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Mariners could say goodbye to Gutierrez, Lee

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The Mariners netted themselves another viable hitter on Saturday, swapping right-hander Paul Blackburn for Athletics’ infielder Danny Valencia, but GM Jerry Dipoto thinks it could spell the end for first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

Although the Mariners haven’t refused to extend offers to Lee or Gutierrez yet, the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton reported that Valencia is expected to platoon with Dan Vogelbach at first base and in the outfield corners with Seth Smith, Nelson Cruz, and Guillermo Heredia. That leaves little room for Lee, who manned 84 of 104 games at first base during his first major league season and was utilized in a DH and pinch-hit capacity during the other 20 appearances.

As for the outfield situation, Dipoto plans on handing 24-year-old Ben Gamel one of the outfield corners while Leonys Martin patrols center field. While the Mariners expect to see the majority of Valencia’s starts at first base, he could duke it out with at least three other players for the outfield corner — four, if Gutierrez stays in the mix.

Neither Lee nor Gutierrez were standouts at the plate during the 2016 season, which doesn’t help either free agent as the Mariners solidify their 2017 roster. Lee batted .253/.312/.428 in 317 PA, producing 14 home runs and a .740 OPS as one of Seattle’s few right-handed hitters. For Gutierrez, 2016 saw another dip in his offensive production with a .246/.329/.452 batting line and 14 home runs in 283 PA.

Consider the Concrete Donut

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Ben Schulman wrote a long, interesting article about stadium architecture over at The Hardball Times today. He asks us to consider the old concrete donut stadiums — multipurpose parks like Three Rivers and The Vet — and to think about what we have gained by their near-extinction. And what we’ve lost.

The article starts out with what I feared would be too much misplaced nostalgia for the Brutalist, functional places that no longer exist outside of Oakland, with the now de rigueur references to astroturf and weird 1970s baseball. It backs away from that early on, though, and presents what I feel is a thoughtful look at the various approaches to building a ballpark. Stadium geeks and architecture geeks will find much to love here.

From a personal perspective, I have a love/hate relationship with newer parks. I spent a good deal of time going to places like Riverfront Stadium when I was a kid and do not miss them at all. But I also think there have been a lot of missteps in the last 25 years or so too.

Most new parks are pleasant and comfortable places to take in a ballgame, but so many of them are totally unimaginative and uninspiring from an architectural point of view. I am not fan of nostalgia, and so many of them — particularly the ones built in the 90s — were fueled by a great deal of misguided retro-ism that looks backwards. I suspect this is the case because either (a) no one had the guts or vision to look forward; and/or (b) they felt they could make easier bucks by catering to people who think everything went to hell once Eisenhower left office than by doing something bold. To be fair, there are examples of newer parks that eschew the faux old-timey vibe to greater degrees — Target Field in Minneapolis and Marlins Park in Miami come to mind — and I tend to prefer those to more backward-looking places. Again, architecturally speaking.

I think the sweet spot — and the linked article touches on this a bit — are ballparks which think bigger than the bland and dreary functionalism of the 1960s and 70s but which eschew derivative, traditionalist approaches. Parks which were built with then-modern sensibilities and saw their vision through without compromise. Dodger Stadium is a fine, modernist example of this. So too is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, about which I wrote a few years ago. They had a great opportunity to do this in Chicago in the late 80s but muffed it. I think Marlins Park could fall into that category if (a) there is ever anything approaching memorable baseball there; and (b) if they stop being afraid of its bold aspects and stop trying to turn it into a vanilla monument to its vanilla owner. The common denominator, I suppose, is that these parks weren’t and aren’t trying to cater to the childhoods of local fans.

Anyway, good read on a slow news day.