I finished up my latest blog entry concerning the Mariners coaching staff overhaul, I quietly crawled into bed last night and went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was check my Twitter account and my emails. To my surprise the Mariners had announced the new coaching staff for 2014! I was ecstatic and promptly opened up my email to find out who had been chosen!
Andy Van Slyke: Huge, HUGE, Van Slyke fan! He played 13 seasons in the bigs, eight with the Pirates, four with the Cardinals, one with the Phillies and one with the Baltimore Orioles. As Lookout Landing tweeted earlier in the day, “My baseball card collection is buzzing!” No doubt will I try to get his autograph at the Safe next season! Hell, I may just get it at Fanfest ’14 to save the trouble!
Howard Johnson: HoJo! I nearly did a back flip when I saw his name pop up! Howard Johnson as the Mariners hitting coach?! Johnson’s 14 seasons in the Bigs is very well spread out as well. Playing the majority of his career with the New York Mets, he’s also played with the Tigers, Cubs, and Rockies. A career .249 hitter with 228 home runs in 4940 at-bats, I’d say Johnson is well versed in teaching young talent how to hit the ball.
Rick Waits is the new pitching coach while Mike Rojas is the bullpen coach and Chris Woodward will serve as the infield coach. Jason Phillips stays as the bullpen catcher along with Dave Hansen will remain as the assistant hitting coach if looking for another team to coach falls through.
Is it March yet?!
You’ve probably heard by now that the Mariners have overhauled the coaching staff. With Eric Wedge not returning and Lloyd McClendon stepping up to the plate to fill the role as Seattle’s new skipper, it only seemed like the right thing to do to get a whole new crew in there.
“The purging of the Mariners coaching staff continued this week, with the team firing pitching coach Carl Willis and demoting bullpen coach Jaime Navarro to a minor-league position.” writes Geoff Baker for the Seattle Times. Willis had interviewed for the Phillies unsuccessfully, and returned a phone call from Jack Z, apparently explaining that (Willis) won’t be returning to the Mariners.
Bench coach Robby Thompson was also let go and Jeff Datz has yet to inform the team that he will be accepting a scouting role that had been offered to him. Third base coach Daren Brown, hitting coach Dave Hansen and bullpen catcher Jason Phillips are all waiting for decisions to be made regarding their roles with the Mariners.
McClendon has yet to put together a coaching staff for the 2014 season.
If the Mariners don’t do anything else during this offseason, the one thing they could do is; learn from the Franklin Gutierrez fiasco. Don’t get me wrong. I love Guti…when he was healthy and playing.
Matt Kemp has missed 145 games in the last two seasons due to various injuries. The plus side is; he’s only two years removed from finishing second in MVP voting with 39 home runs, 136 RBIs, 353 total bases, and a .324 batting average. Another pitfall the Mariners would be looking at is his six year $128 million dollar contract the Dodgers are trying to wipe off their books. That’s a huge investment into a player who is seemingly made of glass.
Why are the Dodgers putting Kemp on the trading block? Well, it’s painfully obvious. Their outfield is stacked, he’s always hurt and Carl Crawford and Andre Either are available. End of story.
The Mariners need some veteran help, no doubt about it. I’d seek other options though.
“I think this is a golden opportunity for me and this is a golden time for the Seattle Mariners,” McClendon said. “I think there’s nothing but good things for this organization and I certainly think we’re heading in the right direction. I know the last three or four years have been very tough and very disappointing. But I was asked a question earlier today: Does this team remind you at all of the Pittsburgh Pirates? And I said no, it reminds me of the Detroit Tigers. And I mean that sincerely. This team reminds me so much of the 2006 Tigers and the potential that was with that team. I’m really excited and honored to be here. Hopefully we’ll do great things here.”- McClendon during press conference.
I’m going to agree with a lot of what McClendon had to say. I’m also going to disagree with a lot of what McClendon had to say. The current Seattle Mariners roster is full of young, solid talent. I just hasn’t been developed yet. The way I see things is this; these players haven’t spent enough time in the minor leagues. These players haven’t spent enough time developing their skills and the coaching staff within the Mariners organization is in a desperate situation.
I look at the current roster and I think to myself. “we have the pitching, we have the depth in the bullpen. Where is the offense?”
That’s the biggest hurdle the Mariners are facing right now. No offense. Can one man spark an offensive barrage of talent within the ranks of the Seattle Mariners?
My other thoughts on this are, “where are the veterans to help these young guys develop while in the Bigs?” No where. Gutierrez couldn’t stay healthy, Morse was a bust, no one wants Raul Ibanez, Miguel Olivo didn’t stay around.. I mean. How does a team expect to grow with just a bunch of 20 year olds on the roster?! It’s actually quite frustrating and to hear McClendon say that the last couple of years have been frustrating and disappointing, well, yeah. It’s been the same ol’ song and dance for the last three seasons and we are still hearing more of the same.
Click here to watch the entire press conference.
“The club turned down a $7.5 million option to retain Gutierrez, who instead will receive a $500,000 buyout. The 30-year-old Venezuelan completed a four-year, $20.25 million contract this past season, but he would have received a fifth year on that deal if the Mariners had exercised the option.”-MLB.com
I’m happy the Mariners decided to give up Guti to free agency. Not that I don’t like him. I do. Everyone loves Guti- when he’s healthy and producing. The last couple of seasons his career has simply been plagued with injuries. He’s a fragile human being and any team that signs him needs to take that into careful consideration. All the fans hold their breath when he goes sliding into second base or goes crashing into the CF fence.
He’s a dangerous hitter when he’s 100%. He’s the player you don’t want to hit the ball to or in the general area. When he’s on the disabled list, it’s no bueno for the Mariners. Or the fans. I hope whichever teams signs him isn’t in the AL West or a team who frequently plays the Mariners.
“Saunders, 32, signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal that included a potential second year at $8.3 million with Seattle just prior to Spring Training. Instead, the Mariners initiated a $900,000 buyout to void that second season after the left-hander went 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts.”-MLB.com
Safeco Joe. Jason Vargas is looking really good right now. Am I right? The good thing about this situation is the Mariners aren’t really lacking pitching depth. With Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Paxton as a solid 1-2-3, losing Saunders really isn’t going to leave the Mariners in a spot.
Other Mariners notes: The Mariners’ 40-man roster is now at 34 players, with reliever Stephen Pryor moved from the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster on Friday.
If you want to read the entire article on Franklin Gutierrez’ success along with what Joe Saunders have contributed, click here.
Next in line for a shot at the Mariners manager position is Ron Wotus and Lloyd McClendon.
Ron Wotus: Played with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1983-84, batted .207 and smacked in 2 RBIs. As a coach, he’s won two World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and 2012. He is still the current bench coach for the Giants.
Wotus was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the year in 1997 in the Giants minor league system.
Lloyd McClendon: Played for the Cincinnati Reds, Cubs and Pirates in the late 80′s, early 90′s. Managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001-05 and marked a .430 winning percentage in 782 games managed during that time frame. He also coached the Pirates prior to taking over as manager and is now the current hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers.
McClendon has a history of challenging umpires on the baseball diamond.
McClendon was also interviewed for the Mariners manager position in 2010.
There’s been plenty of rumors speculating that Lou Piniella could return to Seattle as the Mariners skipper. After Eric Wedge left the organization, the Mariners are looking for someone who will take this team all the way.
Piniella managed the Mariners from 1993 to 2002 with an overall record of 840-711in 1,551 games. The Mariners finished on average in second place under Piniella’s ten year reign. In the 23 years of managing professional baseball teams, Piniella has managed to win only one World Series and that was with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990.
Right now there are a lot of options the Mariners could look into. Jim Leyland has stepped down (and assumingly retired) from his position as manager with the Detroit Tigers. Dusty Baker was recently fired from the Cincinnati Reds and Don Mattingly’s future is uncertain in Los Angeles. And then there’s also Charlie Manuel. The Phillies fired him this year. He’s posted a .551winning percentage in nine years with the Phillies and winning a World Series championship in 2008.
Even with all those wins that Piniella has been able to rack up with such a team like the Mariners, finishing in first place in the A.L West has become quite a feat over the recent years. The Rangers and Athletics have established dominance with the Angels not far behind. If the Mariners plan to get anywhere near first place in their division, it’s going to take a skipper with a very tenacious background.
The Boston Redsox have made it abundantly clear that they will not bring back Ellsbury next season. Ellsbury actually has Pacific Northwest roots so it would make sense that he would pursue a team like the Mariners. Born in Madras Oregon and a graduate from Oregon State University, Ellsbury has played seven solid seasons with the Redsox since they drafted him from the amateur draft in 2005. Arguably, his best season was in 2011 where he batted .321, swatted 32 home runs, drove in 105 RBI’s and stole 39 bases.
Rumor on the block has it that the Mariners will sign Ellsbury for six or seven years for $21 million a season. I believe the Mariners have the money to bring him aboard. The question is; will it be worth it. Is Ellsbury the type of player they can build a solid foundation around in those six to seven years? Will be stay injury-free and be a productive member on the roster? Those things are, of course, uncertain because it’s baseball.
My concern about Ellsbury is simply this: he’s about to turn 30 and has hit just .262 with a .673 OPS in 120 games since last season.
Jackie Bradley Jr is poised to be Ellsbury’s replacement in the OF and is far more advanced and plays center field with a degree of intelligence that is hard to match. That gives a lot of negotiation power for the Redsox.
“Voting is underway through Thursday, exclusively at MLB.com, to help decide the winners of the Hank Aaron Award, now in its 15th year and given at the World Series by “The Hammer” himself to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.
For the fourth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each league since it was established in 1999. Last year marked the first time that both recipients were in the same Fall Classic, as the award was won by the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and the Giants’ Buster Posey.
Cabrera, who perhaps even improved on his Triple Crown season of a year ago, is back as a repeat candidate. Other American League nominees include Chris Davis of the Orioles, David Ortiz of the Red Sox, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox, Jason Kipnis of the Indians, Jason Castro of the Astros, Eric Hosmer of the Royals, Mike Trout of the Angels, Joe Mauer of the Twins, Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Josh Donaldson of the A’s, Kendrys Morales of the Mariners, Evan Longoria of the Rays, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays.
The National League nominees are Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs, Freddie Freeman of the Braves, Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs, Jay Bruce of the Reds, Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies, Hanley Ramirez of the Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, David Wright of the Mets, Domonic Brown of the Phillies, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals, Will Venable of the Padres, Hunter Pence of the Giants and Jayson Werth of the Nationals.
“All 30 club nominees should feel honored to be considered for an award named for one of our game’s legends, Hank Aaron,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “Hank was a brilliant all-around player who demonstrated great power, selectivity and baserunning in his Hall of Fame career. Our game today is fortunate to have so many dynamic players emulating the remarkable example of Hank Aaron.”
The panel, led by Aaron, features some of the greatest offensive players of all-time — Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers — who combined for 17,629 hits, 8,278 RBIs and 1,723 home runs — have all been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise in selecting the best offensive performer in each league.
“It is a great honor that Major League Baseball recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league with an award in my name,” Aaron said. “The game is full of so many talented players today that I am thankful my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans assist in selecting the much-deserving winners.”
The last three Aaron Awards in the AL went to that league’s home run leader — Cabrera last year and Toronto’s Jose Bautista in 2010-11. Eight of the 14 AL Aaron Award winners were home run champs in those seasons. In the NL, it is six of 14, but five of the past eight years. So in recent years, the long ball has spoken loudly. That will make it especially interesting to keep an eye on Davis, who set the Orioles’ single-season home run record with 53, as well as Goldschmidt, who led the NL with 36 homers.
Cabrera, McCutchen and Stanton are the only nominees who have appeared on the ballot in each of the past three seasons. It will be interesting to see whether the Pirates’ first postseason berth in 21 years might factor into support for their star center fielder.
Past winners of the award include Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011), Bautista and Joey Votto (’10); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (’09); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (’08); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (’07); Jeter and Ryan Howard (’06); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (’05); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (’04); Rodriguez and Pujols (’03); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (’00); and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).
Posey last year joined Jeter and Manny Ramirez as the only players to accept the award and then celebrate a subsequent World Series title. One of the best moments at last year’s ceremony was when Posey said in his acceptance speech, “I’m humbled that Hank Aaron knows who I am.”
The Hank Aaron Award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron hitting his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s long-standing career record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years, and it has grown in importance each year, always starting the rollout of major individual-performance hardware.” – MLB.com
October 1: Andrews performs surgery on Hultzen to repair damage in his labrum, capsule, and partially torn rotator cuff.
With no timetable on return, rumor speculates that Hultzen will miss quite a bit of the 2014 season. Even with his youth and his ability to recover and heal quickly, it’s a sad fact of reality that most of these injuries end up with very little success in the future.
Here is an awesome time table I was able to muster up from Lookout Landing regarding Hultzen’s 2013 season:
April 25, 2013: Danny Hultzen “can’t get loose”, is scratched from his start in Tacoma after pitching 22.2 innings.
April 26: Doctors say Hultzen has a left rotator cuff strain and tendinitis. Placed on the disabled list.
April 28: Hultzen is told by doctors that his injuries are “not worrisome.”
June 28: Hultzen returns, performing admirably, allowing only two hits over six innings.
July 2: Hultzen again “can’t get loose” and is scratched from his start.
July 10: Mariners shut down Hultzen, proclaim it as a minor setback and say there is no structural damage.
September 1: Hultzen returns to Tacoma, pitches two perfect innings with three strikeouts.
September 24: Hultzen pays a visit to Dr. James Andrews. “It’s not his rotator cuff,” says Z.
When Hultzen does pitch, he’s spot on.
In six starts with Triple-A Tacoma, Hultzen posted a 2.05 ERA and 0.85 WHIP while striking out 10 batters per nine innings.