Song of the Week: “Your Love” by The Outfield

Title: Your Love

Artist: The Outfield

Release: 1986

Peak Chart Position: #6

Did You Know: Despite hailing from a country (England) that has produced only 32 Major League Baseball players, The Outfield chose their name based on their love for America’s Pastime. The New York Mets briefly considered signing lead singer Tony Lewis to a contract in the mid-80’s, before he failed to hit a ball out of the infield (ironic?) during a tryout. The band released a new album “Replay” in 2011 and continues to tour the U.S. and Europe.

Baseball America’s Top 10 Mariners Prospects in 10 Words or Less

It's unlikely that Major League Baseball will allow Danny Hultzen to compete in a shirt and tie. (Mark Harrison/Seattle Times)

The Mariners farm system is vastly improved from this time last year (remember when Dan Cortes was in the top 10 *shudders*) but my ADHD is not, so let’s get right to the action:

1. Jesus Montero (.328-4 HR-12 RBI-.996 OPS in 61 AB’s with Yankees): Monster bat, not much glove. The next Edgar Martinez?

2. Taijuan Walker (6-5, 2.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 113 K’s in 96.2 innings with Clinton Lumberjacks): Uber-athletic pitcher with ace upside and silly name.

3. Danny Hultzen (1-0, 1.40 ERA, 18 K’s in 19.1 innings in Arizona Fall League): Powerful lefty who should be M’s number two starter soon.

4. James Paxton (6-3, 2.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 131 K’s in 95 innings with Clinton/Jackson): Not related to Bill. Projects as poor man’s Cole Hamels.

5. Nick Franklin (.281-7 HR-26 RBI-.770 OPS in 352 AB’s with High Desert/Jackson): Will be superstar if he can stay at shortstop.

6. Francisco Martinez (.289-10 HR-69 RBI-.746 OPS in 477 AB’s with Lakeland/Jackson): Part of Fister deal. Raw talent, high upside at third.

7. Chance Ruffin (1-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 15 K’s in 14 innings with Mariners): Name sounds like dog trying to say “muffin”. Future closer?

8. Tom Wilhemsen (2-0, 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 30 K’s in 32.2 innings with Mariners): Used to smoke dope, now smokes hitters with varied arsenal.

9. Vinnie Catricala (.349-25 HR-106 RBI-1.021 OPS in 521 AB’s for High Desert/Jackson): Surprised many with breakout 2011. Can he find a position?

10. Phillips Castillo (.300-1 HR-27 RBI-.848 OPS in 170 AB’s with Arizona League Mariners): Born in 1994. Recently rented first R-rated movie*.

*Heat, obviously.

Fun with Photoshop: My Favorite Bridges

Seattle Mariners Front Office Shows Keen Understanding of What Fans Want; Sign Free-Agent Kevin Millwood to Minor League Contract.

Kevin Millwood, seen here racked with self-doubt, is slated to be the Mariners ace in the hole. (Louis DeLuca/DMN)

In the critically acclaimed* movie “What Women Want“, Mel Gibson stars as a man gifted with the ability to read women’s thoughts. Hilarity ensues as Gibson shaves his legs, learns how difficult life is for his teenage daughter, and woos the effervescent Helen Hunt (Paul Reiser you lucky dog). The Mariners front office saw the movie at a recent retreat, loved it, and a decided they would try to figure out what their fans wanted. Their answer: Kevin Millwood. (*not)

It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Kevin Millwood, it’s just not quite what Mariners fans were looking for in an offseason where the Rangers landed Yu Darvish and the Angels signed Albert Pujols. Millwood is a lot like N.A.S.A. At one point he served a useful purpose (league leader in ERA during 2005) but it was so long ago that no one remembers what it was now. In fact, scientists recently discovered that the human brain cannot independently generate the concept of “Kevin Millwood”. The right-handed Millwood wasn’t terrible with Colorado last year (3.98 ERA in nine starts) but he is really that much of an upgrade over younger pitchers like Blake Beavan or Charlie Furbush?

Welcome to Seattle Mr. Millwood. I’ve already forgotten about you again…

Song of the Week: “In a Big Country” by Big Country

Title: “In a Big Country”

Artist: Big Country

Release: May 1983

Peak Chart Position: #3

Did You Know: Despite being considered a one-hit wonder in the states, Big Country enjoyed extended success in Europe as a result of their energetic live shows. Also, according to an unnamed source, former NBA player Bryant Reeves received his nickname “Big Country” not because of his size, but because of his fondness for another Big Country song, “13 Valleys“. The band continues to tour in the U.K.

Fun with Photoshop: We’ve Got Your (Zach) Cone!

Maligned Mariners Management Makes Move for Montero: Can Jesus Save Seattle’s Season?

Hopefully this card wasn't part of your retirement plan, because you know, he's a Mariner now.

Seattle Mariners fan(s) complained all winter long (with good reason–did you see the summer blockbuster, “2011: A Baseball Tragedy“?) about the lack of activity from the team’s front office, and now that a substantial and largely unexpected move (though Rob Lowe did tweet about it a few weeks ago) has been made, well, nobody knows quite how to feel.

On one hand, Seattle acquired a power-hitting catcher/DH in Jesus Montero who has long been considered one of the best power prospects in the minor leagues. On the flip side, the Mariners had to give up Michael Pineda, a towering right-hander who made the All-Star game in his first season and become a fan favorite for his sizzling fastball and gregarious personality.

So how does the trade rate on paper, and where does the move leave Seattle heading into the 2012 season?

If the Mariners organization has any strength (try to stifle your laughter), it’s their depth of pitching talent at both the major and minor league levels. Even with Pineda (and the second piece of the trade–Jose Campos) off to the Bronx, Seattle still boasts a farm system loaded with talented arms like Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker who aren’t that far away from contributing for the Mariners. So while it was difficult to give up Pineda and his 1.099 WHIP and 9.1 K/9, Seattle has a much better chance of replacing him from within than it did of acquiring a free-agent hitter at a palatable rate.

What the Mariners boast in pitching however, is negated by a lineup (Seattle scored 299 fewer runs than Texas in 2011) often described as “more unwatchable than Norbit“. Enter Jesus Montero, a burly slugger who has elicited comparisons to Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko while posting a career .308/.366/.501 slash line in the minor leagues, and hitting .328 with four HR’s in 61 AB’s for the Yankees in September. There are legitimate concerns that Montero won’t be able to stay at catcher, but even so, it’s hard to imagine him hitting worse than the combination of Jack Cust/Adam Kennedy at DH.

Though Safeco is a tough environment for right-handed hitters (somewhere, in a dark room, Richie Sexson quietly weeps), scouts have raved about Montero’s ability to drive the ball to the opposite field, something that allowed Brett Boone to set a major-league record for HR’s by a second baseman in 2001. If Montero lives up to his sizable potential, it’s easy to get excited about a heart of the lineup that also features Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Mike Carp. It’s not exactly the 1927 Yankees, but it sure is better than anything Mariners fans have seen lately.

The other pieces of the trade, Hector Noesi to Seattle and Jose Campos to New York, benefit the M’s in the short term as Noesi can slide in as a fourth or fifth starter in 2012. Noesi has proven he can handle major league hitters in the treacherous AL East, but he doesn’t have the upside of Campos, who dominated the Northwest League in 2011 to the tune of a 2.32 ERA, 0.971 WHIP, and a ridiculous 6.54 K/BB ratio. Campos looks like another Pineda in the making, but is years away from contributing at the major league level, and when it comes to pitching prospects, there’s no such thing as a guarantee (remember Ryan Anderson).

The Mariners aren’t going to compete for the AL West crown in 2012, but if nothing else, this move makes them infinitely more watchable. A full season of Montero, Ackley, Carp, and the possible return to form of Justin Smoak gives M’s fans reasons to believe that the worst of times are behind. Heck, Seattle might even flirt with .500 in 2012 (although they’re far too shy to ask it on a date). It’s not the end of the long climb back to respectability, but it’s a start.

Go Mariners.