Visual Recap: Seattle Mariners vs. L.A. Angels May 24th-27th

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…

Pujols Leaves Missouri for L.A; Brings Misery to Seattle & The Bay.

I'm too sad to even photo shop a Mariners jersey on this poor sap.

I feel a lot like Adam Levine in the music video for “Misery“, except instead of getting beat up by a supermodel, I’m taking a kick to the crotch by a guy who looks like this (no offense to you personally Mr. Dipoto).

It was awfully hard being a Mariners fan before Albert Pujols (and C.J. Wilson) joined the Angels. But now? Unbearable…

Seattle wasn’t going to contend for the A.L. West in 2012. They probably weren’t going to be contending for the division in 2013. Now they won’t likely be sniffing the playoffs (I hear they smell like cinnamon rolls) this decade.

Is Phat Albert’s 10 year/$254 million dollar contract a terrible deal? Only for every team in the A.L. West that has to face Pujols on a daily basis. Will he be any good in six or seven years? Who cares! The Angels will win now (plus the Rangers aren’t going anywhere) and they will win after Pujols turns 40 because they are willing to spend money to get better, not hope that Brad Wilkerson finally puts it all together in a new environment.

I’m tired of hearing “next year”. I’m tired of hearing “Jack Z has a plan”.  Any plan that involves Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Jack Cust, and other various piles of excrement is not a plan I want to be a part of. Two wild card spots are not enough to get the Mariners back to the playoffs. Ten wild card spots might not be enough with Miguel Olivo hitting clean up.

I don’t want to hear about regression to the mean (sometimes players that are bad, just stay bad) or BABIP (Michael Saunders didn’t hit .150 because he was unlucky; he hit .150 because he’s not a major league player). I don’t want to hear how Nick Franklin will have a higher WAR than Pujols in five years. I just want to watch a team that can hit a ball out of the infield, and on occasion, win a game.

Is that asking too much?

Handing out the Hardware: Major League Baseball’s Best of 2010.

Buster Posey provided the Giants with the offensive punch necessary to capture a World Series.

Not motivated enough for an intro, let’s get right to the action:

NL Rookie of the Year (Buster Posey–San Francisco Giants): Amongst a talented field of NL rookies (Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton, Jaime Garcia, Gaby Sanchez, etc.) the Giants’ young catcher shone the brightest, leading San Francisco’s late season surge into the playoffs. Despite not being called up until the end of May, Posey still hit 18 HR’s and drove in 67 RBI’s to go along with a .305 average for a Giants’ team nearly devoid of any offensive threats. Posey performed admirably in the playoffs for Los Gigantes and proved once and for all that surnames are not related to athletic prowess.

AL Rookie of the Year (Neftali Feliz–Texas Rangers): This was Brennan Boesch’s award to lose in July while the Tigers’ outfielder was tearing the cover off the ball when suddenly he stopped hitting (kangaroo flu is the suspected cause of his disappearance at the plate). Boesch’s struggles opened the door for the Rangers’ closer to nab the award and Feliz was up to the challenge. The flame throwing Dominican saved 40 games while posting a 2.73 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and striking out 71 batters in 69 innings. Though the Rangers may have fallen short in the World Series, the emergence of Feliz gives the team plenty of reasons for optimism heading into 2011. Re-signing Cliff Lee would add another…

NL Cy Young (Roy Halladay–Philadelphia Phillies): As expected, Roy Halladay took to the NL like a duck to water, throwing a perfect game in the regular season and only the second no-hitter all-time in the playoffs.  For the season, Doc Halladay posted a 21-10 record with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a career high 219 strikeouts. If any current pitcher (Jamie Moyer excluded–even if he’s playing he’s not “current’) has a shot at 300 wins, it’s the indomitable Halladay. He just keeps getting better. If only we could say the same about my writing…

AL Cy Young (Felix Hernandez–Seattle Mariners): The Mariners didn’t win many games in 2010 (thank you Captain Obvious) but the team sure can’t blame King Felix. The 24-year-old righty was absolutely electrifying with a 13-12 record (he would have had 20+ wins with nearly any other team in baseball), 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 232 K’s and 6 complete games. More than anything, Hernandez gave M’s fans something to look forward to every fifth day in an otherwise dismal season and surprisingly, never beat up any of the Mariners’ hitters (that we know of)–if that’s not worthy of a Cy Young, I don’t know what is.

NL MVP (Joey Votto–Cincinnati Reds): Who ever said Canadians can’t do great things? I think it was Rush Limbaugh, but that’s besides the point. Votto had a magical season for Cincinnati, leading the Reds back to the playoffs for the first time since 1995 and finishing in the top three in the Triple Crown categories. For the year, the Canadian Crusher posted a line of .324-37 HR’s-113 RBI’s-1.024 OPS and even chipped in 16 stolen bases for all the fantasy owners out there. He also inspired this tremendous song. That’s an MVP in my book.

AL MVP (Josh Hamilton–Texas Rangers): What can you say about Josh Hamilton that hasn’t already been said? He’s been to the moon? Well, I could say that, but I’m not entirely sure it’s true (although one could certainly say his talent is, wait for it…out of this world). Much like Joe Mauer last year, Hamilton lost significant time to injury but still led the league in hitting (.359) and OPS (1.044) while leading the Rangers to their first World Series berth. He also finished 1st in slugging, 2nd in OBP, 5th in HR’s, and 12th in runs and RBI’s despite playing in only 133 games. The only thing more incredible than Hamilton’s 2010 season is his life story…coming soon to a theater near you.

Stay tuned for something else sometime soon.

Ryan Howard Makes More Money Than You: Is He Worth $125 Million Dollars?

Ryan Howard won't have to settle for $5 dollar footlongs with his massive new contract.

No, he doesn’t work for Goldman-Sachs, but Ryan Howard is still making a killing in the down economy. The Phillies star slugger signed a 5 year/$125 million dollar contract yesterday to stay in Philadelphia through 2016. The contract also includes a $23 million dollar club option for 2017 which would push the total value of the deal to nearly $150 million–making him the second highest paid player in baseball per season behind only Alex Rodriguez.  

Though Howard got a late start to his career (he didn’t reach the majors until age 25 with Jim Thome at first in Philadelphia), the burly lefty has done nothing but hit since, averaging 49.5 home runs and 143 RBI’s over the past four seasons. Howard captured the NL MVP in 2006 on the strength of a .313-58 HR-149 campaign, and while his average has dipped since that year, he has proven to be one of the most consistent power producers in all of baseball.  

The Phillies were eager to keep the face of their franchise in red pinstripes even though he wasn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season, perhaps fueled by an offseason rumor that the team had considered trading Howard to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols. Both Philadelphia and St. Louis denied that any trade talks had occurred, but the Phillies needed to prove they were committed to Howard, and did so by making him a very rich man. Is the big first baseman worth $25 million a year?  

Yes and no.  

There’s no denying that Howard is one of the best run producers in the game, and the signing is a good PR move because he’s a fan favorite, but Howard is certainly not without his flaws in the field and at the plate. The 6-4, 255 lbs. Howard has worked hard to become a passable first baseman, but is still below average at the position and would be better suited as a designated hitter in the American League. There are also concerns that his weight will become an issue in the latter stage of the contract as Howard will be 36 when the deal runs out. He has worked hard to stay in game shape, including losing 25 pounds during the offseason, but historically players of his size and skill set don’t age well. 

What the Phillies are really paying Howard for are his charismatic personality, moonshot home runs and clutch RBI’s—all of which mask some glaring weaknesses at the plate. Howard has averaged 191 strikeouts in his four full seasons and hasn’t posted an OPS over 1.000 since his MVP season of 2006. He is a .225 career hitter against left-handed pitchers and hasn’t shown the ability to improve in that area (only .200 so far in 2010). When the home runs stop flying off the bat, and they will, Howard’s contract will look like an albatross for Philadelphia. 

Were the Phillies smart to sign Howard to a new contract? Yes. Were the Phillies smart to sign Howard to a five-year/$125 million dollar contract? No. 

In other news, the St. Louis Cardinals are holding a combination bake and yard sale this weekend to help raise money for the ever-growing Albert Pujols free agent contract…

Bud’s Top Ten Players of 2010 (Part II)

It will be a break or make season in 2010 for Jake Peavy and the White Sox.

I hadn’t planned on releasing the identities of my top five players for 2010 until later in the week, but after an overwhelming number of emails begging me to pick up my dusty keyboard and write again, I really had no choice. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s letting my reader(s) down. So without further ado, here are the top five players I’ll be watching this coming season:  

5.) Jake Peavy/Alex Rios: Both of these players will feel intense pressure to perform in 2010 after failing to live up to expectations last season due to injuries (Peavy) or inconsistency (Rios). Chicago GM Kenny Williams has so much invested in these two players that if the White Sox struggle to compete in the AL Central this year, both his job and that of manager Ozzie Guillen could be in serious jeopardy. Peavy never really got a shot to prove himself last season after being acquired in an unexpected deal with the San Diego Padres, but since he will be receiving around $11 million in 2010, the 28-year-old right hander will be under the microscope as he tries to transition from the NL to the AL, and from a spacious ballpark to a bandbox in Chicago (Career Home ERA: 2.82 vs Career Road ERA: 3.79). Rios played much more like Alexis than Alex after being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays, hitting only .199 for the White Sox in 146 ABs. He’s also due a sizable chunk of change over the next few seasons and Chicago needs him to improve drastically in 2010 or the team will be out of contention and cash for years to come. Besides, what would the baseball world be like without… Ozzie Guillen?    

Nearly invisible to the naked eye, Josh Johnson might have to switch leagues before anyone notices him.

4.) Josh Johnson: Who is Josh Johnson you say? Well, he’s not one of four quarterbacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whose first name is Josh, although he does make his living in the same state. He’s also not one of 20 people in your hometown with the name Josh Johnson, unless you happen to live in Jenks, Oklahoma. No, the real Josh Johnson is an emerging star pitcher for the Florida Marlins who has gone 22-6 over the past two seasons, including a 15-5 record, 3.23 ERA and 191 K’s in 2009. While Johnson has managed to fly under the radar his first five seasons in baseball, the 25-year-old flamethrower (who owned the third fastest average fastball in baseball last year) is ready to take America by storm, especially after the Marlins trade him to the Red Sox or Yankees. That’s right, just like every talented Marlin before him, Johnson is quickly becoming too expensive for Florida and is on his way to greener pastures (or at least more greenbacks). If the Marlins don’t sign him to a long-term deal before the season starts, expect Johnson to be making headlines for someone in the AL, and to finally receive the attention he deserves. 

 3.) Cliff Lee: Cliff Lee did everything he could to guide the Phillies to another World Series title in 2009, pitching like a true ace down the stretch run and throughout the playoffs. But as suddenly as he appeared in Philadelphia, he was gone. In the biggest deal of the offseason, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner was shipped to Seattle in a three-team trade that saw Roy Halladay (more on him later) head to Philadelphia. Understandably, Lee was both shocked and upset by the blockbuster deal, but he lands in an ideal situation with the Mariners, a team on the rise in the AL West. The 31-year-old lefty will be a free agent after the season, and between feeling slighted by the Phillies and pitching for a new contract, Lee should have all the motivation he needs to be on top of his game in 2010. If Seattle can reach the playoffs (a distinct possibility in a weak division), the one-two combination of Felix Hernandez and Lee could prove lethal in a short series. Look for Lee to challenge for the 2010 AL Cy Young award, collect a $100 million dollar contract after the season and change his middle name to something other than “Phifer”.    

You see, he's not a machine! At least, not fully.

2.) Albert Pujols: Albert Pujols is so good he’s boring. Heck, the guy makes Tim Duncan look like Bill Murray, but that hasn’t stopped him from etching his name in history has one of the greatest right-handed hitters to ever play the game of baseball. Pujols made a serious run at the Triple Crown last year and after off-season elbow surgery and with the strong possibility of Matt Holliday returning to St. Louis, he should be even better in 2010.  With the current home run king (Barry Bonds) and the heir apparent (Alex Rodriguez) both bigger juicers than Jack LaLane, baseball is counting on Pujols to led the sport out of the steroid era and into a golden age of prosperity, or something like that.  

1.) Roy Halladay: After 2010, there will be no debate as to who is the best pitcher in all of baseball; Roy Halladay will be number one with a bullet. Halladay has consistently shown himself to be a top-tier starter despite pitching in the most difficult division in baseball, the AL East, and now finds himself in the National League where he won’t even have to face the NL East’s best offense (it’s his own team, the Phillies). In 2009, the four teams that Halladay faced in the AL East combined to score 3,331 runs in 2009—the four teams in the NL East that he will face in 2010 scored only 2,888 runs last year. The talent gap between the two leagues is wider than Christina Ricci’s forehead the Suez Canal, and Halladay has an opportunity to be historically great in 2010. “Doc” will challenge for career highs across the board, lead the Phillies to another World Series and post the majors first sub-2.00 ERA since Roger Clemens in 2005. Shamwow!

Bud’s Top Ten Players for 2010 (Part 1)

Aroldis Chapman is set to become a household name in 2010.

As a dual member of baseball’s brain trust and the sportswriting community, I am often approached by strangers on sidewalks or in stores who ask questions like: Why do you use so many commas in your writing? What are your thoughts on Cliff Floyd’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy? Did you ever take any courses on grammar or the English language? Why do people think Dane Cook is funny? And of course, which ten players are you most looking forward to watching in 2010? Well, I can provide little insight on most of their queries (Floyd did hit 34 HR’s 2005 for what it’s worth), so here is a look at Bud’s Top Ten Players for 2010 in some particular order:  

10.) Aroldis Chapman: Genetically engineered by Cuban scientists (think Ivan Drago or Yao Ming) to become the greatest left-handed pitcher of the 21st century and beyond, the 21-year-old Chapman might not throw a pitch in the majors next season, but the hype surrounding him is reaching New Moon levels. As a lefty who consistently throws in the high-90’s, Chapman could be a long-term impact arm for whatever team (Blue Jays, A’s, Angels, Red Sox or Yankees) ponies up the cash for him. How Chapman fairs in the minors in 2010 will go a long way in determining whether he’s worth the $20-25 million he’s likely to get (which he will of course mail back to Castro to support the resistance) or if he’s just another overpriced bust.  

9.) Alex Rodriguez: With Kate Hudson by his side in 2009, A-Rod captured his first World Series title and performed like a king in the postseason despite a nagging hip injury–but now she’s gone. While his body might be fully healthy in time for 2010 his heart will likely still be on the mend, and many baseball pundits wonder if he will be able to perform at last year’s high level without the flaxen-haired feline by his side. He’s on pace to reach 600 HR’s next season and could make a legitimate push for his fourth MVP with an absolutely stacked Yankees lineup, but can Alex do it with a heavy heart? I just don’t know. 

You've Gotta Love This Guy!

8.) Ken Griffey Jr:  My Seattle Mariners bias aside, Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the greatest all around players in the history of baseball and should receive a fond farewell everywhere the M’s play this year, ala Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001. This is the last time fans will be able to see the sweetest swing in baseball and the smile so big and bright that it brought joy to millions around the world. Is that a bit of an exaggeration? Not if you are from the Pacific Northwest it isn’t, the “Kid” will always have a special place in our hearts. Hopefully the Mariners can send Junior out on a high note…perhaps with a trip to their first World Series ever?  

7.) Joe Mauer: Coming off the greatest offensive season ever by a catcher last year, Joe Mauer is poised for even bigger things in 2010 (like dating Scarlett Johansson, curing polio and signing a billion dollar contract—seriously, pay him whatever he wants Minnesota). Mauer captured the AL MVP award last year despite missing a month of the season and the sky is the limit for Minnesota’s 26-year-old savior as the Twins move into their brand spankin’ new stadium. With Justin Morneau protecting him in the lineup and having all of this offseason to recover from nagging injuries, will Mauer make another run at hitting .400 in 2010? If he can stay healthy and continue to hit home runs in bunches, Mauer needs to be mentioned in the same breath as Albert Pujols and Adam Everett as one of the best hitters in baseball. Yeah, he’s that good.  

Will 2010 be Felix's last season in Seattle?

6.) Felix Hernandez: Though it seems like he’s been around longer than Methuselah, Felix Hernandez won’t turn 24 until April and has already established himself as one of the top right-handed pitchers in baseball. Hernandez narrowly missed out on capturing the Cy Young award last year (19-5, 2.49 ERA, 217 K’s) and will have even more incentive to perform in 2010 with free agency looming. If the Mariners aren’t able to sign King Felix to a long-term contract sometime soon the team may be forced to move him at the trade deadline in order to recoup their losses. Can you imagine the bidding war for Felix between the Yankees and Red Sox? I think New York would throw in the Statue of Liberty if it brought Hernandez to the Big Apple. Please don’t go Felix, please! 

Coming Soon: Players 5 through 1!