The Mariners' roster is what sunk Wakamatsu, not his performance

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We’ve heard multiple reports of problems in Seattle this year, from Milton Bradley being Milton Bradley, to Ken Griffey’s sleeping, to Mike Sweeney’s belligerence to the public dustup between Don Wakamatsu and Chone Figgins.  Any of those things could be evidence of a team lacking authority or a manager lacking control. Any of those things could, in and of themselves, make the case for a manager being fired.

But we really have no idea what goes on in a major league clubhouse, so we really can’t say how much each of those incidents stood as evidence a problem with the manager if, indeed, they did at all.  Bradley, after all, has a history. Griffey had, after all, apparently lost his motivation. Sweeney was, after all, brought in to at least try to be a leader.  Maybe that was all inevitable.

What we know for certain, however, is that for all of the press General Manager Jack Zduriencik’s offseason moves got, they weren’t moves that did anything to make the team better, and that’s ultimately what sunk Don Wakamatsu and the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners were famously inept on offense in 2009, and Jack Z. just didn’t bring in enough lumber to help out. Adrian Beltre left. Chone Figgins came in and has underperformed, but he’s been playing second base, not third, which means that there were other, unexpected holes. Bringing in Milton Bradley was a gamble and bringing in Casey Kotchman to fill the hole at first base went beyond optimism and ventured into the land of fantasy. While he’s been effective in spots this year, Mike
Sweeney really had no business breaking camp with a major league team, and the front office’s insistence on extending an offer to Ken Griffey Jr. was a function of desperation and denial.

Those were the cards Wakamatsu was dealt.  When they didn’t play coming out of spring training, rather than get new cards, the front office fired Mariners’ hitting coach Alan Cockrell.  As Geoff Baker noted a couple of weeks ago, that move set the mood for the remainder of the season, with the front office telling Wakamatsu that the pitiful 2010 Seattle Mariners were his problem and, if they didn’t do better, they would be his fault.

And now he has taken the fall.  He’s not a scapegoat as that phrase is commonly used — like I said above, there are many reasons to believe that he didn’t do everything he could to make a toxic situation any less toxic and ended up with a deeply divided clubhouse — but it’s simply not fair to say that the failure of the Seattle Mariners is all or even mostly Wakamatsu’s fault.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.