this year for throwing a broken stick into the seats. The next time Ottawa played Toronto, Daniel Alfredsson broke his stick and fake-threw it to the fans. Alfredsson apologized after the game, saying that his attempt at humor was poorly timed, but the Leafs vowed revenge in the form of hack-a-Shaq.

Somehow, Toronto managed to play an embarrassing brand of hockey despite Darcy Tucker being out of the lineup with an eye injury. Fans booed every time Alfredsson handled the puck, and the Maple Leaf goons slashed and shoved him at every opportunity. It was only fitting that Alfredsson opened the scoring with a power play goal late in the first period.

And yet, Ottawa's effort was lackluster, and they deserved to lose. You can't go 1 - 12 (14?) with the power play and expect to come out on top; allowing four PP goals to the opposition drives the nail into the coffin. It was a statement game, and the Senators didn't play with any intensity. While they were happy to sit back and accept the power plays as they came, they didn't stand up for themselves with Toronto played a tougher, meaner brand of hockey. With any luck, Ottawa is able to rebound strongly from this abortion of a game and show up for the home game against the Maple Leafs next Thursday. Until then, though, I'm going to be justifiably pissed. A game with direct divisional implications, and the Sens played with heart for about seven and a half minutes.
The A's got around to inking Eric Karros today. His role will be smashing lefties in a platoon with Scott Hatteberg (who can't really hit righties, but that aside...), putting up a line somewhere in the neighborhood of the .316/.389/.515 numbers he's put up against southpaws since 2001.

Sure would be nice to have people like this for Olerud.
Pudge = Tiger.
The fellows over at Sports and Bremertonians aside, nobody pays much attention when I write about hockey. I understand this, and while I sometimes wish I had a more hockey-oriented readership (you rock, Jeremy and David), I realize that this is a baseball blog, first and foremost, and that I shouldn't be so selfish, given that I don't really deserve to have so many people reading my work in the first place.

Well, it seems our collective prayers have been answered.

In search of new topics, I've found myself staring at spreadsheets, trying to figure out a brand-spankin' new way to quantitatively analyze the 2004 edition of the Mariners. Statistical analysis is great and all, but it's as hard to read as it is to write, and sometimes we all just need a break. Coincidentally, I received an email from Stephen (of Wheelhouse fame) inquiring about my interest in participating in a collaborative effort designed to evaluate the franchises of the AL West piece by piece. I didn't need much convincing; who am I to turn down an opportunity to write about something new while concomitantly increasing site traffic?

And so, in the coming days, the Wheelhouse, Athletics Nation, Texas Rangers blog and I will be tackling each team in the division, comparing and contrasting the rosters with last year's editions and assaying each organizations' current standing, given divisional competition. The Nation does a more than adequate job of explaining our intent, which is to remove personal bias - to the greatest extent possible - from our assessments of each team, and Stephen provides insight that I consider prerequisite to reading our collaborative work.

As happenstance would have it, I have been selected to write about the 2004 Anaheim Angels (ask Steve). Thus, I find myself in a somewhat fortunate position, as I don't have to deal with the complications regarding personal bias inherent in discussing one's favorite team. Regardless, I am certain that the other three writers involved in this project will be proficient and more than up to the task at hand, so I only hope that my contributions will be congruous with theirs.

Keep reading the Wheelhouse, as Steve intends to post a second introduction to this upcoming project at some point tomorrow. As for this blog, bear with me, because Ottawa's got a hugely important game in Toronto this evening, and you can rest assured that a game recap will show up at some point.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Big problems for the UMass-Lowell hockey program:

The team must forfeit nine games - five of which were victories - on account of starting an ineligible player.

Paul Falco transferred from Maine a year and a half ago after being arrested for allegedly selling drugs to a police officer. As a transfer, he was required to sit for a full academic year while compiling 24 credits, but Falco only completed 22 before suiting up for his first game on December 27th.

UML's program had made great strides this year, putting together an 8-4-1 conference record and challenging Maine, UNH, and UMass-Amhert for second place in Hockey East. With the sanctions, their record shifts to 5-7-1, putting them squarely in sixth, just four points out of last place.

An unfortunate situation for an otherwise bright program. It's a shame that the team has to get punished for an administrative problem.
As another reminder that there are bigger things than baseball, kudos to Jarrod Patterson for saving someone's life.
I just noticed something from yesterday's recap of Ottawa's win:

"They suffocate you,'' Boucher said. "It's extremely boring to watch and extremely boring to play. They make you do things you don't normally do. You lose your patience.''

That jerk.

We aren't the Devils, dammit.
How flattering. Dan O'Dowd must think BB's doing a good job this offseason, given that he's taken to imitating our unique strategy.

Ordinarily, this would be a compliment, but Colorado has spent the offseason handing out starting jobs to Aaron Miles, Jeromy Burnitz, Royce Clayton, and Vinny Castilla. The only way this really has an impact on us is if it creates more (some?) competition for the services of character guys like Quinton McCracken, thus ensuring that we don't wind up with every saint in the baseball universe and giving us the opportunity to pursue talented players instead.
Does BB have divine powers?

Did he see this coming?

John vander Wal may miss the season after tearing his ACL while shoveling snow.

Clairvoyance is about the only justification I can come up with for not going after vander Wal, who fits our self-imposed acquisition specifications to a T. This isn't only a weird injury, it's Ricky-Bones-hurts-himself-while-watching-TV-in-the-clubhouse weird.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

As the newest of the Mariner blogs, many of you probably haven't found your way to Mariner Minors yet, but let me tell you, it's the stuff dreams are made of. In the waning days of the offseason, J has found things to write about while the rest of our blogs are as active as Pat Gillick in mid-July (although to Gillick's credit, it takes a lot of work to pack for a trip to Canada).

More work has gone into the Mariner Minors site in its first week than...a really good metaphor, and it looks like it will become a very helpful reference in the near future.
For all you Ottawa fan(s) out there reading this, I have good news:

Hello, first place.

That's right. Thanks to the power play stylings of Josh Langfeld, the Senators are now in first place in the Northeastern Division with 66 points in 51 games (1 point ahead of Toronto, also with 51 games played). The Maple Leafs will have a chance to take the lead back as they played Atlanta tomorrow, while Ottawa has the day off. However, the week comes down to Saturday's big matchup in Toronto, where the Senators hope to repeat their January 8th performance. The teams will play in Ottawa just five days later as the second half of a delayed home-and-home.

Alas, the day I've been waiting for is upon us. The Senators are the #1 seed in the East, and it's time to set our sights on catching Colorado.
Anyone remember Scott Heard?

First-round pick for the Rangers, back in 2000. Pure defensive guy; he's known for not hitting .300 in his senior year of high school.

He retired today, at the age of 22.
My favorite referrer tonight:

A "Fire Sather" Google search.
Current bench:

Davis
Bloomquist
Hansen
Santiago
McCracken

Bench we could have:

Davis
Lamb
Colbrunn
Sanchez
Stairs/Perez (whichever isn't starting)
Mike Lamb has been DFA'd, per Jamey Newberg.

Lamb put up .262 and .267 EqA's in his 2001 and 2002 seasons before spending the majority of last year hitting well in Oklahoma. He can play the corners without embarrassing himself, and can even catch if need be (albeit not on a regular basis). He's a left-handed hitter in his age 28 season who has shown the ability to be a league-average hitter at each level. He's not a long-term solution, and really shouldn't be in the starting lineup very often, but he can hit a bit, making him better than our bench.

Wouldn't it make sense to replace one of Bloomquist/Santiago with guys like this?
So Pudge is off to Detroit, and the organizational sycophants are claiming that we really have a third as much as we *really* do to spend on offense. Kaz Sasaki's magnificent, slightly-inconveniently-timed departure has left us pining for Raul Mondesi and Ron f-ing Villone.

Mondesi is useful, given the right role, so it's doubtful that we'll wind up with him. He is a known party animal who has missed games on multiple occasions due to rough nights prior. He was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, but later cleared of the charges (this has happened more than once). He also threatened to beat up Bill Plaschke if he didn't stop writing about Mondesi's wild behavior. Now, despite the fact that he's older than 30 and seeking a relatively cheap contract, does this sound like the kind of player the Mariners like to pursue? Of course not. Rather, Mondesi is the kind of guy who'd be traded to make room for an identical player with a background in volunteering and community service. Don't think for a second that BB and the Front Office of Doom aren't aware of Mondesi's history, because if there's one thing this team researches well, it's character (or lack thereof).

It's a shame, too, because Mondesi is a good hitter against lefties. He's an ideal platoon partner for Raul Ibanez, and handing him that role would give us Geoff Jenkins offense for half the price. The only real downside is that Melvin might get his Rauls confused and put Ibanez in the lineup against Barry Zito.

So we're left with Ron Villone, an option I hardly want to consider. His three-year splits reveal a .249/.334/.387 opponents' line for lefties, a performance that would be easily matched by Bobby Madritsch, Greg Sherrill, or Matt Thornton. As a consistent veteran pitcher, Villone is the ideal candidate to receive a two-year contract (don't ever let those second lefties get away) and stay on the books through September '05, despite our inevitable efforts to get rid of him. He's a worse pitcher than Sasaki, and as the only player we'll be getting with Kaz's leftover money (this seems to be the case), we'd somehow actually make the team worse, despite the miracle.

BB is accomplishing things I didn't think possible.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Well, Ottawa is fresh off its worst game of the season...

Leading Dallas 3-1 after two periods, they decide to suck for the duration of the third period, allowing four goals (not particularly good ones) and blowing a chance to take over first place in the division. The good news is that they have a game in Phoenix tomorrow, a good opportunity to put this embarrassment behind them in order to get ready for the big Toronto game on Saturday.

Still, it hurts.

Horrible, horrible game.
And there it goes...

I don't like this.

More to come when I know what kind of effort we made (if any) to sign him.
Conflicting quotes today; can Bavasi make up his mind?

Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi told MLB.com that he wants to explore the idea of luring Rodriguez to the Mariners -- but probably for only one or two years.

"Pudge is a good name, and I'm not saying he isn't a good player," Bavasi said, "but he has to have the 'right' number in mind. We have an interest in him on a short-term basis."
...
Bavasi said his priorities are "finding a replacement for Kaz and finding another bat. Right now I'd like to fill the need for a second left-hander, then explore more offense.

"Not every player maintains the same level of performance, and last year Kaz was not at the top of his game. But his departure leaves a significant hole in our bullpen. We have to fill that hole."

As certain as the signing of a second lefty is to go with Mike Myers, who will be in the Mariners' training camp as an invitee, it is uncertain they will sign Rodriguez.
This needs to be posted somewhere:

LA made two good pickups recently:

The Dodgers also announced they had signed pitcher Jose Lima and infielder Jose Hernandez to minor league contracts.

Had I known that Hernandez would go for a minor league contract, I would've wanted to spring for him. If Aurilia gets hurt or Spiezio falls apart, we have a handcuff sitting in Tacoma (I know, I know, Leone's already available, but does anyone thing he'd really get a chance?).

Of course, he chose a pretty good place to sign; With Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora, and Adrian Beltre starting in the infield, he could very easily find himself with a starting gig in the majors before June.

Also a good career move for Jose Lima.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Ever since the Kaz Sasaki story broke, I've noticed that the past few years seem to have had a tangible effect on a bunch of Mariner fans. Specifically, many people have been conditioned to be overly conservative when discussing what the front office should or shouldn't do with its resources. Call it what you will (Gillvasiary atresia?), but it's there, and it's getting stronger. There's a reluctance to part with any young player who might help in the future, even if it meant bringing in somebody who *would* help immediately. Nobody should get a contract with eight figures a season or more than three years in duration. We should avoid any and every player who has an injury history, no matter how minor.

Coincidentally, these things come up when discussing Ivan Rodriguez. Bringing him in means that we get rid of Ben Davis, for whom some people still hold out hope (although the proportion is decreasing). He would also require a salary of $10-13m a year, despite his reputation for getting banged up and missing time. Ordinarily, I'd probably side with the conservatives, but we've been put in a unique situation: with Sasaki's money coming off the books, we have an opportunity to "undo" our lousy offseason if Bavasi so pleases. There aren't any impact players left on the market, other than Rodriguez, and he happens to fill a gigantic hole on our roster. Putting the money aside for a midseason acquisition is foolish, given that it won't take $9.5m to pay for two months of any player. We could either pocket the money (bad), spread the money around on a bunch of mediocre guys who wouldn't fill holes (bad), or take the chance on Ivan Rodriguez for two years and some figure north of $20m. If he goes for the money and signs with Detroit, fair enough, at least we tried, which would be more than you could say about our pursuit of any other superstar in the last few years (our offer to Tejada was lousy, and not worth acknowledgement).

Offering him more than two guaranteed years, though, would be taking the risk a little too far. Bavasi needs to straddle the fine line between conservative and slaphappy and throw an expensive two-year offer Pudge's way. It would certainly make me lay off BB for a while. Doing something foolish, on the other hand, would make me angrier than I was after the Colbrunn trade, and that's just bad news for all of us.
I'd like to make the point that Tyler over at Athletics Nation sucks, on account of being a New Jersey Devils fan.

I think I speak for all of us when I say to Lou Lamoriello, "Either revert back to being the Mickey Mouse organization you were a dozen years ago, or go away."
As I'm sure you've heard by now, Aaron Boone went Jeff Kent all over the place and destroyed himself playing basketball. What this means is that the Yankees dealt Brandon Claussen for three months of terrible play and one historic home run (some will argue that the homer made it all worthwhile; these are the same people who claim that Darin Erstad is worth the money because he hit a bomb in the World Series with a broken hand). I've never been much of a li'l Boone fan - which made the trade that much more inexplicable - and so I don't think this will really harm NYY much, if at all. Something that will inevitably come up as they discuss potential replacements, though, is how much losing Boone hurts their already abysmal infield defense. New York could go out and acquire someone like Jared Sandberg or Brandon Larson and not lose much offensive production (if any at all), but doing so would leave them with one of the worst team defenses in recent baseball history.

Maybe - dare I suggest - Jeff Cirillo?

Cirillo plays pretty good defense, and when you have a lineup like the Yankees do you can afford to sacrifice some offense (less than you'd think) in order to improve your worst collective trait. Now, NYY doesn't have any bad contracts that they could deal for Cirillo (all of their high-priced players are loved by the entire city), so what they'd probably have to do is throw some lukewarm A-ball arm to the Padres and take on half of Cirillo's contract. Over the next two years, he would raise their infield defense from "colossally bad" to "enormously bad" while not hitting much. Which really isn't that much worse than Aaron Boone's likely contribution, when you think about it.

In other news, Gerry Fraley still sucks.

Monday, January 26, 2004

BASEBALL NEWS! BASEBALL NEWS!!

The Royals traded the fungible arm of Shawn Sedlacek for the equally reciprocal Jamie Cerda.

What a letdown.
Ottawa news:

Coach Jacques Martin, one of the most underrated instructors in the league, was given a contract extension today, for an unspecified number of years.

Martin has been behind the Senators' bench for eight years now, the longest streak of any current coach in the NHL. Over those years, he has been accused on multiple occasions of being unable to get his team over the hump, having missed out on the Stanley Cup in seven consecutive playoff appearances. Last season, though, the team fought back against the Devils to force a seventh game in the conference finals, and the effort probably allowed Martin to keep his job. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to the new ownership loosening the purse strings (Ottawa is rumored to be in hot pursuit of Peter Bondra), but with the way they've come back from a miserable first half of the season, I can say with no doubt in my mind that there's nobody I'd rather have behind the bench than Jacques Martin. He slapped the team together and has squeezed every last ounce of talent from every warm body on the bench...he knows these guys, and knows what it'll take to push them into the Cup finals for the first time in team history.*

*-the new version of the team, anyway.
Something I've been mulling over for the last few weeks is the possibility of combining Mariners blogs in order to have two or three writers for each one. The reasons for not wanting to do so are understandable (e.g. bloggers not wanting to lose their archives or templates), but I think the advantages outweight the downside:

-Fewer M's blogs makes it easier to navigate around the blogosphere and read each one
-Additional writers for each blog reduces "down time" and adds the element of discussion/argument within each blog
-Eliminating blogs reduces template redundancy
-Readers will generally be drawn to a site owned by a group of people, rather than an individual

...along with a few other reasons. USS Mariner, Sports and B's, and The Safest Blog each have multiple authors, and I think the general consensus is that these are among the better sites in the blogosphere.
Looks like we could be in the money as soon as tomorrow morning.

No more excuses. Ivan Rodriguez won't accept Detroit's contract within the next 24 hours, meaning we should have plenty of time to fire off an offer and see if he bites. Maybe $25m/2years isn't enough for him*, but it couldn't hurt to find out what he's looking for. Rodriguez is a competitive guy, and he surely doesn't want to play for a team destined to lose 110 games in 2004. Kaz Sasaki walking away from his money was a big, big break that we badly needed in order to salvage the offseason; signing Pudge would go a long way towards improving things in the short-term.

*-A contract offering more than two guaranteed years will be instantly condemned by yours truly.
Confirming what we've suspected all along:

Lincoln likes all of the team's additions but mentioned new left fielder Raul Ibanez has always been a personal favorite because "he's a world-class human being."