BY Art Thiel 08:39PM 08/20/2020

Thiel: Mariners losing on talent judgments too

Mariners players saw a glimpse of greatness in Clayton Kershaw. Fans saw a glimpse of grimness when two once-touted prospects were quietly dispatched.

DH Daniel Vogelbach, a 2019 Mariners All-Star, was cut this week. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Since studhoss Clayton Kershaw was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday, it seemed like a good time to head to T-ball Park for a couple of temperature checks, answer some questions about my health, and to see what condition the Mariners were in, especially since this weekend marks the seasonal midpoint in VirusWorldBall.

The good news: Kershaw and I are doing good.  He passed Don Drysdale for No. 2 on the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout list, trailing only Don Sutton. And I passed my COVID-19 screenings, nailing 98.6 like the champ that I am.

The bad news: The Mariners. To paraphrase the trendy rhetorical flourish of the day, they are who they are.

The argument could be advanced that such an observation could just as easily have been made from home. Which is true, but you can’t really grasp on TV the visual majesty of 13,000 cut-outs of fans spread around the park.

The Mariners may lead the the league in this sort of stuff. I fully expected the club would have figured out a way to have the cut-outs do the wave. I didn’t want to miss that.

Alas, the facsimile fans were unanimated. As were the Mariners.

Seattle’s 6-1 defeat (box), eighth in nine games, was unremarkable except for Kershaw, who struck out a season-high 11, while giving up a solo homer to 3B Kyle Seager among four hits surrendered.

At 6-4 and 225 pounds, the lefty All-Star commanded the afternoon as if he were George C. Scott in Patton. To close the sixth inning, he threw a 74-mph curve so wicked that it bent Seager’s knees nearly into cramp-lock. By itself, that pitch deserves its own hologram in Cooperstown.

“It’s such a different pitch than what you typically see,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s got a big late break to it. Often it starts up high out of the strike zone. The particular one you’re talking about, it went through the zone right at the bottom. It’s a really unique pitch.

“He was really good today. Our guys learned a lot.”

That, of course, has been the plan for 2020: Learning. After a 2019 season largely devoted to unloading dead-weight contracts for prospects, this 60-game season is about getting game experience for the kids.

Management was quick to point out on opening day that the roster was the youngest in the majors. And at 8-19, the kids have backed up the effort to tamp down expectations.

The Mariners do have a star in the making in CF Kyle Lewis. They have have a solid veteran ace in Marco Gonzales, an apparent bounce-back success with the return of Taijuan Walker, and a rookie starter, Justus Sheffield, living up quickly to high expectations.

And at 32, Seager is having a prosperous season that might elevate him to trade material by the Aug. 31 deadline.

After that, the season has produced little that can be defined with more than the word “hope.”

Servais sees more than that. But he’s obligated to do so. Before the game on Zoom, he explained.

“There’s a lot that really encourages me,” he said. “We’re playing good baseball against really good, experienced teams teams that have been to the playoffs and World Series. We’re not winning all these games, and certainly we hope to see more that in future. But the experience our guys are getting is super valuable.

“I think this is a new era in Mariners baseball.”

That may be true. But what longtime Mariners fans also see is a familiar theme. This week the Mariners moved on from two players that were once hailed by general manager Jerry Dipoto, who went to some trouble to trade for them.

After a terrible second half of 2019 and a worse start this season, DH Daniel Vogelbach was designated for assignment, basically cut. OF Mallex Smith, batting .133 in 14 games and playing equivalent defense, was sent down to the alternate site in Tacoma.

Both are 27, the customary apex year in the development of baseball players.

Vogelbach was the Mariners’ All-Star selection last year, and Smith had been traded for twice by Dipoto.

The departures were deserved, even overdue, but the whiffs offer no polish for Dipoto’s talent-hunting reputation.

Of course, every GM has whiffs. And he has landed several gems, including players such as OF Jarred Kelenic, laboring in obscurity with the 30 players in Tacoma who remain from the great purge of the minor leagues across baseball.

It’s unlikely any of them will be in Seattle in 2020.

“As far as going down into Tacoma and bringing up a ton of even younger players, those players aren’t ready,” Servais said. “They have not experienced a lot of minor league baseball, and it’s not fair to them.

“We want to see it, but we’re playing for the long haul here. We need to do what’s right for the players. They may look (ready) when you see them on a given day. But to go through the grind of a major league season, the competition level, the travel, everything else that’s going on, they’re just not quite ready.”

So the ABs surrendered by Vogelbach and Smith will not be given to the hotshots. Barring injuries, they will be given to the players here now. The 60-game season is already a bad thing for player development; it would make it worse for an organization to start the major-league service-time clock on players for a throwaway season of extended spring training.

Dismaying as it may be for Mariners fans, they can take some solace in that the Mariners seem to have learned a few lessons from the episodes of Dustin Ackley and Mike Zunino, top-tier draftees spoiled by the desperation of previous regimes for quick results.

But Dipoto needs to respect the public wariness when it comes to dismissing Vogelbach and Smith. The knee-buckle response, as with a curve from Kershaw,  is well-earned.


SPONSORED POST

Support SportspressNW

The idea is simple: Want to help? Please, and thank you. Don’t want to help? Please and thank you for continuing to read. Our content is free to all. No paywalls. No tricks. See the ways you can support SportspressNW.

YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I’m surprised the club didn’t just put Vogey on IR with a phantom injury then send him to Arizona to work with Edgar to fix his swing. The M’s have a history of getting rid of struggling players then they become an All-Star later. Can’t help but wonder if history is being repeated here.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      They’re also notorious for hanging onto dead weight albatrosses that linger like a bad cold. As far as letting go of, so called “struggling players.” Perhaps Adam Jones and Jason Varitek will jog your memory.

      • Husky73

        ….or Chris Taylor?

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          Agreed, however the list is too long and distinguished to go any further.

          • jafabian

            My point exactly.

          • Husky73

            And the M’s are currently paying $40 million to players no longer on the team.

        • Husky73

          Or Danny Tartabull. Or Jose Cruz Junior.

    • Husky73

      Edgar can’t fix losing 70 pounds. However, I shall miss The Danbino for his good humor and sweep swing.

      • jafabian

        Remember the fat 1B/DH the M’s moved to Minnesota to complete a rent-a-player trade in Dave Hollins? What was that kid’s name? David Arias?

        • Husky73

          Remember Steve “Bye Bye” Balboni, Scott Spezio, Dae ho Lee, Russell Branyan, Case Kochman, Mike Carp and Richie Sexson?

          • 1coolguy

            Wow, what a list of forgettables.

          • Husky73

            Left field is worse.

          • art thiel

            We gotta get you a healthier hobby.

          • Husky73

            True.

          • LarryLurex70

            I respected Segui for supposedly wrassling in the clubhouse with Randy over the volume of the stereo when 51 was trying his best to be a bigger jerk on his way out of town than Kemp was.

          • Husky73

            Segui was a tough dude. No one messed with him.

        • art thiel

          Cold. Ice cold.

    • art thiel

      I don’t see Vogey as someone with a hitch in his swing. His problem is between the ears.

      • jafabian

        I agree that Vogey’s issue goes beyond his swing but IMO that’s where some one-on-one time with Gar would be beneficial. Edgar was a treat to follow on Twitter when he was the hitting coach. He was always positive and found something good in every game played. Vogey could benefit from that.

  • Husky73

    I like Servais. He’s a smart guy. He should be the GM, not Dipoto, and Joe Girardi should have been named the M’s manager. However, that NOT having happened, I chuckle when the M’s take an 11-1 pounding and after the game Servais says, “I saw some good things out there.”………(Pitcher) had a good second inning and showed some poise in the third when he gave up six.”

    • Brent Hannon

      it is annoying, all that bland optimism. I miss the truthful outbursts of old: Piniella, Niehaus from time to time. I just wish one of these guys, possibly even PR man Rick Rizzs, would tell the truth: this team just isn’t very good.

      • Archangelo Spumoni

        Lou used to call all the young players “son” in spring training and when he was called on this one, said “if they make the damn team I’ll learn their damn name.”

        • Kevin Lynch

          Lou’s kind of accountability is what the Mariners need. Players played hard for him, maybe a little scared, and hit their way out of slumps. I understand a sub’Mendoza batting average but sub-Oyler? And sub-Z!? (Zunino). Now we have a sub-V definition.

          • Guy K. Browne

            “Sub Oyler”… that’s too good not to appreciate. (Well done ol’ timer)

          • art thiel

            Imagine an All-Star, Vogelbach, producing the next year at a half-Mendoza level.

          • Husky73

            Lou had a great partner, though they didn’t really care for each other, and that was Pat Gillick. Gillick knew how to construct a roster.

          • art thiel

            True, but Gillick did mortgage the future for win-now vets. Worked great in 2001. Not so much since, as you may have heard.

          • Husky73

            Gillick didn’t mortgage the future. He built a winning franchise. The two are not mutually exclusive– as the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals can attest. I don’t recall them mortgaging the future, tearing down or stepping back.

          • 1coolguy

            Lou – Sweet Lou, had CRED. He accomplished things as a player and coach, so in addition to his skills as a leader of men, he was the real deal ON THE FIELD and the players all respected him not only as a person but because he was the total package.
            Art – It’s unfortunately been too many years for me to recall – why did he leave?

          • art thiel

            Lou was fed up with Howard Lincoln’s need for control, and he wanted to be home in Tampa for his elderly father and a daughter who need his attention.

          • 1coolguy

            Did Lincoln fire Gillick?

          • art thiel

            I’m a Lou fan, but this is team full of kids trying to impress. Slackers are few. The best of them just need maturity.

        • art thiel

          When he was pissed at reporters, he’d call them “sir.” Sort of like a vent ahead of an eruption.

          • LarryLurex70

            I’ll refer to a fella as a “sir”, too, if I don’t really mean it.

      • Kevin Lynch

        Completely agree. Bland optimism is hard to fathom when your record is worst in the American League and 29th out of 30 teams in baseball.

      • Husky73

        C’mon, don’t bust the chops of the Rizzer. He loves the game, and he loves us.

        • Brent Hannon

          i don’t question his love of the game. I question his credibility: all those years of glossing over and explaining away, of hyping sub-par players, of pretending losses don’t matter, of pretending the team is good, when it obviously isn’t, have eroded his credibility.

          • 2nd place is 1st loser

            Well if you feel that way about Rick Rizz, please by all means don’t listen to Sims or barrel me up Blowers.

          • Husky73

            …and miles an hour….

          • art thiel

            Why are we talking about the b’cast guys? They have nothing to do with results.

          • Husky73

            Because, for a long time, that’s all we had. Niehaus was the face of the franchise until Griffey Junior.

          • LarryLurex70

            You’re forgetting Jim Presley😒

          • Husky73

            I don’t recall the Hound Dog playing first base.

          • gregoryjames

            An accurate assessment as can be. Well done.

          • art thiel

            Rizzs is like most home team b’casters — a homer. But the best of them, like Niehaus, pick times to make their dismay known.

            Rizzs can’t do it congenitally. It’s like asking him to sing the blues.

        • art thiel

          You are just drunk on the happy totals.

      • art thiel

        Niehaus was fun to listen to when he was irked. You should have heard some of hiss off-mic outtakes. Profanely hilarious.

        • LarryLurex70

          I still remember his droll, monotone mention that Strawberry had been released by either the Dodgers or Giants (I forget which) and was fully available “if anyone wants to play with fire”.
          Trust me, it was far more savage than it reads on your device’s screen.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Servais is reading a script from the state run media of the Dear Leader Dipoto. Dipoto would never never never hire a person like Giardi. He’s not going to listen to a manager with more knowledge than himself. I would say that Servais is possibly one of the nicest guys one could meet, but smart, baseball smart? He’s basically in an OJT MLB managerial program, or cannon fodder for that matter.

      The ownership is going to give Dipoto and his crew a pass for this year and next as well. The real question is will the ownership spend some of that new found wealth due to flushing the books on all the dead weight contracts and spend on free agency? Because solely relying on the new kids on the block to lead you to the promise land is a fools errand. There’s no easy solution for a franchise that has been run so poorly for so long. Go M’s

      • Husky73

        Don’t say “Go M’s.” Rod Belcher wrote “Go Go You Pilots,” and they went– to Milwaukee.

      • art thiel

        If the Mariners have a core of prime-time players in 22-23, I have little doubt Stanton would spring for a big free agent hire.

    • art thiel

      The post-game happy talk after a loss is annoying. But if Servais were to be honest, he’d soon lose his clubhouse and then his job.

      I do think the Root folks should be given latitude to be honest without being disparaging. It shows respect for viewers.

  • Brent Hannon

    ah yes: can DiPoto judge talent? that’s the question all right. The entire rebuild depends on it. Early results are inconclusive. We will find out in . . . was it 2022? or 2023? or . . . ?

    • art thiel

      That’s why a mentioned the departures of Vogey and Smith.

  • Guy K. Browne

    There is an upside in this season (if you can call it that), no fans are being asked to shell out MLB ticket price $$ to watch AA ball. The only investment asked is time in front of the tube, which is quite easy to walk away from.

    • art thiel

      And for $30, they can have their styrofoam proxies sit in.

  • 1coolguy

    “I think this is a new era in Mariners baseball.”
    So much for cred, sheesh.
    I would love to have a M’s season ticket holder assessed for brain damage, what caused it so that the results could be sent to all the other suckers for followup consultations. The outcome I’m certain would save them from wasteful spending and possibly a few marriages.
    The only progress I have seen the past almost 20 years is their success in chasing the Cubs away as the worst club in baseball. Nice job! “We’re #1”, ugh.

    • Husky73

      Bad baseball is better than no baseball. Ask Portland. On second thought, as Portland later– they are a little busy right now.

      • 1coolguy

        As to the M’s, your presumption is they have been “playing baseball” the past 18 years. I’ll give you that, but as to a grade, with F being the worst, they have earned a “D-minus”.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        Bad baseball is better than no baseball. Unfortunately that has been the mantra of the Seattle Mariner ownership since their inception. Be careful for what you wish for.

    • art thiel

      Remind me to re-post this when the Mariners win the WS in 23. Should we still have a world or a series.

  • Husky73

    Those young Mariner players never saw the likes of Clayton Kershaw before, and may never again. Kershaw was like Springsteen at a local battle of the bands.

    • art thiel

      He was fun to watch.

  • 1coolguy

    What is SO discouraging with the M’s, in addition to their horrible record, is the fact they never turn a lousy season, therefore high draft choice, into any players who perform.
    6,20,14,17,22,6,12,3,2. The following list of failure can make anyone cry.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Seattle_Mariners_first-round_draft_picks

    • art thiel

      It is a terrible listing. But the most recent five have a good shot at being MLB average.

    • LarryLurex70

      Alex Rodriguez?

      • 1coolguy

        I only listed the last 9 on purpose. Yes, in the 1990’s, with Griffey and A-Rod, it couldn’t get any better.

  • Alan Harrison

    It looks as though the high drama of this M’s season is whether we trade the 22nd best third baseman in the league* (who seemingly only hits well when there is no pressure at all), Hey Jerry! The Braves are in 1st and need a 3rd baseman! And they have tons of young pitching! Hint hint!

    *Kerry Miller, Bleacher Report

    • art thiel

      Seager’s contract contains a poison pill provision in the event of a trade. The acquiring team would assume an obligation of more than $30M through 23. Maybe in a non-pandemic year, not now or in 21.

      • Alan Harrison

        Yeah, I knew about the cyanide tablet. Still, if the M’s throw in this year’s salary, it’s $34MM over 2 years, which these days is only a little above average. It only works, really, if it’s the Braves, the only team with a 3B need and located closer to Seager’s hometown. And it only works now, when he’s finally hitting, not when he struggles. And you’re right that it won’t happen. You’re right about a lot of stuff, it turns out.

  • Quackhead

    Mariners World
    (sung –with apologies– to the tune of Mad World, of Gary Jules/Donnie Darko fame)

    All around me are familiar faces
    Cardboard faces, worn out faces
    M’s aren’t ready for the daily races
    Going nowhere, going nowhere
    M’s tears are fogging up our glasses
    No expression, no expression
    Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow,
    No tomorrow, No tomorrow

    And I find it kinda funny,
    I find it kinda sad,
    That our dream of Edgar’s double
    is the best we’ve ever had
    I find it hard to tell you,
    I find DiPoto hard to take,
    And when Servais talks in circles
    I just begin to quake

    It’s a Mad World,
    It’s a Mariners World
    It’s a . . . .

    • art thiel

      Good effort, Quackhead. You’ve done well with your Weird Al Yankovic starter kit.

  • LarryLurex70

    Thiel mentioning himself and Clayton Kershaw in the same sentence: brilliant!
    Was good for a chuckle.