Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A modest proposal (to gut the Seattle Mariners)

Good seats, eh?
The Bleacher Report should never be considered a trustworthy source of news or opinion. Despite that little caveat, I can't help but respond to an article published on June 27 entitled: "Jose Reyes for Dustin Ackley Can Help Both New York Mets and Seattle Mariners," which I will not link to because I want to save everyone from having to read it in full.

Ignoring the painful AP faux pas of capitalizing every damn first letter in the headline and trying to focus on why we're all here, the content of the article is so absurd that it bears a detailed breakdown. There's no secret that the light-hitting Seattle Mariners could use a boost in the line-up. With the best pitching staff in baseball and a tremendous record in games where the offense scored 4+ runs, it seems like this pitching-heavy team could make a legitimate run at the AL West title this year with a smart trade.

The Bleacher Report suggestion--New York Mets wantaway SS Jose Reyes for Dustin Ackley and, I'm quoting here, "two or three additional high level prospects"--is a trade that could only come from either a) a fan of the New York Mets, or b) someone whose baseball knowledge doesn't extend past the Mississippi River.

There seem to be a lot of people in category B these days.

In the article, Reyes is being touted as the potential "catalyst atop the batting order" for the Mariners, were this horrible trade to actually occur (it won't), and "arguably pound-for-pound the most exciting player in baseball when healthy/motivated." For a young team recovering from a decade of front office mismanagement and poor player performance, the last thing the Mariners need right now, disregarding Reyes' stats, which I'll get to shortly, is someone who isn't ready to come play his ass off every day for the club. Pair that lackadaisical attitude with an expiring contract and a reputation for contract strong-arming, and the Mariners would be trading away Ackley, whom they drafted second overall just two years ago and is already showing coaches, teammates, and fans why he was drafted so highly, and two or three additional high-level prospects! What a deal!

According to the Bleacher Report writer, when Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik came to the club and committed to building this team from the ground up--restocking a depleted minor league and building around a nucleus of home-grown young talent--he must've been saying that to the media in order to hide his true intent of forfeiting the sustainability of the franchise for a crippling trade for a 28-year-old contact hitter with injury and attitude issues in the last year of his contract. Oh, and Zduriencik undoubtedly hopes to pair Reyes with leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki, sliding Reyes out of his normal leadoff slot into the second hole... because that worked so well with Chone Figgins.

Statistically, Reyes has been a solid player in his career. He's had some monster stolen base numbers (although SBs really aren't as valuable as people think they are; Reyes has also led the NL in caught stealing twice), an above-average OBP and SLG% for a leadoff hitter, and seems to collect triples like Mark Reynolds collects strikeouts, but he's the last thing the Mariners need right now. The Mariners don't need Ichiro 2.0, this is a team desperate to find guys who can drive in runs, who can add some pop to a soft line-up, and who can fill a gap in the Mariners' batting order (3B, LF, DH). Reyes would be a compliment to the line-up, don't get me wrong, but at what cost? At what cost financially, at what cost to the rebuilding efforts of the front office, and at what cost to the style and effectiveness of manager Eric Wedge?

And at what cost to a fanbase enamored with Ackley and starting to believe once again in the franchise?

This trade would be a pointless disaster for the Mariners. It addresses absolutely nothing the Mariners need, depletes a burgeoning stable of young players coming up through the ranks, wastes the second pick in the draft (plus two to three additional prospects! I can't get over that ...) on a player who would assuredly demand a massive contract when his current contract expires at the end of the year, . Simply put, it's a one-sided trade that would only benefit the financially- and talent-crippled Mets. No thanks, Bleacher Report.

And finally, as if my brain weren't melting enough already, the stereotype about Safeco Field gets tossed in like a stale fortune cookie to finish off this miserable meal:

"Long-term, Reyes ability to hit to all fields would allow the Mariners to build around him with contact hitters and solid pitching best suited for Safeco Field.  Sure Reyes comes with his fair share of question marks. But this approach makes more sense than pursuing a big bat (Prince Fielder) during the offseason, as Safeco has historically proven unkind to such heavy hitters."

Historically proven? Really? What's the basis of this argument? Did the constant reiteration of this baseless talking point by the uninformed media become so contagious that people flippantly throw it around without having to prove it? Is the absence of any legitimate hitter on the Mariners for a decade an unaccounted variable? How about the fact that the Mariners have had some historically-amazing starting pitching that limits the offensive production of their opponents? No? Still not as good as hearsay and stereotypes?

All the statistics I've seen on the supposed "limitations" of Safeco Field are purely speculative. A player's batting average dropping year over year, or a handful of players hitting for fewer homeruns at home vs. away proves nothing. It merely hints at the need for further research. Is anyone willing to do the research, or is it simply easier to draw conclusions from spotty data and unresearched sound bites? There's no doubt that Safeco is a bigger park than some of the mini-stadiums like Fenway or old Yankee Stadium, but I think this perpetuation of a false narrative is lazy and develops illogical conclusions (and trades).

Did you know that Safeco Field is 18th in all of MLB this year for runs scored? This is despite a home team with one of the worst offenses in baseball and one of the best pitching staffs (staves?) in MLB history. Did you know that Safeco Field has produced the 11th most homeruns of any park in the majors this year? That's ahead of notorious "hitters' parks" like Coors Field and Miller Park.

Don't believe what you read, especially if it comes from the Bleacher Report.

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