Updated Oct 14, 2012 - 11:16 pm
Seattle Mariners Blog with Shannon Drayer
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 @ 7:00am
By Shannon Drayer
In his blog on ESPN.com, (subscription required) Buster Olney wrote there were a number of baseball executives "outside the Mariners organization looking in, and they are wistful, wishing they could grab the Mariners' steering wheel."
The reason why? According to Olney they see the Mariners as "the great sleeping giant in baseball" because of the "monstrous growth potential" or "potential to become a baseball monster."
That claim is about to be put to a test as the Mariners will soon be hiring a president.
Olney cited the financial state of the team – something outgoing president Chuck Armstrong is largely responsible for – as one of the reasons why this team is attractive to other executives. He likened the Mariners to a start-up company with loads of cash and talent and no debt.
The press release that announced Armstrong's retirement, which becomes effective Jan. 31, noted that the Mariners would now begin the process of finding a successor and determining a transition plan. If this move was unanticipated, there is a lot of work to be done, and done quickly.
Before selecting the new manager, both general manager Jack Zduriencik and CEO Howard Lincoln were clear in their vision that they wanted a teacher in that role. What is the vision for what is wanted in a team president? What is the vision for this club moving forward? When Armstrong took over, the vision was about growing a young franchise, surviving and establishing itself both in MLB and Seattle. They made their mark, they got their stadium and they secured their future in Seattle no doubt for a long time to come. More recently they got their television network. Huge accomplishments that set things up nicely for the future. So the question is, what's next?
In the coming weeks we will get more into the role of the president, what the vision for the Mariners could be, who could be stepping into the position in the coming weeks and the vital transition at such an important time for the franchise.
Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 3:41pm
By Shannon Drayer
After serving as president of the Mariners for 28 of the past 30 years, Chuck Armstrong announced Monday afternoon that he has decided to retire.
"Thirty years ago my family and I were given a wonderful opportunity to move to the Seattle area and become associated with the Seattle Mariners," Armstrong said in a release issued by the club. "We quickly grew to love this community and this team. Through all the good times and the not-so-good times on the field since 1984, the goal always has been to win the World Series. My only regret is that the entire region wasn't able to enjoy a parade through the City to celebrate a World Championship together.
"After much thought and reflection, it is now time for me to retire and enjoy as much time as possible with my wife Susan and our family. The recent deaths of several good friends have really had an impact on me and helped crystallize my decision. This was a very difficult, very personal decision, but I know in my heart that it's time to turn the page and move to the next chapter of my life."
Former owner George Argyros first brought Armstrong on board with the Mariners when he hired him as the president and chief operating officer in 1983. Armstrong held that position until 1990 when the club was sold to Jeff Smulyan. When Smulyan put the club up for sale, Armstrong was asked by Sen. Slade Gorton to help put together a group of investors to buy the club and keep it in Seattle. The Baseball Club of Seattle purchased the club in 1992 and brought back Armstrong, who has served as president and chief operating officer ever since.
"When the Baseball Club of Seattle purchased the franchise in 1992, it was clear that Chuck Armstrong was uniquely qualified to lead the organization," Mariners chairman and CEO said Howard Lincoln said in the press release. "Since Day One, he has given his heart and soul to Mariners baseball. He sincerely cares about the game of baseball, this organization, this city and this region. On behalf of ownership and everyone who has worked here for the past 30 years, I thank Chuck for his tremendous contributions. We wish him all the best in retirement with Susan and his family."
During Armstrong's tenure, the Mariners made four playoff appearances and tied the Major League record for wins in a season with 116 in 2001. Armstrong was also instrumental in the Mariners signing Ken Griffey Jr. in 1987.
In addition to his day-to-day work with the Mariners, Armstrong has been active in Major League Baseball at the national level, serving on the board of MLB Enterprises, Inc., the Commisioner's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, MLB's International Committee and the Commissioner's Ticketing Review Committee.
Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig said in the release, "I congratulate Chuck Armstrong, a great baseball man, on his upcoming retirement after 28 years of dedicated service to the Mariners franchise as club president. Chuck was one of the key leaders who secured the national pastime's future in the Pacific Northwest, guiding the Mariners as they became a model franchise in a wonderful ballpark. His knowledge and experience on both the baseball and business sides was an asset to our entire sport in numerous ways, including on my Special Committee for On-Field Matters and our International Committee, and he always kept the best interests of our game in mind.
"I and Chuck's many friends throughout the game will miss him both personally and professionally. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I wish Chuck, his wife Susan and their family all the best, and I thank him for his many contributions to the game he loves."
Armstrong will retire Jan. 31, 2014. The Mariners will now begin the process of finding a successor and determining a transition plan.
Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 11:18am
By Shannon Drayer
The transition of coaching staffs is just about complete with the Mariners announcing on Monday the additions of Howard Johnson (hitting), Rick Waits (pitching), Andy Van Slyke (first base), Mike Rojas (bullpen), John Stearns (third base) and Chris Woodward (infield).
On a conference call with the media, general manager Jack Zduriencik revealed that there could be one holdover from last year's staff. Former hitting coach Dave Hansen could return, most likely as assistant hitting coach.
"There is a possibility Dave Hansen will remain," Zduriencik said. "There are discussions going on right now. He certainly knows he has a position here should he decide to stay."
Also possibly staying in the organization is Daren Brown, the former third-base coach and longtime Tacoma Rainiers manager. Brown is interviewing with the Reds for a position, but according to Zduriencik he is still under contract with the Mariners and will have a position if he decides to stay.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the staff is a mix of a few Lloyd McClendon guys and a good number of Mariners organizational people. McClendon likes what he sees in those he is not as familiar with, including Johnson and Waits.
"HoJo and I played against each other for a number of years," he noted. "I know his competitive spirit and I know he knows what he is talking about. I was very impressed with the ideas he had moving forward and I think it really matched the same type of ideas I had."
McClendon said Waits "really blew him away" in the interview.
"I walked away thinking this guy represented everything I wanted in a pitching coach," he said.
I mentioned in the previous post that a number of people I talked to in Detroit lauded Van Slyke's teaching abilities. There was some question if he was willing to get back into coaching after taking the last four years off, however. Evidently he did, as he was the one who contacted the Mariners first. McClendon is thrilled to have him on board.
"For me, Andy Van Slyke in all my years of baseball is probably the most impressive practice coach I have ever been around," he said. "As far as getting guys prepared for the game, making guys better at their position? He made guys better."
Woodward will have the opportunity to make guys better in the infield. He has spent a good amount of time with Brad Miller and Nick Franklin over the last season, including time at the big-league level in August. He has a good understanding of the challenges facing them as you can hear in this interview.
It is great to see the addition of a designated position coach. Miller and Franklin are young and have a good amount of ability but we saw mistakes last year, particularly from Franklin. Both came through the system fairly rapidly so this will give them the opportunity to get work they may have missed in the minors. Van Slyke will do the same for the outfielders.
In addition to the coaches named Monday, the Mariners announced that bullpen catcher Jason Phillips and batting practice pitcher Scott Budner will return.
Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 9:26am
By Shannon Drayer
Lloyd McClendon's coaching staff is now complete. The Mariners announced Monday that they have hired Rick Waits as pitching coach, Mike Rojas as bullpen coach, Howard Johnson as hitting coach, Andy Van Slyke as first-base coach, John Stearns as third-base coach and Chris Woodward as infield coach. Trent Jewett had previously been named bench coach.
Some quick thoughts before the conference call: This is a good mix of McClendon and organizational guys with McClendon previously working with Van Slyke and Rojas and the rest of the hires announced Monday coming from the Mariners organization.
Before the managerial search began, general manager Jack Zduriencik said he was looking for a manager and a staff who would have a great ability to teach. This staff reflects that with many years of minor-league experience. We also see the addition of a designated infield coach in Woodward. He has worked closely with young Mariners infielders both last year in his first year as roving infield coordinator and as a player in his final years. Dustin Ackley credited Woodward for helping him with his transition to second base when both were with the Rainiers.
Van Slyke's name was given to me shortly after McClendon was hired as a possible coach. I was told it would be a huge hire for the Mariners if he were still interested in coaching (he has been out for the past four seasons after serving as the Tigers' first-base coach from 2006-2009) not for his skills as a first- or third-base coach but because he is an excellent outfield instructor.
Waits has been the minor-league pitching coordinator for the last three seasons and has worked one-on-one with a number of young pitchers, including Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. He has extensive experience in player development.
Stearns finished last year managing the Rainiers, where Johnson was the hitting coach. The young players will have plenty of familiarity with both.
Will have more after the conference call.
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 3:47pm
By Shannon Drayer
Free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano is seeking a deal worth $310 million, and no one believes he will get it. Crazy talk, even crazier if the Mariners were involved, right? Not according to former MLB general manager Jim Bowden, who joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" on Thursday.
"Seattle, if they can afford it, you go get Cano," he said after pointing out that aside from the Yankees, the big-money teams most likely would stay away.
"What agents need to do is find the one team that is going to do it because Jay Z is going to make a point here and there is nothing he would like more than to get the Seattle Mariners to offer more than the Yanks and put him somewhere else."
This may or may not be true in that Cano's agent, Jay Z, is about as New York-centric as a celebrity or businessman can be, so it makes sense that for branding purposes he would want his big client in the Big Apple or at the very least in a very big market. But it's possible that his bigger priority is to establish his sports agency, and taking control of this negotiation -- a negotiation against the Yankees -- may be more important. If this is the case, if the Mariners have a true shot at Cano, how far would you go?
How much of a difference-maker could Cano be? According to Bowden, the difference goes beyond what he could do on the field. He sees this as a necessary move to set up others in the near future and cited a couple of interesting examples of what could happen.
"Scott Boras over the years put a (Jayson) Werth in Washington before they won and Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez in Detroit before they won," he pointed out. "He got those teams to overpay because it was a step in the direction of winning, and in both cases it worked."
Let's take a look at this and see if we see any similarities with the Mariners. A disclaimer first: This is far more about interesting than science.
In 2010, the Nationals finished last in their division. In 2011, Werth joined the team after being given a staggering seven-year, $126 million deal. An overpay at its finest. The team finished third in its division in 2011 and first the next year. Obviously, Werth is not responsible for all of the success, but the Nationals did score 76 more runs in 2012 than it did in 2010. More importantly, they improved the pitching. Greatly.
For starters, the 2010 rotation was led by a 35-year-old Livan Hernandez. Say no more, but take a look:
The 2012 rotation looked a little different:
The other example of liftoff after overpay Bowden cited was the signing of Rodriguez and Ordonez by the Tigers. Rodriguez signed in 2004 and Ordonez in 2005. The Tigers finished fourth in their division in 2005 and lost in the World Series in 2006.
Interestingly enough, in his introductory press conference new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said that the situation in Seattle reminds him of Detroit in 2006. Quick. Tell me which hitter led that Tigers team with a .921 OPS? It wasn't Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera, names that immediately come to mind when talking about Detroit's offense. Neither player was on the team yet. No, the leader of the offense was none other than Carlos Guillen. This was a very different yet very productive offense for the Tigers.
How productive? From 2005-06 the Tigers managed to put up an additional 99 runs in large part due to a healthy Ordonez but also because a good number of individuals from the previous year were able to increase their totals here and there. Nothing too dramatic.
As for the pitching changes:
Not quite the turnover that the Nationals experienced but significant to the tune of allowing 112 fewer runs.
One other change from 2005 to 2006 for the Tigers that is worth mentioning is that 2006 was Jim Leyland's first year as manager.
In his interview with "Bob and Groz", Bowden said he thought that the big-fish signing was important in that it could lure the middle fish (the Mike Napolis and Carlos Beltrans of the world) who were less likely to go to a team that was far from contending. The above is not really a good example of that as neither team had big mid-level free-agent signings after the marquee players signed.
In looking at those two examples, however, you see teams that took a step forward offensively mostly with what they had and upgraded their starting pitching. Improving the pitching is something the Mariners will do.
If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know I hate to make predictions. I will predict this, however: The Mariners' No. 3, 4 and 5 starters will be significantly better next year. I know I am going out on a limb, but James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will be an upgrade from 3, 4 and 5 and most likely 6 on that list above. General manager Jack Zduriencik is planning on adding a starter from the outside as well. Great. Add a pitcher, do not trade Paxton or Walker and you can pencil in (I am done with my predictions so we are going with "pencil in" here) a 100-run swing.
Zduriencik has said that upgrading the defense is a priority as well and there is a lot of room for improvement. That translates to runs saved, which you can tack on to that 100-run swing. Go ahead and add a few more for an improved bullpen as well. That 754 runs allowed in 2013 should come down significantly in 2014.
The question remains: How do they add to the 624 runs scored? Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Jason Bay and Franklin Gutierrez were responsible for driving in 216 of them. It is possible that we could see Morales or Ibanez return but still that is a significant number of runs that most likely will need to be replaced. Beyond additions, how much of a step forward can you see any of the remaining Mariners take in terms of production? They obviously need help and Bowden sees signing Cano as the first step to getting that help.
"It is tough to get the short-term, mid-level players, the Beltrans and Napolis, if you are not ready to win now," he said. "If I'm Seattle, let's just go put all our money in Cano and have our three-hole hitter to build around. And once Cano gets there, guess what happens the next year? Then the Napolis and Beltrans say, 'Yeah, I will go to Seattle. With the pitching they have got at the top of the rotation?' And now it is starting to hit with Cano and (Kyle) Seager, it's amazing how quick it can turn, but you have got to have the big guy in the middle to start attracting the other star players to come there."
I have said all along that it is not all about just adding a big bat. One big bat does not a lineup make. But do you buy what Bowden is saying? How important is the marquee name? How far would you go for Cano or is Jacoby Ellsbury that guy. If you had a choice, which would you prefer? Do you see similarities with Detroit or Washington? Last but not least, if a revamped rotation could account for 100 runs, do you even consider moving one of Paxton or Walker?
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 3:45pm
By Shannon Drayer
A quick note on the Mariners' coaching staff: General manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon have been working on putting the staff together and I would expect to hear early next week just who will be joining McClendon on the bench.
I would not expect to see the return of any of Eric Wedge's coaches. Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times reported Friday afternoon that pitching coach Carl Willis has been fired.
Despite the fact that Willis worked well with all of the pitchers and had a good relationship with Felix Hernandez -- who has had five different pitching coaches in his big-league career -- his association with Wedge could set up an odd dynamic under new leadership. It would appear Zduriencik and McClendon are opting for a fresh start.
Willis and the other coaches were under contract through next season, so it is not just a matter of letting them walk. First-base coach Mike Brumley has been hired by the Cubs as an assistant hitting coach while third-base coach Daren Brown and hitting coach Dave Hansen are scheduled to interview with the Reds. Former third-base coach Jeff Datz has been offered a scouting position with the Mariners but has not yet made up his mind whether or not he will accept it.
As I mentioned in my post Wednesday, names I have heard that McClendon could be interested in bringing to Seattle include former Tigers coaches Rafael Belliard and Andy Van Slyke, Tigers Triple-A hitting coach Leon Durham and Double-A hitting coach (and former Mariners hitting coach) Gerald Perry.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 @ 12:06pm
By Shannon Drayer
Update: As mentioned below, the deadline to place players on the 40-man roster in order to protect them in the Rule 5 draft was midnight. The Mariners did so with Logan Bawcom, Stefen Romero, Ji-Man Choi and James Jones. The roster is now at 38.
A quick look at how some of the Mariners are faring in winter ball:
I am often asked about the future of Jesus Montero and the answer for me is simple. If he can hit lefties and hit them well, we will see him in Seattle. His catching days are over. He is getting some work at first base but the majority of his work in the Venezuelan Winter League has been as a designated hitter.
After a slow start his bat heated up, but he has been sidelined for over a week now after requiring two stitches to repair a lacerated knuckle suffered in a minor car accident. Before the accident he was hitting .293 with a .731 OPS. In his 82 at-bats for Lara he has struck out 23 times and walked six times.
Also of interest from the Lara team: Erasmo Ramirez will get a little work after pitching just 126 innings this season. In his first and only outing so far he allowed no runs in five innings.
In the Dominican League, Abraham Almonte is off to a good start, hitting .313 in six games with four walks and six strikeouts. On the flip side, Nate Tenbrink is having a rough go early with just two hits in 25 at-bats. He could be dealing with some of the adjustments Logan Bawcom talked about in one of his recent blog posts on 710Sports.com.
A little closer to home, Arizona Fall League play came to an end Nov. 16. Dominic Leone, who led the league in saves, was the Mariner who had the most success, surrendering just four earned runs in 12 innings while striking out 15 and allowing just one walk. Brandon Maurer was a different story, giving up 13 earned in 19.2 innings while walking 12 and striking out 17.
As for the offense, Double-A shortstop Chris Taylor – who is known for his glove work – put up a nice .294/.351/.426/.778 line while Stefen Romero struggled, hitting just .212 with four extra-base hits. He struck out 19 times in 66 at-bats.
A couple of other notes: We will have roster news Wednesday as the deadline to protect players in the Rule 5 draft is 9 p.m. The Mariners currently have six open spots on the 40-man roster.
Finally, general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon are getting closer to naming the full coaching staff. Names I have heard that McClendon could be interested in bringing to Seattle include former Tigers coaches Rafael Belliard and Andy Van Slyke, Tigers Triple-A hitting coach Leon Durham and Double-A hitting coach (and former Mariners hitting coach) Gerald Perry.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 2:29pm
By Logan Bawcom
Special to 710Sports.com
Hello there, fanaticos. I'm currently in the lobby of the Caracas hotel writing to y'all after running out of the mall following a lockdown. There was an apparent robbery of some kind and I have no clue what exactly happened other than I grabbed my Subway sandwich and sprinted back to safety. No need for a cup of coffee this morning. This was my first encounter with some crazy things about a week before I head out of the country.
Anyway, back to the main reason for this post. The downside of this league would definitely have to be the travel. This is not a normal MLB or MiLB league where you play three-to-five-game series and can settle into the town you're playing in. We typically play one team then leave town and go to another. This requires you to have a few bus or plane flights during each week. This takes a toll on the body no matter how young you are.
I'll give you a few examples of some horrific travel days. This is coming from a kid that played in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League where you have 3 a.m. wakeup calls for 6 a.m. flights and play that night. The worst trip that comes to mind was a PCL-esque travel day to Margarita Island. Now, I know you're thinking Margarita Island sounds amazing and no way the travel could be bad getting to a paradise type place, but you're wrong.
The morning started off quite early with a cab ride to the airport, which took even longer due to congested traffic in Barquisimeto. Then we sat around the airport for quite awhile in the one terminal they have here to take the only flight out to Caracas. We landed around 10 with a 1 o'clock connecting flight to Margarita Island. I came to realize quickly here that times for departures are just an approximate guess. I've never seen anything done on time in the month I've been here. Needless to say, we had about a five-hour layover and didn't ship out until around 3 p.m. with a game that night. We could easily have hopped onto a boat and beat the plane there, in my opinion.
That is an example of a bad flight, but then there are the buses. Luckily we take two buses so sometimes you can get your own seat, but that's hit or miss. Last road trip I had to double up with a fellow Mariner that was in rookie ball this year. The bus trips are usually the same every time because most places are around five or six hours with a couple that are three. Unfortunately these five-hour trips, according to Google Maps, turn into about seven-hours trips. The bus drivers here are not afraid to push the pedal to the metal, which is nice. What is not nice is the ton of government stops along the way where we have to slow down. This is where the many hours tally up from stop and go, not to mention the traffic in some places. It's never fun getting in at 4 a.m. and playing the next day, but it is all a part of the grind.
There is an upside to the long bus rides and flights, though. The Venezuelan countryside is quite beautiful. There are definitely some eyesores along the way with trash on the side of the road, but the mountainous range on the way to Caracas with everything so green makes for good looking out the window to pass some time.
Another thing that is a necessity is movies. I have tons of movies on my laptop that help throw away a couple hours with ease. Also, nothing beats a good book if you can handle the reading with the stop and go on the bus. These are just a couple things I do along with listening to some good jams to pass the time on the bus.
Overall, the bus trips and plane flights at 1 a.m. out of cities are no fun, but at the end of the day it is worth it. Nothing will be this bad back in the States so it makes you learn to take care of your body and eat right and get your rest whenever you can. The best $25 I have ever spent was on a neck pillow in rookie ball and I will never regret that purchase.
Only a few more weeks here until I'm back in the land of the free. I'm off to the ballpark and then headed out after the game back to Barquisimeto. It's going to be another long night on the bus and getting in around 4 tonight if we make it in five hours. Let's see how far down that gas pedal will go, bus driver. Adios!
Follow Logan Bawcom on Twitter @LoganBawcom and on Facebook.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.