Series Preview: Dave and DMZ Talk Mariners

The Padres head next to the Pacific Northwest to face their bitter natural rivals, the Seattle Mariners, in a battle to determine which end of I-5 (all 1381.29 miles of it) is most dominant. In preparation for this dramatic and important event, I chatted with Dave and DMZ of USS Mariner fame to get their take on the 2008 M’s:

Ducksnorts: This is a question I ask myself about the Padres: Are the Mariners a good team playing poorly or a bad team? How competitive did you think the M’s would be in 2008, and have your expectations changed at all based on what you’ve seen in the first six weeks of the season?

Dave: The Mariners aren’t the worst team in baseball, so they are better than they’re playing right now. But this isn’t a good team, either. Before the season, we talked about this team being an 82-84 win team with a lot of downside, thanks to the older roster and significant collapse risks on the roster. Right now, we’re seeing the worst case situation across the board — the aging hitters collapsed, the young kids haven’t been any better, and the team’s had to deal with struggles and injuries to both [Erik] Bedard and [J.J.] Putz. This team will play better, but this isn’t a good team.

DMZ: I thought they’d be okay. I always think they’ll be okay. I thought the worst teams of the last couple years would be about .500 teams, and I was wrong. I thought the 88-win team would do okay, and they surprised me.

My expectations have changed. I can’t help it. They’re so bad. They can’t stop kicking me. They hit Cairo in the #2 spot tonight. Miguel Cairo hit #2 in a major league lineup. I can’t believe how painful this is.

Have you heard of Grey’s Law? “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.” That’s my life right now. My expectation is that the team will lose all year, then go through another horrible off-season, lather, rinse, repeat, until my head explodes in frustration.

This is a deeply bad team, fielded by a deeply inept franchise.

Ducksnorts: Kenji Johjima and Jose Vidro have gotten off to rough starts. What’s going on with them, and have they shown any signs of turning things around?

Dave: Johjima’s fine — he’s turning on fastballs up in the zone again, and Pull Power Kenji hasn’t seen much of a change in skills. He’s 32 and a catcher, so we expect some decline, but I’m not really worried about him struggling like this all year. Vidro’s just totally done, though — his skillset just doesn’t work in the major leagues. You can’t be a regular big leaguer without having any defensive value or power. You have to be able to either drive the ball or play the field pretty well, and he can’t do either.

DMZ: Jose Vidro sucks. He sucked last year and got away with it by getting really lucky on infield hits, and it didn’t fly this year. He can’t face major league pitching without looking embarrassingly bad. There’s nothing there. He’s terrible. The only thing he can hit is the clubhouse buffet. The M’s are paying him a bazillion dollars for no reason, and if he cheats his way to 400 or 450 plate appearances, his option will vest and they’ll pay him a quadrillion for next year. If he doesn’t vest, there’s a great chance he’ll be out of baseball.

Kenji’ll be fine.

Ducksnorts: Despite a problematic hip, Erik Bedard has been effective in the early going. Given where the M’s are (or perceive themselves to be) in the development cycle, what do you think of the trade that brought him to Seattle?

Dave: It wouldn’t matter where the M’s were in any development cycle, that trade was a disaster from the minute they made it. Bedard’s a good pitcher when he’s healthy, but it’s no secret that he’s batted a lot of injury issues over the years, and it’s not a huge shock that he’s struggling with injuries and command problems right now. The team decided to build around a pitching staff at the expense of their position players, and that’s just not a good way to build a baseball team. This deal was a failure from day one.

DMZ: What a horrible trade, made worse by how it took so long to complete. It was like being tortured by watching Miss Congeniality 2 on a loop tape, where time gets slower and slower, giving me more time to dwell on the never-ending horror playing out in front of me, the pain of which slowed time even further.

Any time you get fleeced by the Orioles, you should just quit. Just turn in your laminated RFID pass to the office doors, hand over the company cell phone, and walk out onto the street. You’re done.

Ducksnorts: I saw Felix Hernandez pitch in the Cal League a few years ago and he got torched (I think it was his only bad outing of the season). Although Hernandez hasn’t dominated big-league hitters the way many thought he would, he’s held his own at a young age. How realistic were initial expectations of him, and what do you believe he needs to do to fulfill his potential?

Dave: There’s no one on the planet that can match Felix’s stuff, so I don’t have any problems for the expectations that have been placed on him. In raw talent, he’s the best pitcher alive, and it’s not very close. His main problems have stemmed from an inability to get left-handed hitters out, thanks in large part to an inconsistent change-up that he doesn’t trust enough to use it as often as he could. Until he begins commanding his fastball against LHBs or finds consistency with the change-up (which is an amazing pitch when he’s got it working), he’s going to struggle against teams that stack lefties against him. If he ever gets that solved, however, it’s lights out. Keep in mind, he’s 22 years old. He’s not exactly behind schedule.

DMZ: I don’t think it’s possible for any player to meet all of the expectations placed on him coming up. Between all the prospect coverage available now and the echo chambers of team media, any player coming up almost certainly be heralded as a potential huge star, a good defensive player who may develop tremendous power.

I know I’m too close to it, but I agree with Dave. And it’s not “If only he had 10% better control” kind of wishing. He’s 22, and as he figures out more about how to pitch, he’ll improve, and that’s scary to consider.

Ducksnorts: Another guy who impressed me in the Cal League was Wladimir Balentien. His numbers suggest a one-dimensional player, but it’s a nice dimension. What kind of career path do you envision for Balentien?

Dave: Balentien has tremendous power, but he doesn’t really do anything else well, so categorizing him as a one-dimensional player is fair. He’s made strides in improving his approach at the plate in the minors, but there’s still problems with his swing that good pitchers can exploit. His upside would be a Carlos Lee type career, but if he doesn’t continue to refine his approach and improve his ability to hit breaking balls, he could be the new Wily Mo Pena.

DMZ: The team is starving for power. I’ll take whatever I can get. Seriously, the career paths for guys with the kind of crazy minor league lines like Wlad put up are incredibly weird. Is he going to see the Russel Branyan career path, for instance?

My best guess is he develops into an underrated regular, hitting for good power and being sniped at all the time for striking out too much.

Ducksnorts: Best musician ever to come out of Seattle: Kenny G or Jimi Hendrix?

Dave: Pass.

DMZ: How dare you.

Ducksnorts: Great, then we’re all in agreement; there can be no mistaking genius.

* * *
Thanks again to Dave and DMZ for taking the time to chat with us. Here’s hoping the series is more enjoyable than listening to a guy play the same note on his saxophone for 45 minutes…

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51 Responses »

  1. In response to the assertion that King Felix has the best stuff of any pitcher in baseball, and that “it’s not even close,” I have a simple reply:


  2. speculation of Greenie being traded to the Jays:

    Man the trade rumors are going to start to get ugly quick.

  3. Also the UT talk to Carlin about some of the odd plays that happened yesterday:

    Man I really hope Carlin can stick with the big club as a backup catcher, im really starting to pull for the guy.

  4. #1@Lance Richardson: In pure raw stuff, Felix > Lincecum.

  5. That was a great interview / discussion, GY. It’s awesome when analysts can be both clear-eyed and devastatingly sarcastic.

    #4@Rain Delay: Agree that King Felix is better, but not on the “not close.” When we’re talking 70 vs 65 on the scouting scale, and they don’t use 66, 67, 68, or 69, that’s close.

  6. #3@Steve C: From that same article, Jimmy Edmonds says this:

    “I was starting to swing the bat a lot better,” he said. “My legs were underneath me. I’ve been running better this year than I have in five or six years.”

    I have always enjoyed watching him play…in both Anaheim and St. Louis. I struggled with him this year because I so wanted him to be good. But I got to say, I watched him run…a lot. He ran like me, maybe worse. If that is the best he has run in the last 5 or 6 years, then I need to rethink how I watch athletes, cause I am clearly missing something…

    That and I need to go to that open tryout this summer.

  7. Tribe DFA’d Jason Tyner, any intrest at all in him? He does not hit for any power but he will add speed to the team and he can play CF.

  8. What do you guys think the price is for Griffey?

  9. #10@SDSUBaseball: The prospects it will take to make the Padres a contender in 2010…

  10. #10@SDSUBaseball: Also there is no way Moores will raise the payroll another 10 mil to add his salary and pay 4 mil to buy him out of his 16.5 mil 09 option….

  11. #12@Steve C: I wasnt suggesting particularly for the Padres, just in general.

  12. #10@SDSUBaseball: Do you mean for the Padres, which isn’t happening, or for the Mariners?

  13. What?!? Sir Mix A Lot wasn’t among the voting choices for best Seattle musical artist?

  14. #13@SDSUBaseball: Bleh Sorry, I would imagine the Reds would want a top prospect but will end up settleing for a mid level guy.

  15. #10@SDSUBaseball: Well, if we can get Phil Nevin to waive his no-trade clause… Oh, wait…

  16. #17@Geoff Young: ah only if Phil would have known that he would eventualy be shipped out of town for Chan Ho Park…

  17. #7@Steve C: If he could keep his OBP avove .330, sure. But since that is not real likely to happen, no.

  18. #5@Tom Waits: I will admit I’m a bit biased (as I sit here typing this in my Felix t-shirt). Both are young studs, and it’s really a tough thing to call and I’m no professional scout..but I guess I’ve seen King Felix pitch more than Lincecum.

    Though I did get to see Lincecum’s pro debut with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

  19. #20@Coronado Mike: Yeah I was hopping that they could sign him to a minor leauge deal. I guess I have just givin up a bit on hairston and wanted to start looking at other 5th OF options.

  20. Just in case anyone else finds scouting reports interesting…here are a few on Greg Maddux…including a couple from when he was in High School…

  21. Something bothered me in the recap of yesterday’s game… from the UT…

    Brian Giles, “We’ve just been running into some hot pitchers.”

    That’s it, huh Brian? Nothing to do with your team-mates apparently…

    Um, I love to guy, but…. does this sound like passing the buck and not taking responsibility for your team being terrible? I was pretty pissed by the comment.

  22. OG is a cranky, declining vet. F-him I say. He certainly isn’t playing anywhere near 9 mils worth. And now he wants to mouth off at fans (last home stand) and make excuses for 29 strikeouts during that terrible Cubs series.

    Anybody know whats wrong with Greene. Great in the field, little league at the plate.

    Be nice to have Alfonso S. playing left. I heard we actually tried to land him.

    From the Interview, Geoff, sounds like the upcoming series with Seattle ought have a suicide watch going.


  23. #24@Richard D.: I don’t have a problem with that statement. I think that most elite athletes have to look at it that way — “It’s not my fault, the other guy got lucky.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the best players in baseball history — Pete Rose, Bonds, Clemens — we such single-minded jackasses, especially since baseball is kind of an individual sport (played by teams).

    As far as trading Greene, I’m all for it if they could get something in return. I’d certainly look at the Cubs and try to pry Pie and Cedeno away from them as they appear to be blocked or have lost the confidence of management. I’d also try to trade Clark as he’s unneeded and might welcome a chance to go to a contender.

  24. Geoff: that interview was awesome. I laughed several times, and I learned a few things about the Mariners too.

  25. #27@Geoff B: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

  26. #28@Geoff Young: Count me as one that enjoyed the alter egos of those two guys. It is a great addition, these inteviews at the start of each series. Keep up the great work!

  27. #25@PM: Giles was simply trying to defend his teammates, something veterans do from time to time. He is one of only 2 hitters holding up their end of the bargain this year, so naturally he has a tough job standing up for the relative garbage most of his offensive teammates have produced.

  28. we couldnt work out a trade so we sent C. Crabbe back to the brewers today. i liked him as a minor league guy for our club.

    can we sign Jacque Jones to play CF and then move Gerut to LF. i’d like to ass one more OF bat…just a little something to mix it up.

  29. #31@Ian C.: Word is that Jones is going to the Marlins. I would also have liked to see him come back to SD, but it looks like he has his sights set on Miami.

  30. #30@The Fathers: Absolutely, totally agree. Would anyone rather he go Billy Wagner on the team? How’s that worked out in NY the last couple of years?

    Giles is doing what Nevin could never bring himself to do – shielding his younger teammates.

  31. #32@Coronado Mike: unfortunatly i read that too. it doesnt make me feel too good about our san diego “luring” tactics that KT raves about.

  32. Great interview, Geoff. . .some of those lines even had my girlfriend laughing and she doesn’t understand most sports-related humor.

    So when does the sell-off begin? I’m guessing we hear about 20-25 rumors over the next two months and maybe end up with only one or two trades.

    Question for the group: would you get rid of one of our two “untouchables” (Peavy and A-Gon) if it meant getting a boat-load of MLB-ready prospects back? To be more specific: suppose we got an offer: A-Gon and Greene for a major-league ready SS prospect, a top major-league ready CF prospect, and three top pitching prospects. . .do you do it?

    What if it’s Peavy and Greene and you get that same package along with another top position prospect and one of the top pitching prospects has major league experience (think Bucholz or someone similar) and can step into a #2 or #3 spot right away.

    In other words, we are talking close to a fire sale. Would you trade either of these guys for a package like that?

  33. #35@BigWorm: I’d consider Agon before Jake, but that’s a bridge the front office is unlikely to cross. If they’re already considering trades of Wolf, Maddux, Greene, and Giles (don’t know, but that seems logical), moving Hombre might be the pill that fans wouldn’t swallow. Agon’s in that sweet spot – affordable, great production, popular with the fans.

  34. I agree its hard to trade the face of the franchise and a hometown kid who is a borderline all-star.

  35. FWIW, I wouldn’t move either of these two guys but would consider everyone else movable if the right deal came (always the tricky part, as Geoff likes to point out). Including Bell, Young, Kouz and probably even Headley or Antonelli. I guess I’m just struggling to see how we compete next year without some large changes in the lineup, and as much as I’d like to think we could package up a Giles, Wolf and Greene and get back a SS and CF, I don’t see it happening.

  36. Unless Kouz starts hitting for a lot more power, Greenie starts getting on base at a .330 clip, The Pads find a CF who can play in Petco, and Headley and Antonelli turn instantly into the big league player we all think they will be I think the Pads will struggle next year as well.

  37. When talking about potential trade destinations for our veteran guys, you have to look at needs for competing teams. I haven’t done too much research yet, but here’s a team that has some needs that the Padres could meet:

    The first-place Indians are last in the AL in batting. They have a huge hole at 2B (Asdrubal Cabrera is batting under .200) and LF (David Dellucci is playing most of the time against RHP’s). I think it would be kind of cool to send Giles back to Cleveland, where he played in three straight post-seasons (’96-98) and Iguchi back to the AL Central, where he won a World Series with Chicago. Just a thought.

  38. #25@PM: It’s worse then that: the 29 strikeouts were in just the last two games of the series… :-(

    On a brighter note, they only struck out 10 times combined in the first two games of the series. Funny how they also won one of those.

  39. I’m very concerned about the Padres future. They were supposed to compete for a playoff spot this season and instead they are the worst team in baseball. Worse then the Pirates. Worse then the Giants. Worse then the Royals.

    How exactly are they going to rebuild? Not through signing free agents. Not through the amateur draft either. Basically, Towers is going to have to pull so more miracles trades. I’m worried that he’s not going to be able to pull it off.

  40. OG has a road OPS of 819. Not stellar, but decent. He still gets on base, even if he K’s too much trying to get on.

    That interview was hilarious. My favorite quote: When you get fleeced by the Orioles, you should just quit.

    Anyway, I like our chances in the game tonight. Not great, but should be decent, especially if people are patient against Batista.

  41. What is going on here? Where are all this trade talks coming from?
    I thought we all agreed to give this team a chance once Jim Edmonds is gone.
    After the recent changes, I’d think it’ll take at least until the end of the month before all the craziness starts again.

    I’d like to see how Gerut/Hairston, P-Mac/Huber , OG will be working out in the OF.
    I’d like to see how Kouz and Greene are going to improve now that Petco is warmer. I’d like to see how Luke Carlin starting 2 games a week is going to improve both catchers’ production.
    The only thing I don’t like seeing is Estes starting more games for the Padres, but I understand why he’s in there.

    Give the new roster a chance guys before calling for its disbandment (?).
    Stop the madness. Calm down for a little.

  42. #44@Didi: Why shouldn’t they look to trade Greene? He’s going to be a free agent after next season (no way he resigns with the Padres) and if KT can fleece some other foolish GM (like Jon Daniels) shouldn’t he? It’s going to be very hard for the Padres to contend this season (not impossible but highly unlikely) and it’s going to be just as hard in 2009 (the Diamondbacks are better, cheaper and younger and the Dodgers are better and have a lot of young talent). If the Padres aren’t going to be winners with Greene over the remainder of his contract, doesn’t it makes sense to acquire players who will be around for the next winning season?

  43. Friar John’s Blog reported this today …

    RHP Mark Prior has been diagnosed with a tear in his shoulder capsule. …

    … but the link given didn’t work for me.

  44. #35@BigWorm: I just dont see why any team would trade for greene and send a “marjor league ready” SS back in return. If you have a ML ready shortstop for league minimum why would you want greene and his $6+ mill salary?

  45. #4@Rain Delay:

    I strongly disagree. Lincicum throws harder, and with more movement.

  46. #48@SDSUBaseball: Why would you trade for Adam Eaton when you have a better, younger cheaper alternative (and throw in a good, young cheap 1B)? Why would you for Xavier Nady and give up a better hitter and superior defensive player as well as your 2nd best reliever?

    GM’s do stupid things all the time. Even Kevin Towers, as good as he is, does dumb things routinely (Jim Edmonds, 1st round draft pick nearly every season, 5th starter spot).

  47. #49@Lance Richardson: and, clearly, his last name is harder to spell …