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.

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.