Kingdome Crossover: Seattle Mariners: Signing Nelson Cruz Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Rumored Mariner signing Nelson Cruz would add a powerful bat to a lineup already bolstered by the arrivals of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart. What signing Cruz doesn’t do is guarantee success.

An offensive triumvirate of Cruz, Cano and Kyle Seager isn’t one to balk at, and is a wonderful foundation for the team moving forward, but in terms of success, it guarantees nothing.

In most divisions, like say the NL West, these kinds of additions (Cano, Cruz, Hart) would push a team towards the top of the table. Not so much with the Mariners in the AL West.

The rest of the division is stocked. The Mariners’ rise to “playoff-contender” status, if not the realm of respectability, has vaulted the division to a ridiculous level. On paper, the Angels, A’s and Rangers all have the talent to be playoff teams. Throw in Seattle, and you end up with a lot of unhappy teams come the postseason.

It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see, even with Cano and friends, the M’s finish in the same exact place in the standings as last year. They’re probably going to have an improved record, but as stated, the division is stacked.

If one thing is clear after watching postseason baseball, it’s that pitching is needed to contend. Teams like Detroit, Boston, St. Louis and Oakland found great success last year with tremendous staffs. And it wasn’t just those four teams; most playoff teams boasted strong pitching. Great pitching is nearly synonymous with a playoff squad now-a-days.

Which brings the topic of one-way conversation in the piece to the Mariners’ pitching.

The M’s will use some combination of Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer and recent signing Scott Baker for the last three spots in the rotation. This is where question marks come into play. Moving into the future, both Walker and Paxton figure to be mainstays in the Seattle rotation thanks to their fantastic potential, but between them they have a grand total of 39 innings at the big league level. Whether they continue to show promise or hit a wall remains to be seen.

Ramirez and Maurer have both shown flashes of potential in the past, but the jury remains largely out on the pair. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Baker, given his experience and quality, leapfrog one or both of them to claim a rotation spot. The bottom line is that the Mariners’ rotation could show the promise and poise that Oakland’s young hurlers have shown, or they could continue to display the growing pains that have plagued the team.

If anything, a potential Cruz signing puts more pressure on the rotation to succeed. The one-time Brewer coupled with Cano, Hart and Logan Morrison would vastly improve a team that had issues scoring runs. The run output in Seattle should, at the very least, be slightly above average. The Mariners need their young pitchers to step up. If they can do this, Seattle will be in a position to contend. If not, well let’s just say get ready for all those low-scoring losses to turn into higher-scoring losses.

You can see the piece on Kingdome as well.

Kingdome Crossover: Stern Sendoff

This is going to be short for me. I have pieces to write about more important things.

I am not the outgoing NBA commissioner’s biggest fan. I have called him biased and questioned his podium presence. (Which, if you’re commissioner, are two things you should have in check: you shouldn’t be biased and you should have good podium presence.)

David Stern comes off as snide in public, and I think he showed favoritism in a job that begs for the polar opposite. What he did for the NBA during the “Dream Team” era was good. But I grew up with a very different National Basketball Association. I grew up with a basketball league where the commissioner comes off as a dictator-like Bond villain. Where the commissioner of the league runs a team and proceeds to veto a trade between two teams. Where that trade has conceivably affected the landscape of the league today.

A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case a video is worth a million.

Kingdome Crossover – Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Build Up: Ella The Psychic Guinea Pig Picks the Super Bowl

Here’s the latest, and possibly greatest video of a cute animal picking the outcome of the Super Bowl. Presenting Ella the Psychic Guinea Pig.

Again, another smart animal.

Kingdome Crossover: The Jason Bay/Casper Wells Post-Conundrum Analysis

Here’s a piece I wrote over at www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/ on the Mariners outfield situation. Give it a read.

The Mariners made no secret of their desire to beef up their middle-of-the-order in the off-season. They turned John Jaso into Mike Morse. That transaction, however early it might be, is paying off. They signed Raul Ibanez to hit for power and make sure Morse wasn’t the only new-old Mariner. They also signed Jason Bay.

The Mariners’ outfield was clogged to begin with. Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero and Wells were all fighting for a third of the outfield pie. You add the new power bats and some people are going to have to go.

Robinson was dealt to Baltimore and Thames and Peguero are playing in Tacoma, Guti and Grand Torrido (that’s Saunders, you can see my explanation here) are starting for the Mariners.

The final outfield spot, in the end, came down to Bay or Wells.

Bay, six years Wells’ senior who is on an expiring contract and hit .165 in nearly half of a season in New York.

Or Wells, the prototypical fourth outfielder who is controlled by the team longer, is younger and cheaper than Bay.

Wells might be one of the more cynically undervalued players in the league. He played well enough to get more ABs in Seattle, however, due to the crowded outfield (see above,) wasn’t able to get them. Wells is never going to be a mega superstar, but given a decent number of at bats, he could be a very solid contributor offensively and defensively.

Wells, again given decent playing time, is a plus defender who could hit around 20 homers in a full season.

But instead the team went with Bay, who if he plays well, is likely to garner a new contract next year from someone else.

That’s no slant on Bay, but in a situation like this when the spot up for grabs is third string corner outfield/DH position, then you should probably go with the younger, cheaper, longer controlled, better defensive player.

Oh, the travesties of baseball.

(You can see the piece in it’s entirety here.)

Kingdome Crossover- Why Michael Saunders Is the Most Important Player in the Seattle Mariners’ Lineup

Here is a piece I wrote over at http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/ on why Michael Saunders is the most important player in the M’s lineup. Thought you all might enjoy it.

Big name additions Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales might be viewed as the most important players in the M’s lineup. It might be the development of budding stars Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. Or it could be Michael Saunders.

Michael Saunders who hit .727 (that being 8 for 11 for all of you who didn’t major in some sort of math at MIT) in the World Baseball Classic. Michael Saunders, who I gave the nickname Grand Torrido to despite “Torrido” meaning torrid in Italian and the M’s having one of the more prominent Italian players in the game of baseball in their organization: Alex Liddi. Whatever, Saunders is the most important player in the lineup and this is why.

He extends the lineup.

The M’s current group of hitters, which I so pleasantly outlined for you here, comprises of a lot of power hitters. Or lack of top-of-the-order guys. Dustin Ackley will likely hit leadoff, something he can do, but probably would be slightly better utilized elsewhere in the lineup. Ackley also isn’t a speed demon on the base paths, something the M’s haven’t had since Ichiro.

Even if you hit Ackley leadoff, you don’t have a full time number-two hitter. Morse and Morales will hit in the middle of the order. As will Jesus Montero. Brendan Ryan fits the bottom half of the lineup better. Kyle Seager probably belongs with the first group. That really only leaves Saunders, Guti and Smoak/whoever plays first as your options. Smoak/first base committee is a no. Obviously. After that it’s a tossup of either Guti or Grand Torrido. Guti is well… I don’t know if he personifies a two-hole hitter.  That leaves Saunders.

In the piece I noted that you could hit Guti second because of his penchant to get extra base hits. Something that looks really good when happening in front of the big boys in the order. But Guti isn’t a big speed guy. Something you need at the top of the order. Ackley, as mentioned, isn’t a huge speed demon, so you need as much extra speed as you can get at the top of the order. Saunders, I will add, lead the team in stolen bases as well as placing second in extra-base hits. That not only plays into his candidacy for the second spot in the order but for hitting down in the order, say in the five spot.

I also wrote about how Saunders lost it with his torrid hitting in the WBC, hitting behind two established, middle of the order guys. I’m not saying Morse and Morales are Joey Votto and Justin Morneau, but the comparison is somewhat plausible. The point is that if you hit Saunders behind two good middle-of-the-order hitters, he will produce.

If you hit him there, he also adds speed in that position as well. Something (speed) that the Mariners need at nearly every position.

Whether you hit Saunders second or fifth, he is going to be an integral part of the M’s. Extending the lineup with his speed or slugging, Saunders is going to be a big part of the M’s this year.

You can see the piece in all it’s glory at kingdome here. 

Kingdome Crossover- The Mariners Recent Power Surge is a Sign of Good Things to Come

Here is a piece I wrote on my Seattle sports site, http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/. It’s about the Mariners recent spring-training-power-surge. Check it out-

Maybe you have been focused on basketball, whether it be Gonzaga’s run or the return of the Sonics. Maybe it’s the Huskies and Cougars collective mishaps.

But have you seen how scorching hot the Mariners offense has been? Holy vienerschnitzel. The M’s lead every spring training club in homeruns, slugging percentage, total bases and are second in runs scored.

The Mariners also boast two hitters who are tied for second overall in homeruns. Those two would be Carlos Peguero and Franklin Gutierrez. Which is particularly amazing because one of the two will likely hit cleanup for the Rainiers and the other isn’t going to hit in the middle of the order.

Now, spring training is fickle. The game isn’t the same as the regular season. Guys are getting back into their routines. Pitchers shrug off getting shelled for 7 runs in 2 1/3 innings because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

The batting is also a little different. Every top minor league prospect and their brother are getting at-bats. The love is spread for sure.

Spring training in the end doesn’t have a massive bearing on the season. Joe Saunders has been horrendous the past three spring trainings with ERAs of 12, 8 and 6. His regular season ERAs have been in the 4 ½, 4 and 3 ½ range in the last three regular seasons.

It’s apples to oranges.

But sometimes when Uncle Mo is delivering the apples, it carries over. While spring training is one big warm-up session, momentum is still involved. There is no denying that a team will carry itself better heading into the regular season if they performed well in spring training as opposed to a spring training in which they struggled.

The most important thing of it all is that the M’s offense is flowing. It’s producing home runs; it’s scoring in bunches. They’re making everyone else look pedestrian. With pitching a likely strength it’s nice to see the offense producing. Which is a good thing with Uncle Mo riding shotgun for the M’s.

What We Learned From the Seahawks Win, Plus a Playoff Preview and the Great NFL Coaching Purge

Will the record holder for most touchdown passes in a rookie season please stand up?

Russell Wilson continued to scribble out portions of the Seahawks’ record book, and the NFL’s for that matter, and write himself in. Wilson now has tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie season. Not something people would have expected for a Quarterback who was selected after five other QBs, one of whom isn’t even starting (Brock Oswiler is Manning’s backup.)

It Doesn’t Come Cheap

(That sounds nothing like any kind of title, it’s mainly there to make my other bolded title look better by default.)

The Seahawks demolished the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers in recent weeks. Maybe you heard. Point is that another blowout probably wasn’t going to be beneficial, at least for the playoffs. The Seahawks had to work for this win. That will be nice when the playoffs roll around and teams won’t be losing by astronomical amounts.

Playoffs

“Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?!”

That would be Jim Mora talking about, you guessed it, the playoffs. Yes, the glorious playoffs are here. We all get to wait and see who delivers the play of the postseason. Last season it might have been Kyle Williams’ muffed special-team handling, maybe Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch. The year before that, gave us Marshawn Lynch’s brilliant touchdown run against the Saints. Hopefully this year someone will provide us with a play that belongs in the same breath as the Lynch run or David Tyree’s catch. Because frankly, as much as I just amped up the Manningham catch and Williams’ trouble holding onto the ball, those plays are summed up in one word: anticlimactic.

The playoffs are a different animal this year in the NFC and almost the same relative animal in the AFC. The “National” Conference returns only Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco from last years’ playoffs with Seattle, Washington and Minnesota as the newcomers. The AFC meanwhile has the exact same lineup (Houston and Cincinnati played in the 3-6 game last year and will do the same this weekend, they must love playing each other) with the sole difference being Indianapolis taking Pittsburgh’s slot.

In the first round of the playoffs, I think Andrew Luck is going to win many a playoff game in his career, but I can’t see the Ravens losing this game. Not with it being a home game, not with it potentially being Ray Lewis’ last game, not with it being possibly Lewis’ last home game period, win or lose. The Ravens will beat the Colts 33-21.

The Bengals will definitely be more competitive than in last year’s 31-10 romp. That being said, I don’t think the Bengals can keep up with the Texans top-ten ranked offense and defense. Houston wins 24-14 over Cincinnati.

Over in the NFC I like the Vikings to beat the Packers. The Vikings won last week over Green Bay, and nothing says momentum like beating a team and then playing them again. Adrian Peterson could very well have another field day. It will be a surefire win if the Vikings’ 9th-ranked pass defense can bottle up Aaron Rodgers, Bahia Verde’s (that’s Spanish for “Green Bay” for all you folks at home) 20th-ranked run offense could stick out like Clay Bennett in Seattle. Minnesota wins 27-21.

The Great Coaching Purge: NFL

It’s being dubbed “Black Monday,” but the day that a good portion of the league lost coaches was mainly due to lack of quarterbacks. Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia all made changes. All of those teams, with the exception of Chicago (Lovie Smith probably got fired for not getting it done in the postseason, or even getting there) and maybe San Diego, have serious long-term questions at the quarterback position.

I’ll check in next week with the divisional round preview. See you then.

The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

What We Learned from the Seahawks 50-17 Win Besides the Fact that Buffalo is Also Pitiful

It’s really not a joke. The Seahawks aren’t pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone who seems to miss their games (i.e. everyone who lives outside of the great state of Washington.) Yes, Buffalo is a bad team, and Arizona was/is too, but you can’t ignore 50-plus points in consecutive games.

  • The Record Book just won’t go away. Russell Wilson continues to take records and break them as if he was eating a sandwich for lunch. After strong play last week, Wilson now holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game for the Seahawks. Something he did in the first half with three rushing scores. No Seahawks QB has ever rushed for that many touchdowns in an entire game.
  • Read Option. The Seahawks continually used the “Read Option” to their advantage on Sunday. On the play, Wilson receives the snap with Marshawn Lynch to his right in the backfield. If it looks better for Wilson to run it himself, then he fakes the handoff to Lynch and goes behind Lynch with the ball. If the play looks like the team would get more out of it if Lynch ran it, then Wilson simply hands off the ball. The point of the play is that the QB makes the split-second decision on what would work best. Hence it being called the “Read Option.” The Seahawks used this play to continually rip off huge gains versus a porous Bills’ defense.
  • Passing Dan Marino. Last week I told you with one more touchdown Russell Wilson would pass Dan Marino in terms of number of passing touchdowns in a rookie season. With his TD pass to Zach Miller, Wilson moved his total to 21, passing Marino’s 20.
  • Win and You’re In. The Seahawks can clinch at least a wild card berth with a win on Sunday against San Francisco. The Seahawks would clinch the number two seed in the playoffs, and receive the first round bye that comes with it, if they beat the Niners and Rams to close out the year. And, if the 49ers lose both of their remaining games, and if Green Bay loses one of its last two games. Plus, they would get home field advantage at home in the divisional round (they’re 6-0 at the Clink this year.)
  •  50-50. The Seahawks are now one of three teams in NFL history to score at least 50 points in two straight games. This feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 50’s. This is fantastic for a team who was 28th in the league in total offense last year. Other quarterbacks who have yet to accomplish this or haven’t: Tom Brady (very surprising,) Peyton Manning (equally surprising,) Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, John Elway ( I think you see my point.)
  • Winning. The Seahawks now have tied their highest win total since 2006, the year before they went to the Super Bowl. That team was 9-7.

Super Bowl Worthy? I posed this question last week, and now it should be a given. The Seahawks are Super Bowl worthy. Finally.

What We Learned From the Seahawks 58-0 Win Besides the Fact that Arizona is Pitiful

It just kept going and going and going and going…the score traveling north for the Seattle Seahawks when they used the Arizona Cardinals as a doormat in route to a 58-0 win on Sunday. This comes as perfect timing for Seattle as it gives them the ultimate confidence booster (cliché, but true) going into their last “road” game of the season as well as their final three games overall, which will be split between Buffalo (in Toronto) and the Clink (the 49ers and Rams come to town) respectively.

But, this is what we learned from the game-

  • Russell Wilson deserves due consideration for Rookie of the Year. Yes, Andrew Luck is great and RGIII lights up teams with his arm and legs, but that was expected out of the top two picks in the NFL Draft. I don’t think anyone outside of the Puget Sound expected this out of a quarterback who didn’t even have his name in the starting quarterback battle “hat,” if you will. (Remember Matt Flynn and Tavaris Jackson? Flynn got his first snaps of the year in mop-up duty and Jackson is in Buffalo.)
  • More Wilson praise.  According to Pro Football Reference, Wilson has the same number of touchdown passes as Dan Marino had in his first full season. That number would be 20. That’s also more than Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, John Elway, Steve Young and Joe Namath had in their respective first full seasons.
  • The team is finally legitimate. The Seahawks were the laughing stock of the league when they qualified for the playoffs with a losing record at 7-9. But we took it to the league and the Saints in the wild-card round by stunning the defending Super Bowl champs at home. Nonetheless, the “laughing stock” talk is nonexistent as Seattle sits at 8-5 and will likely make the playoffs as either a wild-card team or as a division winner.
  • Quality Wins. Back in 2010, during the 7-9 season, Seattle beat one singular playoff team in the regular season, the Chicago Bears. Their only other out of conference win was against the pre-Cam Newton era Panthers. This season is loads different. The team walloped contenders such as the Cowboys, Jets and Vikings as well as securing close wins over Super Bowl hopefuls Green Bay, New England and Chicago.
  • Home Field Advantage. Seattle is really good at home. 6-0 in fact. Part of that has to do with Russell Wilson being phenomenal at home. He’s only thrown one interception there all season (Eli Manning had two picks at home last week alone.) And the other part has to do with the team being so good and the crowd being so loud. The Seahawks beat Green Bay, New England, Arizona, Dallas, New York and Vikings at home. I’d be cautious if I were an opposing team thinking they could come in to the Clink and get a win, especially in the playoffs.

So what do you think? Are the Seahawks Super Bowl worthy?

(Hint: I think they are.)