So long to a Mariner who deserved better
The Rodney Dangerfield of pitchers
The baseball winter meetings are in full swing, and Your Seattle Mariners were among the teams to make some news with a big trade.
The other day, the Mariners dealt outfielder Jarred Kelenic, first baseman Evan White, and pitcher Marco Gonzales to Atlanta for two formerly highly-touted pitching prospects that now have questionable abilities. On its face, it makes no sense and I can't yet figure what part this plays in the alleged master plan for the 2024 season.
I'm unhappy with this trade mostly because I am a huge Marco Gonzales fan. I might be Marco's biggest fan that isn't related to him. I say that because Marco has been, as I've long described him, the Rodney Dangerfield of Major League pitchers—he gets no respect.
Local fans soured on him over the last couple of years, and frankly they weren't that high on him to begin with, which doesn't really speak well of local fandom. The team itself seemed to think poorly of him—the club's former CEO referred to him as a "boring" pitcher; his manager seemed not to trust his ability to navigate baserunners; he was even left off the postseason roster in 2022, which was a huge metaphorical slap in the face.
That all annoyed me, to put it mildly. Marco is the sort of pitcher I love to watch; rather than rely on sheer muscle or wacky breaking stuff, he succeeds by spotting the ball and mixing pitches and being smart. When healthy—and he hasn't been for much of the last two seasons—he's just sneaky good, good enough to be a 20-game winner if only he had an offense behind him that could score more than a couple of runs for him and/or a manager that didn't panic when two runners get on with two out in the middle innings. He should have won 20 in 2019 but had to settle for a 16-13 campaign that included six losses in which he posted a quality start (6+ innings and no more than 3 earned runs allowed), including a 1-0 game and two 2-1 contests.
After dominating in the 2020 mini-season (3rd in the league in WHIP, 8th in ERA, 1st in K:BB ratio), he had to deal with forearm problems in ’22 and ’23, plus personal traumas that by his own admission took his focus off the game. Still put up decent numbers, though. And, through it all, Marco Gonzales remains a top-notch human, dedicated family man and proud local resident and generally good-natured guy.
But he's not flashy and his recent injury troubles contributed to a lot of negativity from the aforementioned local fandom. The guy deserves better.
Hopefully he'll get better respect with his new team, whomever that turns out to be.
For now, that's the Atlanta Braves, but the rumor is that the Braves intend to flip him elsewhere. Seeing that caused me to revise my initial impression of the trade—at first it appeared that the M's representative, be it operations chief Jerry Dipoto or new "general manager" Justin Hollander, started things off by shopping Kelenic and his massive whiff rate and after back-and-forth got snookered into a bad deal.
Now it appears that getting rid of Marco was the real goal in order to dump some salary. He's on the last year of his contract and is owed a sizeable-but-not-upper-echelon chunk of change in ’24. Atlanta wanted Kelenic, Seattle said, "OK, but you also have to take Gonzales," and Atlanta countered with, "well, that doesn't help us, throw in something else maybe," and Seattle said, "well, we have this first baseman we thought was going to be a star before we rushed him to the bigs too fast and then had to have a bunch of surgeries." Which Atlanta replied with, "OK, but you already gave him a big contract, so you'll have to cover most of that," and Seattle said, "fine, what do we get in return," and Atlanta said, "you can have this former 2nd-round draft pick that just had Tommy John surgery and hasn't thrown a professional pitch yet and another former top draftee reliever that's stunk it up since turning pro and that we just took a flyer on." Seattle replied, "So, two big unknowns that won't likely do anything for us right away if ever? Sounds good! Let's sign it."
At least, that's how I picture it.
Fitting, really. Even after being traded Marco is dissed by his new team, they don't even want him. The injustice of it all.
Meanwhile, I'm fine giving away Kelenic. He was a bust, and though he could turn it around and live up to his top prospect status at some point, he probably wasn't going to do that here. White I'm sorry to see go, but he's kind of like the pitcher the M's got in return, a former top prospect coming off of surgery and a big question mark for the future. He's an elite defensive player, but given how the M's botched his development years who knows if he'll ever hit.
With the Mariners having previously traded third baseman Eugenio Suárez to the Diamondbacks (also for not much return in a salary dump) and letting right fielder Teoscar Hernández go via free agency, they've rid themselves of three of the worst strikeout offenders in the Majors as well as about $50M in payroll obligations. It remains to be seen what they spend that savings on or who will fill the resulting holes.
Good luck, Marco. I hope wherever you end up you have a decent manager and get your 20-win season.
As I was writing this, Atlanta flipped Marco to the Pittsburgh Pirates. For basically nothing. More disrespect. Atlanta offloaded him in exchange for merely the ever-popular Player to be Named Later or Cash Considerations from the Pirates, and Atlanta will end up paying most of his salary.No Comments yet
I am one of those people that follows politics and the national news fairly closely and that's not been terribly good for my mental health the last several years. The American Nervous Breakdown, as Bob Cesca calls the phenomenon that has led to our current social reality, has many facets. It's not just the propaganda that feeds the bonkers cultists who go to Trump rallies and buy AR-15s, the bonkers voters who elect the worst people Congress has ever seen, the bonkers corruption happening out in the open on the Supreme Court, and the bonkers racists that feel like they now have permission to be openly hateful in all their daily interactions. It's also those of us seeing all this going on and justifiably freaking the fuck out about it.
We have to keep tabs on it, too. It does no one any good, not even ourselves, to ignore it and act like that dog in the fire meme saying "this is fine." Yet, a huge percentage of us here in ’Murca are doing just that, either not paying attention at all or somehow are of the mind that the literal fascist uprising that is the modern Republican party is hunky-dory with them, and the consequences for this ignorance could be catastrophic. Thus, the anxiety meter goes to 11.
Joe Biden has an approval rating of just 41%. That's crazy. When you consider the obstructionist Congress and the sheer scale of damage to governmental function he inherited, his accomplishments are amazing.
The recent polling—yeah, I know, polls; not exactly the most reliable information of late, the methodology is still in need of some tweaking—is astonishing. A huge majority of Americans think the economy is merely "fair" or "poor"?! Inflation is way down. Unemployment is remarkably low. People are spending. Yes, some things are more expensive than they were a couple years ago, but some of that is normal and the things that are a real concern for folks—housing costs, insurance, medical care—have to be looked at in context.
There is a lag time to policy change. Much as we might like the effects of legislation or judicial appointments to be immediate, they're not. Just as the inflation we've been dealing with of late can be traced to consequences of the COVID pandemic and its horrendous mishandling by the previous administration (as well as the consequences of some positive things, like rising wages), the stabilizing effects of the Inflation Reduction Act and tax reforms take time to spread through society. Just as the horrors being visited on us by the Supreme Court and other jurisdictions since Joe Biden took office are the result of the previous guy's appointments and the Republican Senate's leader preventing President Obama from filling a staggering number of judgeships—a years-long buildup—reclaiming the judiciary for the rule of law and the Constitution is not a short-term project.
We've got a critical vote coming up in 11 months. People better start paying attention.
Upset that your health insurance costs more? I am. I had to change to a worse policy for next year and I'll still be paying about 25% more in premiums. Is that Joe Biden's fault? Hell no! In fact, he's managing to keep it from being worse! The alternative—those fascist Republicans—want to kick people off of health coverage altogether. They want insurance companies to rob the rest of us blind. Give Joe Biden a Democratic supermajority in Congress and we'll get an expanded Affordable Care Act and better coverage for less.
Pissed that your groceries cost more? Well, in point of fact, not all of them do, some things are less expensive now, but the alternative to President Biden and Democratic attention paid to the affordability and quality of those groceries is those fascist Republicans, who want to abolish regulations that seek to ensure the meat and produce you buy won't put you in the hospital, a hospital that you won't be able to afford because they will have also taken away your health insurance.
Squeezed by your rent every month? Well, that's really a function of locality and a lot of interrelated factors, so I'm not sure what will help there. But I can tell you that the Republican policy that favors corporations over human beings will allow more and more disparity and exacerbate the wealth disparities that make cities like mine so damned expensive to live in.
And then there's the "Biden's too old" thing. When people say they're concerned about Joe Biden's age, there needs to be a follow-up question: What factors related to his age worry you and have you seen any evidence that he's at all incapable? Do people think he's forgetful or can't stay focused? All evidence says he's not and he can. Do people think if he does become incapable that he'll deny that reality and his staff and cabinet will allow it? Do they even know who's in the cabinet? Do people think if he dies in office or had to resign for his health there'd be no capable and effective replacement—i.e., do they fear Kamala Harris? Why? How much of the "he's too old" thing is camouflaged racism/misogyny regarding the VP? And, once again, even if people insist their age-related concerns are legitimate, consider the alternative: a doddering, fascistic criminal in far worse health and cognitively challenged even at his peak, who is bent on petty revenge and completely lawless, greedy, and sociopathic.
I swear, every election cycle it appears that more Americans get dumber. Here's a poll I'd like to see conducted: Let's survey Americans about their knowledge of how their government works. Show them some "Schoolhouse Rock" and ask if they knew about the details presented therein before.1 Comment
Dental trauma: pain in the mouth and the wallet
I went to the dentist today. For the third time in a month. It wasn't fun.
I've needed a lot of dental work over the years; ironically, part of the reason I need so much in my middle age is because of orthodontia I had as a teenager. I had braces for three years or so, a fairly intensive realignment of my teeth, and that trauma exacerbated periodontitis. Back then there wasn't a large data set to study, but it turns out one can be especially susceptible to these issues if one gets one's orthodontic treatment as an adolescent.
Great. Well, live and learn, I guess.
So my gum recession has led to a lot of time in a dentist's chair. I've had three gum grafts, only one of which stuck for any length of time. I've had two molars removed and replaced with implants because decay set in at the root level. I never knew this until a few weeks ago, but only the part of your teeth above the gum line has enamel. Beneath that level there's no protection, so decay is way easier down there, which is why those molars—adjacent to each other but several years apart—began to rot from the inside out thanks to tiny cavities forming way down low and letting the demolition crew into the interior.
Those procedures were all quite painful and quite expensive.
I started seeing a new dentist last month; I'd missed my prior scheduled cleaning as I had jury duty at the time, and instead of rescheduling at the place I'd been going for years, I decided to find someone within easy walking distance. Enter Dr. Randhawa. She not only did a fine job with the routine maintenance, she also explained the enamel thing to me and suggested some proactive measures to prevent more of the same inside-out demolition of my chompers, noting that a third molar was already well on the way to meeting the same fate as its neighbors.
This was novel—I do not recall having a dentist focused on proactive prevention before, at least not beyond the typical admonitions to brush and floss regularly. Maybe it's a matter of technological and research advances that allows Dr. Randhawa to do this, maybe she's just way better at her job than my prior dentists.
Anyway, today was visit two of a many-stage treatment plan that began a few weeks back to counter this continuing problem. Last time it was decided that the molar well on the way to major damage could no longer be treated with sealants at the below-the-gums decay site and to save the root and the bone there a crown was required. A temporary one was placed then, today the permanent one went in.
Holy frak, but that hurt.
First, removing the temporary crown was harder than expected because they had secured it so well and when she discovered she'd have to dig down way past where the nerve would loudly complain to pop it out, she opted to cut it off in pieces instead, but by then the initial attempt had inflicted moderate pain. She asked me if I'd prefer to be numbed up at that point as when the permanent one goes in there's a cement in it that will probably be uncomfortable; I said no, thinking that more of the same would be no worse than the novocaine needle.
I was an idiot.
For about five minutes I was in more pain than I'd ever been in from anything tooth related.
It was better after a few minutes and entirely OK after about half an hour with some Advil, but yikes.
So then it was time to pay the bill, and as we all know, dental insurance sucks. Unknown to me when we started this, my shitty policy doesn't cover crowns at all. Apparently only the really pricey policies do, and I was advised by the receptionist there to junk my current insurance, which I will do come the first of the year (in favor of a less expensive and slightly better policy from another provider I found on the exchange—thanks, Obama!). So, $800 later I have hopefully saved myself from a $4,000 procedure later on.
Meanwhile, my favorite currently syndicated cartoonist, Darrin Bell, read my mind and published this for his latest Sunday strip.
Dental coverage being just one step up from garbage, I suppose I'll need to keep putting more of my collection overflow on eBay. I've made a few hundred bucks' worth of sales lately, but I wish more people would buy the random grab bag sets. I really want to get rid of the chaff.No Comments yet
The 2023 World Series begins in a little over an hour as I type this. It's not the World Series I anticipated, far from the one I wanted, and the second consecutive one featuring a team that would not have made the postseason at all under rules that existed before 2022.
Depending on your point of view, this consequence of expanded playoffs is a travesty or a brilliant jewel of success. Or, I guess, you're indifferent; I do realize there are people out there that just don't get worked up over baseball.
Once in a while, a less successful team bests a bigger season winner and advances past them. It happens, especially in short series, and is a fun aberration from time to time. But it's no longer an aberration, it's a feature. And it should change.
You'd think this view would mean I am rooting against the 84-win Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series this week. Well, no, I'm rooting for them. Because their opponent is the Texas Rangers, a team I've spent a lot of years disliking and rooting against. This week I'm a Diamondbacks fan, a partisan for my former home state. Nevertheless, their pennant is something less than deserved, a bit tainted by being a sixth-seed in a postseason format that rewards mediocrity over excellence.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred likely sees this as a feature rather than a bug in his new system. But his focus has always simply been on revenue; competitive issues just aren't important to him. Which means there's a small chance the system can be tweaked to improve things.
I've opined on this before, so rather than rehash all the details of my pre-2022 suggested playoff plan I'll skip to the end.
The principal problem with the current setup is that two of the division winners—the winningest ones—sit around for a week after the season ends while everyone else plays in "Wild Card games," even the other division winner who is not a Wild Card team. Which is doubly unfair. The secondary problem is that Wild Card teams are not penalized for not finishing first and there's a good chance that, as was the case in the last two National League Championship Series, the last two standing will be WC teams. If you're going to allow teams in the postseason that haven't won anything, make it a disadvantage.
So, oddly the way to fix this that might make it palatable to Manfred and company is to add yet another playoff seed. Make it four Wild Card berths rather than the current three and have them play one-game-and-done advancing games the day after the season ends. Then the next day have the victors play each other. The winner of that game then advances to the Division Series as the LONE Wild Card entrant to the main playoff tourney, which begins THE NEXT DAY. Also, the Division Series, which has been a best three out of five format since its inception, is expanded to best four out of seven, just like the League Championship Series and World Series. This allows Manfred to retain his extra playoff games—even gives the possibility of a couple more—and thus the TV revenue he so lusts after, as well as the hype potential of another WC berth, while at the same time restoring some balance and fairness to the competitive side of the postseason.
All three division winners get placed on the same footing. WC teams are disadvantaged not just by having to run a mini-gauntlet of winning two extra games before making the Division Series, but by having no off days after the season. Division winners have two off-days (perhaps three for one of them, depending on how the TV schedules work out) instead of the five-plus they currently suffer through. Two days is enough to catch your breath and reset your pitching rotation, but not enough to get stale and lose your timing at the plate.
Right now the lesser clubs are advantaged in the DS. Somehow the hated Houston Astros have not been hurt by it either last year or this, but every other "favorite" has looked bad against upstarts. The Goliaths are meek vs. the Davids.
In the history of postseason baseball, there have been 16 teams to make the playoffs with a season win total below 90 and advance beyond one round by defeating at least one 90+ win team, be it in the LCS or Wild Card game/series. Five went the distance to become World Series champs. Five. That goes back to 1973, the first time such a team got in—and to date the one with the fewest wins, the 82-80 New York Mets. But the Mets won their division in an era when teams played 60% of their games within their own division, so they got where they got plenty legitimately. With Wild Card teams there is no schedule equity.
The Diamondbacks are the fourth Wild Card team under 90 wins to win a pennant. If the system stays the way it is, look for a whole lot more of them going forward.
Stupid Manfred.No Comments yet
The Plan: Fascism 2025
So went the introduction to the outstanding 2004 science-fiction show Battlestar Galactica, which chronicled the struggle of a human race from elsewhere in the galaxy struggling for survival after their worlds were wiped out by AI robots that had become pissed off at their creators.
Just change "Cylons" to "Republicans" and you have a description of the modern GOP.
The show was awesome. And dark. And eventually, in the end, had a fairly happy ending where humans and Cylons resolved their differences. I'm hopeful the United states will also have a happy resolution to its current shitshow, but I'm less hopeful that we'll get there without a BSG-style violent upheaval.
But let's look at the text. "The [modern Republicans] were created by [Americans.]" We (that's the collective "we," of course) created this problem. We voted in Ronald fucking Reagan in 1980, whose administration started down this road to normalizing selfishness and overt hatred of our fellow citizens. We permitted Newt Gingrich to rule Congress ten years later and model even more overtly asshole behavior. We reelected George W. Bush after his incompetence abetted 9/11 and his reaction to it was massively counterproductive. We kept sending Mitch McConnell back to the Senate. We let the "tea party" send representatives to Congress. And we allowed Donald Trump to ascend to the presidency. All made possible by propaganda outlets we have permitted to not just exist but flourish.
We created the modern Republican base. They evolved to master the ability to manipulate enough rubes to make violence and bigotry of all kinds acceptable to far too many of us. And they have all now rebelled against the very U.S. Constitution they pretend to revere. There are more and more MAGA-whackjob copies popping up in all kinds of offices, often indistinguishable from each other.
And they have a plan.
Unlike the Cylons, the Republicans have made their plan public. And it's scary. Cylon-level scary.
Funded by the right-wing "think tank" The Heritage Foundation, which is funded mostly by the Kochs, “Project 2025” starts with firing tens of thousands of government employees that form a backstop against authoritarian rule and replacing their positions with cultish obedient flunky jobs. The civil service was revamped under Jimmy Carter to enhance career professional continuity and lessen political bias in disruptive turnover; the Trumpublican Plan would turn it entirely into a political arm of EmperorPresident Palpatine. The Justice Department is, naturally, a high priority for The Plan, because everything the modern GOP does is in some fashion or other illegal and prosecutable and they can't have pesky things like the law getting in the way of their power. And the FBI has a thing about combating misinformation; since misinformation is the GOP's primary communication tool, the FBI can't be allowed to do that, so raze the DOJ is right there in The Plan.
The Plan also seeks to control the access of the press to the government, saying the new administration should stop giving the press corps space to work at the White House. It seeks to reduce (in advance, presumably, of eliminating) the role of the Senate in confirming executive positions. It would eliminate environmental protections, put a stop to using renewable energy and expand fossil fuel use, and accelerate a climate change crisis that, without drastic intervention, will wreak havoc on the population of the planet in a very few years' time all for the sake of industry profit and putting a boot on the neck of "woke."
We see progress toward their authoritarian fantasy coming true by the elevation of Mike Johnson to Speaker of the House of Representatives. Johnson's full-on MAGA Trumpist ideology—plus selective bible-thumping, not a Trumpy thing but a huge part of theocratic wannabe authoritarians' agenda—promises to make for a truly destructive period of Congressional ineptitude.
2024 is just around the corner. Everyone needs to be registered to vote and ready to send a loud and clear message. Republicans need to be not just defeated but trounced in the elections a mere 53 weeks from now. If not, we're in for real trouble. Cylon apacolypse trouble. We created this, but we can still change course and rectify things if we show up and act.
As Commander Adama once said, “Sooner of later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things you've done anymore."No Comments yet
The baseball playoffs are in full swing, so I am, of course, preoccupied with them over the more important things in the world. I mean, I'm paying attention to all the Congressional chaos and I have deep, deep concerns about the fascist plans of the so-called Republican party, but I'll save that stuff for another post.
Right now, the playoffs.
I've never been a fan of the Wild Card concept. I think winning a division should mean something, and the existence of even one Wild Card team in a league devalues the accomplishment. Having said that, I realize it's never going away. Rob Manfred and company want the extra playoffs and the TV money that comes with them. And I admit, despite the competitive inequities, I do enjoy having more baseball. So as long as we have them, the format needs some refinement.
Before last season, when the current playoff format began, I wrote a piece for that other website that is no more proposing a playoff system that would be more acceptable. Obviously, no one in Manfred's office listened to me, because it's not what we ended up with. I'm reproducing it below just to get it back on the Interwebs and reiterate the point. (Though in retrospect, it's not the playoff expansion that will hurt teams' TV contracts, it's cord-cutting.)
But the system as it stands now has problems. To wit, the division winners are not rewarded for finishing first. Two of them do get to rest up for a week or so and nurse little injuries and set their pitching rotations, but they also lose momentum. And the excessive number of days off doesn't give that much downside to the Wild Card clubs. So, let's cut out some off days. There should be zero off days between the WC series and the LDS. Then tighten up the calendar during the LDS; the first day all four series are on, then they alternate. That's obviously for TV, and it's hard to argue with that; I have no solution. But fewer off days are better in that a team can't jumble its pitching rotation. A WC team should have to use their top two or three starting pitchers in the WC round, then immediately travel to the LDS town with no off day. So, assuming the now-customary four-days rest rotation, their top two pitchers would not be available for LDS Game 1 or 2. If the WC series went the distance, neither would their third starter. But if there's an off day between LCS 1 and 2 then the ace can go in Game 2; not nothing, but not as much of a handicap.
And the third division winner gets no recognition at all, they're on the same footing as the WCs. Not cool. Thus, even though it involves creating yet another Wild Card team, I much prefer my proposal from two years ago. (Of course, if MLB expands soonish as it appears it wants to, the system would be screwed again as expanding from 30 to 32 teams likely means a realignment from six divisions of five into eight divisions of four. Perfect for zero Wild Cards, e.g. the best way, but problematic for having any at all.)
December 8, 2021
Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association have a lot on their plate right now. The lockout continues with no apparent progress and the matters under alleged discussion are many. One of those matters is the structure of MLB’s playoffs.
Manfred was so enthralled by the extra round of playoffs in the abbreviated 2020 season that he wants that system to be the norm from here on out. He doesn’t seem to care that it only made sense to do it that way in 2020 because of the short season played that year; 60 games was not a fair test of a team’s mettle, so making the playoff tournament pool bigger was a way to compensate. So what, Manfred seems to think, it meant a bigger influx of TV money! MORE TV MONEY! BWAAH-HA-HA-HA!!!!! In the tiny mind of Manfred, there is no balancing argument, no down-the-road obstacle that would counter this. It’s merely “more playoffs = more TV money.” No doubt with the evil laugh, too.
He’s probably wrong, of course—the way he wants to set things up, the regular season would be so further devalued that teams’ individual broadcasting contracts would inevitably shrink, relatively speaking, and there would be no net gain of TV money. (To say nothing of the fact that today’s cable/satellite broadcast model is fast becoming obsolete.) But that’s a long-view argument that can’t penetrate the commissioner’s meager and myopia-addled perceptive powers. He’s going to insist on more playoffs and the union is going to give them in some fashion in order to reach agreement on other issues. The question is, what form will they take?
Manfred wants essentially the 2020 model: Three division winners and three second-place finishers and one Wild Card (or just four Wild Card teams regardless of division/finish, unclear which he proposed) in each league, where the club with the top record gets a bye on the first round and everyone else plays a best-of-three series to advance to the second round, which we now know as the Division Series. This is terrible, as it makes winning your division unimportant. With the exception of the bye team, whether you finish first or not is just a matter of seeding; it is a more widespread reintroduction of the problem that the addition of the second Wild Card slot in 2012 successfully rectified—finishing first has to be substantially better than finishing second or lower. More broadly, the regular season must remain important and not merely a warmup for the playoff tournament.
If we are to be saddled with more playoff teams, the only way in which I’d be OK with it is if finishing first is maintained as a matter of significant import. We have a six-division structure and not enough clubs to comfortably break into more, so six first-place teams is the most we can have (with a two-team expansion, MLB could break into eight divisions of four, but that’s off in the future a ways and wouldn’t help with this anyway). With the four Wild Card clubs (two in each league), we have ten playoff teams, a full third of the MLB complement, but for Manfred that’s not enough. He wants fourteen.
Can this be accomplished? 14 clubs in the tourney while still retaining the importance of first place and the full season? Not entirely, no, but adding more Wild Card slots can still be done without totally FUBARing things. Right now each league has a Wild Card game as a play-in to the Division Series. If we limit additional Wild Cards to that tier, we’re still in the same general realm of acceptance.
Rather than make division winners play in this new introductory round, you leave them be. Win your division and be guaranteed a seed in the Division Series, just like now—three division champs and a single Wild Card club play on from that point. Before that, though, instead of having two Wild Card teams play for that one Division Series berth, you could have four.
As we know, in 2021 Boston hosted New York for the American League Wild Card entry to the Division Series, while Los Angeles hosted St. Louis for the same in the National League. With additional Wild Card teams in play, this is what we’d have had in ’21:
|AL EAST||AL CENT||AL WEST||NL EAST||NL CENT||NL WEST|
Unlike what Manfred wants to do, in our case the four Wild Card teams in each league would get pared down to one before any division winners get involved:
|AL WC 1||AL WC 2||NL WC 1||NL WC 2|
|SEA (90-72) @ BOS (92-70)||TOR (91-71) @ NYY (92-70)||PHI (82-80) @ LAD (106-56)||CIN (83-79) @ STL (90-72)|
|AL WC 3||NL WC 3|
|ALWC 1 winner vs. ALWC 2 winner||NLWC 1 winner vs. NLWC 2 winner|
Then things proceed apace with the Division Series and League Championship Series as we know them now.
You can do this with single-game Wild Card games, three per league total, or you could make it a best-of-three series first round and then a do-or-die single game. Single games would be best, as that only adds one day of idle time for the division winners, but Manfred would whine about how he wants more TV money than that. So to get him to stop throwing his baby tantrum, we say best-of-three for WC 1 and WC 2, then single deciding game for WC 3, giving MLB a “Wild Card Week” between the end of the season and the Division Series (season ends Sunday; day off Monday; best-of-three Tue-Wed-Thu, 2-1 home/away format with no travel days; single-gamers Friday; LDS starts Saturday). The drawback is that doing best-of-three means the division winners all sit on their hands for six days (more if any off days get shoehorned into the WC round). That’s not a good thing, though some might welcome it; any hot-streak momentum might go away, but being able to reset pitching rotations regardless of how down-to-the-wire your season was would be appealing, as would extra rest for any banged-up players.
But, you say, all that downtime for division winners makes things uneven and unfair! Well, under the current system division champs wait up to four days already, and even Manfred’s way has two clubs waiting around for a week; doing single-games for all the Wild Cards would have division winners idle for only a few days. But that really doesn’t matter. If we really cared about equity and fairness and what’s good for the sport, we wouldn’t be adding more playoff teams to begin with. No, this is nothing but an attempt at a cash grab, and that needs to be acknowledged. Accepting that, we mitigate the fair and equitable thing by keeping the regular season and finishing first as meaningful as we can and make it a true disadvantage to advance as just a Wild Card team.
A better compromise would be to do all Wild Cards as single-elimination, win one and move on, and make the Division Series best-of-seven instead of best-of-five. Then you still get your “extra” playoff teams, you don’t have anyone sit around for an entire week, and you get your added games for playoff TV. Either way the World Series starts nearer to the end of October (in 2021 it would have started October 30 instead of October 26).
The whole thing is, of course, colossally dumb. But so long as Rob Manfred is Commissioner of Baseball, the best we can hope for is to limit the scope of the dumbness and keep as much integrity in our great game as we can in the face of his myopic agenda.No Comments yet
The season is over. Bring on the postseason.
The baseball season is done, and Your Seattle Mariners finished in disappointing fashion. But not surprising, right? I mean, the way the year started did any of us really think they'd make the postseason? There was real hope after that fantastic August, sure, but they never got smarter about things. Anyway, there's lots of points to make in a future 2023 Mariners dissection post, but tonight I'm going to look ahead to the ’23 postseason, which begins in about 9 hours.
Tomorrow's full slate of games is courtesy of Commissioner Manfred's new Wild Card Series, which, OK, I don't really support, but it's here so we'll roll with it. Doubtful it'll ever go away now that it's in place. I'll save my screaming into the wind rants about such things for the Designated Hitter rule and the Manfred Man zombie runners in extra innings (thank god there are none of those in the post).
Anyway, here's the bracket:
My rooting interests, such as they are, are:
In the AL (a) for Toronto, just because, y'know, yay Canada (although nothing against Minnesota, so that one can go either way for me); (b) against Texas, so go Rays despite your ugly, ugly ballpark; (c) against Houston in the ALDS (obvs) and (d) for Baltimore other ALDS. The nightmare scenario is the Astros and Rangers both advancing.
National League (a) for Milwaukee, but not with much fervor; (b) for Miami, just because the Phils won last year's pennant when they didn't deserve it; (c) probably against the Dodgers in a kind of support-the-underdog way, though I imagine LA will walk all over whoever they draw in their NLCS; and (d) against Atlanta, though likewise they'll probably win big.
Mostly I just hope for dramatic games and series. And/or humiliating losses for the Astros and Rangers.
Now, for those wondering which team to root for based on their connection to the Mariners—i.e. Karen—or for those who subscribe to the Seattle version of what Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to call the "Ex-Cub Factor," here are the playoff teams featuring former Seattle Mariners. (Royko described the ex-Cub Factor, or ECF, as a debilitating pathogen that is inescapable for any team once three ex-Cubs are on the roster: "When there are three, this horrible virus comes together and multiplies and becomes so powerful it makes the other players weak, nearsighted, addle-brained, slow-footed, and lacking in hand-eye coordination." Even if a team has less than three, it might not be safe: “A team with no ex-Cubs probably has the edge on a team that has even one.” Adapting the Cubs' futility of Royko's day to the Mariners' haplessness of, well, nearly their whole existence, you can apply the formula to ex-M's.)
Baltimore Orioles (1)
- Adam Frazier (2B): Frazier spent one year in Seattle, 2022, when he posted an unremarkable line of .238/.301/.311. He did slightly better this year in Baltimore, .240/.300/.396.
Houston Astros (2)
- Kendall Graveman (RHP): The Undertaker was great in short relief for the M's in 2021 until he was dealt (with Montero) to Houston as the trade deadline approached. He moved on to Chicago, then was traded to Houston again almost two years to the day later. He had an OK year between the White Sox and Astros.
- Rafael Montero (RHP) : This guy was gawd-awful for Seattle. Then he was good as an Astro last year, this year he regressed to resemble the guy we knew as a Mariner. Not as bad, but bad enough: ERA over 5.00 and WHIP above 1.500.
Minnesota Twins (1)
- Emilio Pagán (RHP): Pagán came up in the Mariners' farm system and had a decent rookie campaign in Seattle in 2017. He was then traded to Oakland for a lousy corner infielder. This is his second year in the Twin Cities and he's done quite well in short relief appearances.
Tampa Bay Rays (1)
- Shawn Armstrong (RHP): Armstrong only played in 18 games with the M's (2018-2019) and was pretty bad. He was great out of the Rays' bullpen this year, though (52 IP, 1.38 ERA, 0.904 WHIP).
Toronto Blue Jays (2)
- Erik Hanson (RHP): Traded to the Jays after last season for Teoscar Hernández, Swanson had himself a pretty good season as a setup reliever north of the border. He still hasn't been given the chance to close, but he's good enough to do it.
- Yusei Kikuchi (LHP): Yusei's second year in Toronto was significantly better than his first; he posted career-bests in basically everything. Which isn't to say he was the kind of ace he was back in his Seibu Lions days in Tokorozawa, he still only managed about five innings per start and served up too many homers, but he more than held his own as a mid-rotation fixture.
Texas Rangers (0)
- No ex-Mariners active here, although infielder/outfielder Brad Miller is on their Injured List.
Atlanta Braves (0)
Los Angeles Dodgers (2)
- Kolten Wong (2B): As predicted, Wong caught on with another team shortly after the Mariners released him this past August. As predicted, he was much better with the new team than he was with the M's (.300/.353/.500 in 20 games with LA).
- Chris Taylor (IF/OF): In just one of many lousy trades made by the Mariners, Taylor was dealt to LA in 2015 for a guy named Zach Lee. Who? Exactly. Taylor has been a solid utility player for the Dodgers ever since, even making the All-Star team in 2021. This year his numbers aren't anything special, and he still strikes out too much, but you never know when he's going to deliver the big hit.
Milwaukee Brewers (4, 1 active)
- Carlos Santana (1B): Santana started the year as a Pittsburgh Pirate, but was traded to Milwaukee near the trade deadline to shore up a Brewer lineup plagued with injuries. He did OK (.249, 11 HR).
- Jesse Winker (OF, injured): Winker had a terrible season, batting under .200 and spending the bulk of it on the shelf. He hasn't played since just after the All-Star break.
- Abraham Toro (IF, inactive): Fatty Tuna spent most of the season in the minors, getting into only nine Major League games in 2023. He's not likely to be on the playoff roster, but could be used if someone gets hurt.
- J.B. Bukauskas (RHP, inactive): This guy made one relief appearance with Seattle before being placed on waivers and claimed by the Brewers. He spent most of the year in Triple-A and is unlikely to be on the playoff roster.
Philadelphia Phillies (1)
- Taijuan Walker (RHP): A two-time Mariner—traded first to Arizona with Ketel Marte for Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura, then after returning years later to Seattle traded again to the Blue Jays for minor leaguer Alberto Rodríguez, Tai signed as a free agent with Philadelphia prior to this season. He had a serviceable year in the Phillies' starting rotation, but nothing to write home about other than posting a career high in innings pitched.
Miami Marlins (1)
- J.T. Chargois (RHP): After a decent half-season in Seattle, J.T. was traded to the Rays for Diego Castillo. He moved downstate to Miami this year and put up OK numbers as a middle reliever.
Arizona Diamondbacks (3, 2 active)
- Paul Sewald (RHP): Traded from the M's to the Snakes this past July 31st, Sewald saved 13 games for Arizona, but his ERA and WHIP got considerably worse in the desert (2.93, 1.023 in 43 IP as a Mariner, 3.57, 1.472 in 18 innings as a Diamondback).
- Ketel Marte (IF/OF): Perhaps the best of today's Diamondbacks, Marte's year wasn't as good as his All-Star campaign of 2019, but still plenty good. He gets on base, hits for average, hits for occasional power, can steal a base once in a while, and can play a decent middle infield or center field. Ketel was last with the M's in 2016 and the trade he was in (with Taijuan Walker for Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura) was one of those good-for-everybody deals.
- Kyle Lewis (OF, inactive): Mister Streaky was Rookie of the Year in the truncated 2020 season as a Mariner, and I'd bet real money had that been a regular-length season that he wouldn't have been in the top three. He won the award based on a fantastic three week stretch that preceded three weeks of futility. He followed that up with two injury-hampered seasons, got dealt to Arizona for C/OF Cooper Hummel, was briefly hurt again after a disappointing first few weeks of this season, then came back and was optioned to Triple-A. In the minors he tore the cover off the ball. Called back up to Phoenix mid-season, he stank again. Sent back down, he raked again. The Snakes have five outfielders on the active roster, so odds are there won't be room for Lewis unless they go deep into the tournament and/or someone gets hurt.
So, depending on how you reckon things, the Diamondbacks or the Brewers have the most ex-Mariners. Or the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Blue Jays tie with two each. I have a kind of weird desire to see Kolten Wong have a spectacular playoff run, just to prove he's better than he got much chance to be here.1 Comment
I'm mostly over the probably-COVID bug, but not entirely. I thought I was done with it all last Wednesday. I felt generally OK. COVID test was negative. Still a little more snot to drain from the head, but otherwise normalish. Which was good, because, among other reasons, I had my final umpiring shift of the year that night and I had already missed two shifts; I didn't want to go out with such a whimper.
So I went. It was OK. None of my favored teams were involved and, since it was a playoff championship night, players were a little extra ready to complain about things. Eh. I had to go early, too, because it had rained the night before and I needed to do some groundskeeping before we could play. Thus I was hauling heavy bags of Turface out to the field and dumping them in standing water puddles and such, then raking and digging around base posts to get wobbly bases secure, and chasing off soccer players and such before we even got to the standard game prep. With all that, by the end of the first game I was wiped out. By the time I was done—in anticlimactic fashion, as the championship game ended in a tie and no extra innings could be played because the lights went out on a timer—I was rather exhausted.
And I'm still tired. Despite the series of negative tests, I have to assume this was a COVID infection because no cold has sapped my energy like this for so long a period. I dragged myself out to a social thing yesterday afternoon with some of my softball teammates, over an hour late because I just couldn't get going, and today I'm dragging again.
Anyway, it's pretty much in the just-annoying-not-really-debilitating stage except for this fatigue thing. I hope it runs its course soon.
Meanwhile, it's the last week of the baseball regular season and I have tix for three games this week to watch the Mariners blow their chance at the playoffs in person. Let's hope I have the energy to be properly animated in throwing hands up in the air in disgust when the M's fail to score some more easy runs from third base.1 Comment
It finally got me...probably
I was supposed to be on an airplane right now, headed down to southern California to attend my step-nephew's wedding and spend a couple days with my dad & Marty. Instead, I am sitting at home, blowing my nose every 5 minutes and downing NyQuil. Well, I was doing that, but I ran out. I may have to pop up to the Walgreen's drive-through later.
Tuesday morning I woke up with a fever and a sore throat. By Tuesday night I could add a congested head. By yesterday the congestion was as irritating in the third component of the ENT triumvirate as well. Add in a headache and general lethargy and you start to get an idea.
Colds don't usually knock me around quite so badly, so I took an at-home COVID test Tuesday and it came back negative. So I still thought, well, it's a couple days yet 'til the trip, it should be fine. But yesterday afternoon I wasn't any better and still running a temp. I took another COVID test and it also was negative, but given how old these test kits are—and since an in-clinic test wouldn't give me results until Sunday or Monday anyway and isn't free anymore—and how this feels unlike prior colds, I am proceeding under the assumption that I've got the dreaded C19.
The last time I remember feeling worse than this with a virus was quite memorable, because it was October 1995. I had the flu and was unable to use my ticket to Game 6 (and the potential 7) of the American League Championship Series at the Kingdome. That really didn't sit well with me (but my friend Brett got to go in my place, so good for him). This isn't a flu, there's no nausea involved, but otherwise it's sapped me pretty good.
Today, day four of symptoms, I feel some improvement. Fever's down. Throat's more scratchy than sore. Mucus isn't draining continually. So this should be a thing of the past in another couple of days (for this instance, not for COVID more generally; we as a culture have been really stupid and cavalier about this whole pandemic thing). Fingers crossed.
Sadly, Alaska Airlines won't refund me anything on my airfare purchase because I deigned to use their lowest fare option. I guess it wasn't enough to prohibit checked baggage and refuse a seat assignment and require extra fees for in-flight snacks as a trade-off for the lower ticket price, they also wanted to be able to thumb their nose at me for getting probably-COVID. I'd say shame on Alaska Air, but it's not like they're any different than any other airline operating today. Oh, well, as we say on Earth, c'est la vie.2 Comments
I'm really tired of this, baseball edition
JP's expression says it all
Last night I attended the Mariners game with my good friends K & E, hoping for a nice pick-me-up for the team after their lousy road trip to Cincinnati and St. Petersburg. You can almost excuse dropping three of four to the Rays, they're a really good team. But now they were playing the Angels, who are, let's see, what is the technical term... oh, yes, they're bad.
Having fallen out of first place and clinging by a thread to a Wild Card position, the M's needed to come out strong. And so they did: a three-run first inning, and with Logan Gilbert on the mound, things were looking good. Until the Angels' catcher, promoted from the minors 2½ weeks ago, clubbed a home run to make it 3-1. OK, still not bad. His next time up, that same newbie hit a nearly-identical home run, this time with a runner aboard. Mariners 3, Logan O'Hoppe 3. Meanwhile, after that first-inning performance, the Seattle lineup could do nothing against the suddenly formidable Reid Detmers, who was 3-10 with a nearly 5.00 ERA. It was beginning to look like extra innings.
Then came an interesting ninth. The M's brought in their supposed closer, Andres Muñoz, who was somehow named AL reliever of the month for August. Seems to me whoever made that decision didn't see him pitch; I mean, a 1.4 WHIP isn't exactly stellar, but OK. Which isn't to knock Muñoz. I like Muñoz, but in my opinion he's not ready in the head for the pressure of the closer role. He's still pretty raw; someday he could be an elite reliever, but right now he's still learning on the job. E and I were talking about how Muñoz makes us nervous these days, and I mentioned that he's got great stuff but doesn't make good choices when he has a batter on the ropes.
A retro view of the game last night, as we sat in row 3 of section 337, one row forward of what had been my original Safeco Field season seats for several years. Though I'm happy in 327 row 9, I've missed you, 337! Especially the distance from the PA speakers there. Much less of an aural assault.
Mike Moustakas led off with a smart base hit against the limited defensive shift the M's were employing, just chopping a grounder toward third where nobody was playing. Not Muñoz's fault, his manager's, but OK. Then that O'Hoppe jerk is up again. Muñoz gets to a 1-2 count despite some poor home plate umping, but then tries to be cute. Does he buzz in that 100mph fastball above the letters? No, he throws the same pitch he just threw for strike two, which is nearly the same pitch he threw for ball one (it was in the strike zone, I could even see it from up high), and O'Hoppe said "thank you very much" and blasted it into left for a double. Next batter, Eduardo Escobar, gets in the hole at 0-and-2, but again Muñoz doesn't realize he's in charge. Escobar is a .230 hitter with a high K rate, at 0-2 he has to protect the plate. Muñoz can reach 102mph, but instead he throws the same slider he threw to O'Hoppe and Escobar hit it hard on a line, but the M's were lucky: it was hit right at Jarred Kelenic, who was shallow enough that the guy running for Moustakas at 3rd didn't try to tag up and score. Muñoz then hits the next guy with a fastball to load the bases. Now Brett Phillips and his .188 average is up. Could still get out of this if nothing goes wrong, and Muñoz has seemingly learned from his mistake and is pounding in 100mph+ fastballs. Phillips takes two quick strikes, then a third—except, no, called a ball. Next pitch also called a ball, but looked good from where we were. The next pitch was certainly strike three—except this umpire had dirt in his eye or something, because it's called ball three, and now the crowd is letting the ump have it. Phillips has gotten better timing on the fastball, but he's still fouling them off. Finally he swings and misses and there are two out. Next guy grounds out harmlessly to short and we're still tied. Whew.
Bottom half started out nicely. Cal Raleigh leads off with a base hit. Geno Suárez follows with another single. With Raleigh now at second base, manager Scott Servais smartly elects to replace him with a pinch-runner in José Caballero. Not the ideal choice, but the best one available. Ty France then lines a hit into left-center field and this looks like it! A walk-off victory! Except, what's this? Caballero is being held at third base??! Wait, didn't he just get put into the game for this exact scenario? Run, go for it, make them make a play at the plate. But no, Servais and third-base coach Manny Acta play it conservatively because, hey, there's nobody out and now the winning run is at third with no outs and that's easy to drive in, right?
Well, yes, unless you're the Seattle Mariners.
As I pointed out a while back, the M's suck at this. They only convert that runner at 3B with 0/1 out into a run scored about 40% of the time. Because they strike out. The team's overall 26% K rate actually gets worse with a runner at third and 0/1 out. Worse! Insanity.
To the surprise of no one in the stadium, Jarred Kelenic struck out. And the next guy up was Dylan Less-is-Moore, who despite playing above my expectations of late is still not a good Major League hitter and tapped a weak roller to the shortstop playing shallow, easy forceout at home. Now it was up to Dom Canzone, who just missed squaring up a pitch and rolled it to first. Extra innings. K & E both groaned in unison and I did a riff on the old Cars song "Moving in Stereo": M's are the same, we're groaning in stereo/M's are the same, they can't score from third...
I expected that to be that. The Angels would score their Manfred Man and the M's would not and it'd be over. And indeed, the Angels belted a homer to score two. Bottom 10 would surprise me when Julio Rodríguez crushed his own 2-run homer (his 30th of the season, congrats, Julio) to retie the game. Did we have hope? Not really. The Angels singled their Manfred Man to third in the 11th, then singled him home to go up 6-5, then Geno Suárez made an uncharacteristic error on a hard grounder that scored another run, then another hit and another run before Servais goes and gets Isaiah Campbell from the bullpen, who throws one pitch to end the frame and stop the bleeding. But the M's went down 1-2-3 in the home 11th.
Was this the game that effectively ends the Mariners' postseason hopes? We'll see; given the struggles the Astros and Rangers have both been having, and given that there are still a bunch of games to play against them, there's still a way to pull it out. But after this, my belief that the M's will never win a title so long as Scott Servais is their manager is solidified even more.
The "V"s were, perhaps, premature.
Gifts from the field
Though my climb back to stable orbit continues, it's been slow going and I've not gotten a lot accomplished of late. But there have been a few highlights that perked me up a bit:
- Mizuki went in to see the vet yesterday and was a champ. Scared out of her little kitten mind, but bravely got through being groped and stuck with needles and she's now had all her shots until next year. She was very popular with Dr. S and the whole staff at Cats Exclusive and I have to admit I liked it when she ran from the technician back to me when they were done with the shots. Don't worry, Tiny Moon, I've gotcha.
- I umpired a playoff series the other night, three games, and when one of the guys playing in the second game showed up early he saw I was the ump for the night and texted his teammates: "We got Tim tonight!!" It did me good, I wasn't feeling too well before heading to the park. That team won their semifinal but lost the championship game to a squad that also knows me by name now. The softball season is coming to a close soon, but meanwhile it's nice to be appreciated there.
- Relatedly, last week (or sometime? The days have all melded together lately) I umped another game with The Leftovers, who presented me with a team-branded beer cozy. I don't drink beer, but it functions as a Coke cozy just fine and I discovered they name-checked me on the thing:
That's pretty great. Many thanks to Neal and the rest of the team.
- Lower Decks is back! The new season got off to a pretty good start, not the best but still fun. I guess if you're a Voyager fan you'd appreciate it more, but that to me is the bad Trek. On the other hand, they made great fun of some of the goofiest/dumbest things about that series, so that's a plus. I see this LD ep as less of a "valentine" as a well-deserved mockery of some really terrible Star Trek.
Hello, world. Apologies to those who've left me messages or texts or whathaveyou over the past week or so. Between out of town visitors prior to the holiday weekend and an episode with my nemesis The Black Hole, I've been more or less incommunicado. Fortunately, this particular Black Hole experience has not been one of those full-blown depressive sucker-punches, rather one of the milder ones that remind me how much energy I expend to keep my normal stable orbit.
I don't know what, if anything, was the trigger event this time. Doesn't always have to be one. That's what makes it a relapsing/remitting clinical depression rather than a truly emotionally-based one. Well, one of the things, anyhow. So nothing "happened," though we did pass a couple of sad anniversaries that might tangentially connect—we passed what would have been my grandfather's 102nd birthday, shortly thereafter the anniversary of my mom dying. But really, I don't think those were key, I wasn't thinking about them much. It's just my fucked-up brain chemistry.
As I've said before about this, most of the time, thanks to good medicinal intervention, I do OK. My depression is tethered to me, visualized as a black hole with an unescapable gravity well, but usually I keep a good orbital distance. Maintaining it takes energy. And if I slip a little, it takes more energy to try and climb up again. And, sooner or later, it seems, whatever engine that powers that orbital thrust breaks down. Or overheats or something. My metaphor starts to collapse here, but I just get tired. The brain realizes how much effort its been putting into not-crashing and just needs a break.
Which means gravity pulls harder. Which means when I'm ready to come out of rest mode I have to work a whole lot harder to get back up to stable orbit. Which is tiring. You see how this can be endlessly frustrating.
Now, in this case—and again, I thank the makers of Sertraline for the generally effective assist—I didn't get pulled down all that far. I'd like to orbit at, say, moon level but I got pulled down to GPS level. Sucks, but way better than ISS level. Or atmospheric. I need these metaphors to help it make sense in my head.
Anyway, I've been tired. Sleeping a lot. Screwed up my already nocturnal tendencies to be downright vampiric. But it's better today, I can tell I'm gaining some altitude, and it's a good thing because I've got to be out in the world with the Daywalkers the next few days and then in a little over a week I have to take a quick trip to California, which I'm not really looking forward to but neither am I wishing wasn't happening. I'll take that, at this point.1 Comment