Eric Byrnes, The 2010 Mike Sweeney

Eric ByrnesThe Mariners got that right-handed bat they've been searching for by signing OF Eric Byrnes to a one-year deal today. To make room on the roster, 1B Tommy Everidge was designated for assignment. As far as the nuts and bolts of the deal, Lookout Landing lays out nicely why it's a no-risk deal. I like Everidge a little more than them, but the key word is little. If you want a more in-depth look at Byrnes from a slightly different perspective, USS Mariner had you covered a week ago with this post. As for what Eric Byrnes thinks, Larry Stone has a nice synopsis with quotes.

I'm linking so much with this story because I don't think it would be all that helpful for me to re-hash anything those fine folks have already said. It's also Friday night, and I'm feeling lazy.

What I have to add is that I'm not very excited about the move. I think Eric Byrnes is done. Many have pointed to the injuries, and I agree he should rebound some if healthy. However, those injuries were bad, and he sustained them thanks in large part to his hair-on-fire approach to the game. His style has put his body through more stress than a run-of-the-mill 34-year-old ballplayer, and he will add to that significantly in 2010. I don't see Byrnes staying healthy, and I wonder what he has left anyway.

Then again, I had similar feelings about Mike Sweeney around this time last year. That turned out fine though.

Byrnes is saying all the right things, about how excited he is and how healthy he feels. That's wonderful, but I always take the types of comments Eric gave today with a grain of salt, coming from a professional athlete at least. To perform at such an elite level takes an air of confidence that breeds quotes like Eric's today, regardless of the condition they actually are in. I think the odds are that this is a no-risk, no-reward move.

Eric Byrnes is the 2010 version of Mike Sweeney, except with more upside. I guess that means I should be more excited about this move, especially with how Sweeney turned out. However, the M's are doing baseball's version of dumpster diving, trying to pick up that sofa that if you massage a little here and there, and put a blanket over, works pretty darn well. I don't know how realistic it is to think any team can pull that off successfully every time. If any front office can do it though, it's this one.

Mariners Done Or Waiting?

It is hard to tell what the Mariners are up to right now. It is always somewhat hard to tell with how quickly and quietly the front office moves. We know for sure there is action behind the scenes; they have proven that time and time again. What exactly is going on right now though?

The Mariners could be done for the time being. Jack Zduriencik has made it abundantly clear that nobody in the media knows the M's budget constraints. Estimates range from virtually nothing left to around $10 million. Still, no matter what the number is, it seems safe to say that there is relatively little left to spend.

Personally, I would be fine taking the current team to spring training. The Mariners hardly sat on their hands this off-season. The 2010 M's aren't going to look like the 2009 version. Some friendly faces are gone, but some shiny new parts have been added. It isn't a perfect team, but nobody is in the AL West. I like this roster's chance to be in the hunt around the trading deadline, when new options will be available.

However, the Mariners could also be playing a waiting game right now. The free agent market is still saturated with a fair amount of solid talent. The landing places for the players still out there have dwindled too. It all adds up to some of them being left out in the dark.

For instance, look at Jarrod Washburn. Where will he land? The Brewers were a logical landing place until they signed Doug Davis. I am pretty sure Jarrod's top choice at this point would be Seattle. That's not a choice that excited me at the start of the off-season, but what if he could be had for around $2 million?

The same can be said for Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Erik Bedard, Jermaine Dye, John Smoltz, Rocco Baldelli, and Pedro Martinez (in no particular order). Throw Johnny Damon in the group too, now that the Yankees are out of the running (though Oakland seems legitimately interested in him).

I don't see the Mariners making any moves the next few weeks, though I have to admit that goes against pretty much everything we've seen out of the Jack Z front office. He always has something up his sleeve. Maybe I would be a little more proactive about adding a starting pitcher, but for the most part, I would wait out the market right now. The M's have flaws, but not enough to cripple the season. They can afford to wait, play the percentages, and maybe net a decent addition for a bargain price.

Twist Of Faith

Respected Seattle Times reporter pretty much says it all with this tweet:
You don't hear this every day: A's OF Grant Desme, Arizona Fall League MVP, is retiring to enter the priesthood. 31 HR and 40 SB in A ball.
If you are like me and want to hear more about the decision from Desme himself, you can check out this article on Minor League Baseball's website.

It is a remarkable story. Desme was a second-round draft pick of the A's, and after a huge 2009 season he was on the radar as one of the better prospects in all of baseball. It takes years of dedication to get to the point that Desme had already reached, and he was maybe only a couple years away from reaching the majors. Desme knew all this, yet still gave it all up.

Players just don't walk away like this. It's the baseball equivalent of stopping five hundred feet short of the peak of Mt. Everest, despite perfect conditions. There was still a significant climb ahead, but the path was relatively clear, and all things considered, not much was left.

The man clearly feels called, and I admire anyone who pursues what they believe in. I also doubt that this is a call any baseball team expects to get, and I doubt it is a situation another team will face any time soon.

A Player That Should Get A Chance

Jesus GuzmanIt's been too long since I've geeked out on a little move. One finally caught my eye today. The Giants designated IF Jesus Guzman for assignment, because they needed to make room for recently re-signed C Bengie Molina.

I first noticed Guzman a couple years ago when he had a break-out campaign for High Desert in the Mariners organization. I wasn't in love with him (especially with how hitter-friendly High Desert is), but I was intrigued to see what he did in AA. It seemed like he had a chance to become a utility infielder with enough of a glove and bat to hold down a position for a week or two if the starter got hurt.

However, the Mariners never gave Guzman a chance. They cut him loose as a minor league free agent after his breakout season. You gotta love the Bill Bavasi era.

The Athletics picked up Guzman in 2008, and in AA he batted .364 with 14 home runs in a little over half a season's worth of action. That wasn't enough for Oakland to keep him though, and San Francisco picked him up. He batted .321 with 16 home runs in a full season in AAA.

Now, Jesus Guzman is out of work again. He is 25 years old, and has batted over .300 with decent power three years in a row, despite climbing a level each year, and changing organizations each year.

My opinion of Guzman hasn't changed too much since he broke out in High Desert. He still looks to me like a pretty well-rounded backup, though I will admit that I don't know much about his defensive ability. However, honestly, if you were Giants GM Brian Sabean, would you have ditched Guzman over 1B Brett Pill or 3B Ryan Rohlinger, both of whom are on San Francisco's 40-man roster?

It's not like the next Albert Pujols keeps getting cut loose, but Jesus Guzman continues to slip through the cracks. He is better than at least a handful of players with roster spots right now. I don't think he makes a ton of sense for the Mariners, but I hope someone gives him a chance.

Bolt Down The Throne

Felix Hernandez
King Felix is sticking around. Hours before arbitration figures were scheduled to be exchanged, the reports are that the Mariners and Hernandez have agreed on a 5 year, $78 million deal.

I was going to hold out until specifics were officially announced (especially the breakdown of the annual salaries), but I'm just too excited. I have never thought that Felix would leave, but considered signing him to a long-term deal the team's top priority this offseason from the outset.

Mission accomplished. Furthermore, if the rumors are anywhere close to true, this is a great deal for both sides. For starters, both get some significant stability and security. Also, Felix should get a little more in the first couple years of the deal than he would have likely got in arbitration, but likely gets much less than the $20-$25 million he may have been able to demand as a 25-year-old free agent after the 2011 season.

Felix hardly killed his earning potential though. He's still getting paid a handsome sum, and now is on schedule to hit free agency at 28 years old. That's still plenty young enough to reach the CC Sabathia free agent stratosphere.

What I love about this deal most is that it is another sign that the Mariners front office is amazing. The silence has largely been deafening on the Felix front, which concerned me, and most interested observers. All we ever heard from the front office was that they were talking to Felix and his representatives, and that talks were going well. We heard the same from Felix's side, and that there was little urgency because both sides wanted a deal to happen.

Jack Zdureincik and friends play it close to the vest, but they don't use smoke and mirrors. Clearly, the few bits and pieces we got were the truth.

This team is making a habit of honest, amicable negotiations while maintaining their bargaining leverage. This offseason has featured good deals struck for Jack Wilson, Chone Figgins, and now King Felix. On the trade front, remarkable deals brought in Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley. Simply put, this front office knows how to work the system not just to their advantage, but to everyone's advantage. The M's front office is creating a culture where players and teams want to talk to them.

Any day a guy like Felix Hernandez is locked up long-term is a great day in Mariners history. The way this deal happened gives me yet another reason to think days like this aren't numbered either.

Marlins Abusing Revenue Sharing?

a Marlins gameAn interesting little story came out yesterday about Major League Baseball and the Florida Marlins agreeing that the team has to spend their revenue sharing money on personnel. You can check it out here. Basically, the agreement ensures that the Marlins use money they gain through revenue sharing for the next three years either on player salaries or player development, instead of using it on other debts, or straight-up pocketing it.

This is an agreement that looks good on paper. The idea of revenue sharing is to promote competitive balance. So, if a team like the Marlins gets money to help it be more competitive, it better spend that money on being more competitive. However, Florida always has a laughably low payroll.

There is a catch though: the Marlins have been competitive.

Last year, Florida went 87-75, good enough for second place in the NL East. They finished behind the Philadelphia Phillies, who happen to be the back-to-back National League Champions. The Marlins did this with a $37 million payroll. The teams behind them in the NL East were the Braves ($97 million payroll), Mets ($149 million payroll), and Nationals ($60 million payroll).

The Marlins are not a one-year wonder, either. They have finished with a winning record in five of the last seven seasons, highlighted by a World Championship back in 2003.

Do the Florida Marlins really look like a team that is not trying to win?

The Marlins look to me like a franchise that knows how to spend remarkably wisely. They also have an eye towards the future. The Marlins will move into a new ballpark in 2012, and have already begun taking steps to re-brand themselves with the big switch. The new ballpark should bring increased revenue, which would allow for increased payroll. In the meantime, it makes sense to eliminate/avoid debt and in the process put as good of a product on the field as possible.

Yet, for some reason, baseball thinks the Marlins are not trying to be competitive. Never mind that the Pittsburgh Pirates just wrapped up their 17th consecutive losing season with a payroll under $50 million. Never mind that the San Diego Padres cut their payroll almost in half last season, and also had 12 fewer wins than the Marlins. Baseball does not have agreements with either of those teams, or anyone else for that matter. Apparently, it is the Marlins that baseball is worried about most.

Money is not everything in baseball. In 2008, the Rays made the world series with a $43 million payroll, while the Mariners lost over 100 games with a payroll in excess of $100 million. The Yankees have easily had the highest payroll for a decade running, yet only have one World Championship to show for it. The Marlins have clearly made a habit of outperforming teams with higher payrolls too.

I don't know which is more pathetic, that baseball does not hold teams accountable when they receive money through revenue sharing, or that baseball has singled out the Marlins as the team abusing the system. Florida is frugal, but the organization knows what it is doing. If anything, other teams should take lessons away from how they field a consistently competitive team with such a small operating budget.

This is one of those times where the beauty of baseball is awkwardly on display. It continues to be a compelling product on the field despite the "problems" its leadership identifies, and the problems they fail to see.

Mark McGwire Deserves Better

Mark McGwire
That's it, I'll bite the bullet and talk about Mark McGwire too, the great American slugger not all that interested in talking about the past. Well, not interested in talking about it until Monday, where he admitted to using steroids off and on to recover from injuries. In his view, though he admits he now wishes he had not used them or played during the steroid era, they didn't do much for his performance on the field.

Riiiight.

Google McGwire's name and you will find a myriad of reactions. He is a popular subject for anyone with a pen or a keyboard right now. Should he be punished? Is he a distraction? What did this do for his Hall of Fame chances? What does Dale Murphy think of the situation? (These are some of the questions I can answer on the first page of Google results I'm seeing right now, as of 1:42 PM PST)

People sure care a whole bunch about what Mark McGwire did in the 1990s, and on some level it is understandable. His 1998 home run race with Sammy Sosa is what brought baseball out of the shadows of the ugly 1994 lockout. McGwire was a part of the 1990s unlike any other baseball player really. The '98 home run chase transcended the game. It captivated America through that summer, and steroids would rain on those days that we thought were so sunny.

Now, McGwire has admitted to something we already knew when he wouldn't talk about the past to congress. He was on the juice.

Why is this such a big deal? Seriously, why?*
*Of course I would mark a steroids rant with an asterisk. If you want to get back to Mark McGwire, skip through this. However, I have to say something about my personal view on steroids. For me, they never compromised the integrity of the on-field product. Steroids essentially enable muscle to be built quicker. Steroids aren't magical. Even with them, an athlete must put in diligent work to make taking them worthwhile, and in the end an athlete only enhances something they already had - which is what all sorts of supplements that people have no qualms over do as well. With that said, I strongly oppose steroid use, but for profoundly different reasons. Unlike other products that people don't bat an eye at, steroids are highly dangerous, and in many cases were obtained in highly illegal and unethical ways. For instance, some players (or more likely their trainers) purchased HGH on the black market from HIV/AIDS patients. How sickening is that? Yes, steroids tainted the game, but it is how willing so many were to damage themselves in so many ways off the field for a little more fame and money on it that leaves the ugly black streak on the steroids era for me.
Mark McGwire is getting blasted for no good reason at all. We didn't learn anything new. We didn't learn anything that will impact the future. All we found out is that Mark McGwire, for certain, used steroids and feels bad about it.

Consider what it took for Mark McGwire to speak up. He is a private person by nature. Sure, he hasn't talked about steroids, but he hasn't campaigned for his Hall of Fame candidacy either. It was somewhat surprising when the Cardinals named them their hitting coach too, at least in part because his name never surfaced in coaching rumors or discussions. Mark McGwire, no matter the circumstances, is a man that prefers to stay quiet.

So, it took some notable courage and gumption for McGwire to go on camera and say something about a hot-button issue that puts him in a negative light. It is a surprising move, given his nature. I think he spoke up because he knew he could not run from the media as the Cardinals hitting coach, and he would not be able to go about his hitting coach duties quietly, like he would prefer, if he stayed mum.

I will admit that I am disappointed in some of McGwire's responses. I'm sorry, the steroids did help him hit home runs. I wonder what he meant when he said he only used steroids "off and on" too. Technically, with the way typical steroid cycles work, anyone could call themselves an "off and on" user.

Still, the punishment does not fit the crime. McGwire took steroids at a time when it was culturally accepted in baseball. He was hardly the only user, and it should not dominate his legacy like it does now.

For starters, how many other steroid users put baseball on their shoulders and carried them out of the post-lockout doldrums?

Plus, if Mark McGwire is so bad, where is the outrage against Alex Rodriguez? He came clean in a similar fashion to McGwire last year, yet by mid-season everyone was caught up in his relationship with Kate Hudson. He also got a championship ring the season after he came clean. He is still a bit of a polarizing figure, but I can think of over 250 million other rea$on$ his public perception is what it is.

Where is the outrage against Rafael Palmeiro? He was at the same congressional hearing that McGwire was a part of. He opened up by pointing his finger directly at the head of the hearing, Thomas Davis, confidently uttering, "I have never used steroids, period." Then, a few years later he tested positive for steroids.

Where is the outrage against Sammy Sosa? He was part of that magical 1998 home run chase too. He evaded questions about his steroid use at the congressional hearing as well. However, the most provocative news regarding him recently has to do with his skin.

Meanwhile, Mark McGwire continues to get hammered for his refusal to talk about the past in front of congress. He goes against his quiet nature to talk about something he knows will be a big news story for all the wrong reasons, and gets criticized even more. That's just brutal.

Fair enough, McGwire made a mistake when he decided to use steroids. He left some questions unanswered when he came clean too. He has opened himself up for criticism, and on some level it is deserved.

McGwire deserves better than he is getting though. He did a whole bunch of good for baseball, and he has done a whole much more right with the situation he is in than he is getting credit for. Many have lost sight of the forest in the trees.

Beltre Signs With BoSox

Adrian BeltreEven though Boston wasn't able to trade Mike Lowell and his 95% torn thumb, they still went ahead and signed Adrian Beltre. According to Ken Rosenthal, the deal is $9 million for 1 year, with a $5 million player option for 2011 that bumps up to $10 million if Beltre makes 640 plate appearances (in other words, if he starts and is healthy the whole year).

There are also rumors that Beltre turned down a couple 3 year, $24 million offers. My guess would be that those were from the Orioles and Angels, but those are pure guesses. I would be surprised if the Orioles were not one of the teams though.

Since I wrote about Beltre's situation over and over and over, I feel obligated to write about it one more time now that he has finally signed.

First of all, this is a very Beltre-friendly deal, and I suppose nice for the Red Sox too with all the money they have locked up in other players. I would be shocked if Beltre takes the player option. He has only reached 640 plate appearances 3 times in his 12-year career, and Boston has great depth in the infield right now with Mike Lowell around (though you'd have to think he will be dealt at some point). The only way that option becomes $10 million is if Beltre has a big enough season to likely earn more in free agency next off-season. On top of that, he won't have a worse year than 2009, and that netted him $9 million, so it's hard to see him willingly accepting $5 million without testing free agency again.

The question remains: did Beltre make the right decision declining arbitration? Basically, he accepted $9 million from the Red Sox this year over $10-12 million (in all likelihood, with how arbitration works) from the Mariners.

I think it is now safe to say that Adrian left money on the table when he walked away from the M's arbitration offer, which is why I wrote so much about why I thought he would/should seriously consider accepting it. He also took less money to move much farther from his Los Angeles home. Also, though the Red Sox are probably a better team than the Mariners right now, they have to compete with the Yankees and Rays. The Mariners have weaker competition, and Beltre's bat would bolster the Mariners lineup more noticeably than Boston's.

Arguably, Beltre took a couple million less to move cross-country and join a team with roughly the same chance to win their division that the Mariners do.

To be fair to Adrian though, he had to make the arbitration decision before the M's acquired Cliff Lee. Also, Fenway Park is much better suited for Beltre's offensive approach than Safeco. He is going from one of the worst parks for a right-handed power hitter to one of the best. That is sure to boost his numbers, along with the natural bounce back that is reasonable to expect. In addition, Boston's lineup is loaded with great hitters, meaning Beltre is likely to pick up more runs and RBIs. He could close in on 100 in either or both categories, which like it or not, boosts his earning potential on the open market.

A 3 year, $24 million contract in a place like Baltimore would have been a clear loss for Adrian Beltre. A 1 year, $9 million contract in Boston is probably a wash. The difference in the park and lineup may enable Beltre to earn back the money he walked away from in the contract he gets next off-season.

A wash financially probably won't make the move from the west coast worth it for Beltre. Winning big would though. Beltre's decision has the potential to become an intriguing story, particularly if the Mariners contend in 2010.

My Argument For Edgar

Edgar MartinezDisclaimer: Edgar Martinez is my favorite baseball player, and always will be. He is part of my childhood kind of like my little Mickey Mouse doll, which accompanied me when I was put under to take out my tonsils. 'Gar isn't just any other Mariner to me. He was easily my favorite, even when Ken Griffey Jr. (in his prime), Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Jay Buhner were around. So, Edgar's Hall of Fame debate admittedly strikes a personal chord with me. It is a strong enough one to warrant a disclaimer before I make my case for why he should be in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame will announce the 2010 inductees on Wednesday. Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for at least 10 years vote on eligible players. A player is eligible for the Hall of Fame five years after retiring. A player is inducted if 75 percent of ballots include their name. They may stay on the ballot up to 15 years, as long as they garner votes on at least five percent of the ballots cast.

This is Edgar's first year eligible. The good news is that it looks he will easily be on five percent of the ballots. The bad news is that it looks like he will also easily fall short of 75 percent.

Let the debate on Edgar's Hall of Fame credentials begin.

First of all, there is plenty already out there. Locally, the movement is well underway. First and Edgar is dedicated to getting 'Gar into the Hall of Fame, and also includes links to pro-Edgar articles/arguments. If you have Twitter, you should add this twibbon too.

On the national level, the Mariners sent this to every BBWAA member with a Hall of Fame vote. Furthermore, Edgar's candidacy is receiving attention from major national sports media outlets . Check out this article by David Schoenfield at ESPN if you haven't already. Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated dedicated this article mostly to Edgar's case as well.

I have been on the fence about a blog post on Edgar for a few weeks, especially with what has already been written. I like to try to add something a little different, and for the most part I find myself nodding in agreement with what's being written about Edgar. I don't have any new statistics to add that demonstrate Edgar's hitting prowess. I would cite the same players in the articles I've linked to above when it comes to comparisons as well.

Ever since Edgar retired, it has been obvious that he would be one of the more intriguing Hall of Fame cases in a long time. He is an inner-circle, no-brainer according to just about any sabermetric hitting statistic. However, he is easy to discard by the traditional counting statistics, with the exception of his career batting average. Compounding that are the facts that he played in Seattle, baseball's outpost, and that he was a designated hitter, a position half of baseball has not adopted, and that many frankly don't like. Just last month, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he wants the DH eliminated as a member of an advisory committee formed by Bud Selig.

Edgar Martinez, more than anyone else in a while, is going to make voters think about what makes a Hall of Famer a Hall of Famer. He is not like Jim Rice, Jack Morris, or Bert Blyleven, where he is relatively easy to categorize, and the debate is if his numbers warrant induction compared to players similar to him. Edgar is a highly unique case, thanks to the M's ineptitude that kept him in the minors until his late 20s, and then his hitting prowess once given a full-time job - but mostly as a designated hitter.

As I have read debates and considered the thinking both for and against Edgar Martinez, one thing continues to get overlooked. One of the most fundamental purposes of the Hall of Fame is to preserve the history of the game. Why else would it collect bats, balls, gloves, spikes, jerseys, and hats from important moments and games? The bronze busts and plaques made for enshrined players are an incredible individual accomplishment, but together they say something about the game of baseball. They lift up what makes baseball great. They make a commentary on what baseball is, and what it looks like at its finest.

The debate rages on over whether the designated hitter should be a part of baseball or not. However, like it or not, it is more than a fad. It is undeniably a part of baseball history at this point. It is an accepted part of the game. Yet, when it comes to the Hall of Fame, the position is being marginalized in a similar fashion to gambling and drug use. That's simply inexcusable.

For those who argue relievers were marginalized in the same way, they never were. The fundamental nature of bullpens has changed within the past few decades. Bullpens used to be comprised of pitchers not good enough to make the starting rotation. Now, some arms are groomed for the high-leverage, late-inning situations. Reserving a good pitcher for those situations revolutionized the bullpen, and I believe is also the primary reason starters do not work as deeply into ballgames nowadays. Consequently, the Hall of Fame has acknowledged the revolution by inducting some of the better relievers of all-time.

Whether or not Hall of Fame voters like the designated hitter, they need to acknowledge its role as an accepted part of the game in the American League for over 40 years. There is no better way to do that than inducting Edgar Martinez. He was one of the greatest hitters of his generation, and is among the best hitters baseball has seen since World War II. Statistics back that up, and the pitchers that faced him back that up too.

Edgar is much more than a sabermetric wonder. His 1995 ALDS against the Yankees is legendary, particularly the grand slam he hit off of John Wetteland in game 4, and "the double" in game 5, both with the Mariners trailing late in elimination games. He is one of the biggest reasons the Mariners continued to win despite losing Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in their primes in back-to-back seasons. The DH of the year award was named in his honor upon his retirement too.

Like any of the best hitters of all-time, Edgar's anecdotal evidence supports the sabermetric evidence. He wasn't just a great designated hitter, he was an exceptional one. The best of all-time, hands down, and few would argue that.

Would Hall of Fame voters keep the best shortstop of all-time out of the Hall of Fame? What about the best starting pitcher, or the best closer, or best first baseman? No, absolutely not, unless they used steroids, or gambled, or agreed to throw the World Series. The designated hitter is unlike other positions, and I will concede that it is less demanding than most. However, it is still a position. That's a fact.

The best designated hitter of all-time should be in the Hall of Fame, especially when he compares favorably to many of the best hitters of all-time in many ways. Ultimately, that is why Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer in my eyes.