2012 Fall Leaguers

The Arizona Fall League is a like a bonus month of minor league baseball where every team picks the players they want to send the most. As a result, the fall league often features many of baseball's most promising prospects. It's almost like a real-life prospect fantasy league. The rosters were announced on Wednesday.

The Mariners will send eight players to the Arizona Fall League. They are listed below with some brief comments on what they might stand to gain, and what to look for out of them:

THE Blockbuster

Too many trades get labeled blockbusters in baseball. Now the term ought to be retired. The Red Sox and Dodgers completed what has to go down as the most stunning blockbuster of all-time. Boston traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford, RHP Josh Beckett, and INF Nick Punto for 1B James Loney, RHP Allen Webster, INF Ivan DeJesus Jr., and two players to be named later, reportedly OF/1B Jerry Sands and RHP Rubby de la Rosa.

Let's start with a player-by-player analysis.

How To Win the Wild Card

It's surprisingly hard not to be excited about the Mariners right now. It is a nice change of pace from the previous decade or so. Whispers of "refuse to lose" are slipping out - timid whispers that respect the decade of futility, combined with the long odds the team faces right now, but whispers nonetheless that signal a little hope and excitement.

It would be easy for me to slam the door in this blog post. I would point out that the excitement is getting generated during an eight-game winning streak, and the Mariners are not going to win all of their remaining games. They also have four teams to leapfrog in the wild card standings, and it is next-to-impossible to get four teams to collapse simultaneously.

That's not where I'm going to go with this post though. Instead, how about I dial out a few hypothetical scenarios for you, and you decide how likely the Mariners are to take a wild card spot?

Double Sports Dream Day

I stole the name for this post from Allen. Really, he probably should write this post because yesterday was his idea (hence his title). I had the pleasure of attending both the Sounders and Mariners games yesterday, hence the name Double Sports Dream Day. Perhaps calling a day involving the 2012 Mariners and 2012 Twins a dream was a bit presumptuous, but it wasn't, thanks to John Jaso. Then again, I was with great friends, so maybe it was destined to be a dream day regardless of the outcomes.

There are many angles I could take with the Double Sports Dream Day but: 1. This is a baseball blog and 2. at least half the conversation, even at the baseball game, would force me to change names to protect the innocent and/or write horribly long parenthetical comments to explain the obscure inside jokes we tossed around. So, I am naturally limited.

One thing that struck me during the Double Sports Dream Day is more of a nightmare than anything else. I realized just how far the Mariners have fallen. However, the Double Sports Dream Day also offered shimmers of hope.

Mariners Opposition of Arena Ridiculous

If you read the Musings and live outside the Pacific Northwest, you might be unaware that there is an arena deal brewing in Seattle. Long story short, private investor Chris Hansen has bought property mere blocks away from Safeco Field with the hope of building a new arena to bring back the Seattle SuperSonics.

The deal has already made it rather far. The King County Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between them and Hansen's group. If the Seattle City Council also signs the MOU, then Hansen's group is basically only an NBA team away from building the arena*.

*One condition of the MOU is that the arena is not built until a professional basketball team is secured.

The arena deal would have nothing to do with the Mariners if it weren't so close to Safeco Field. It is though, and they have spoken. The organization wrote a letter to the city and county in early April stating that the arena-building process should include consideration of multiple sites. They note that it took a year to decide where Safeco Field would go. The letter, when read literally, seems innocuous. However, reading between the lines, would the Mariners really bother to write the letter if they didn't have some concerns about a new sports venue setting up shop next to them?

This morning, Q13 sports anchor Aaron Levine wrote a three-tweet-series reporting that the Mariners have hired the public relations firm Pacific Public Affairs. It just so happens to be the main PR firm for anti-arena efforts.

Again, April's letter does not flat-out say that the Mariners oppose the arena site, and there is no stated reason the Mariners hired Pacific Public Affairs. The lack of details leave room for bad assumptions. However, it would not make much sense for the Mariners to go to the extra effort they are at the moment if they supported the arena plan.

What I can't figure out is why the Mariners are so worried about the arena.

Smoak Up. Oh Well.

Mike Carp hit the DL, courtesy of the remarkable stretch he made below:


The Mariners called up Justin Smoak to take his place. Smoak is a known commodity and got sent down because he wasn't hitting all that well. I saw him in Tacoma a few times, and he did not look much better to me. He did not hit a home run in 82 AAA plate appearances. The biggest difference was Smoak's walk rate, which spiked considerably. Hopefully he packs his patience with him as he returns to the majors, but franky, there aren't many reasons to expect his return to look all that different than what got him sent down in the first place.

I am irritated that Smoak got called back up. Not incredibly irritated, but irritated, much in the same way that a hangnail isn't really that big of a deal, but it's still a hangnail, and enough of a bother to notice and complain about. First base is now the Mariners version of a hangnail.

Let's Get Real About Vargas

I wrote about a plausible trade for Jason Vargas before the trade deadline. Now, after a brilliant performance largely responsible for handing Jered Weaver his second loss on the season, I'm going to argue why Vargas should not be King Felix's sidekick long-term. If you think I hate Vargas, well, I guess I can't blame you.

The irony is that I thoroughly enjoy watching Jason Vargas pitch. He reminds me of Jamie Moyer in many respects. They are both quintessential examples of crafty left-handers. Vargas, by in large, forces his opponents to beat him*, and sometimes they can. However, Vargas has a terrific defense and Safeco's spacious pastures behind him, which makes the job tough for an opponent.

*This sounds like a "duh" statement, but pay close attention to baseball highlights some night. Most hard hits start with a meat pitch in a hitter's count and/or a hitter anticipating a specific pitch and getting it. Sure, the batter still struck the ball well, but the pitcher made their job a little too easy.

Vargas hysteria seems to be hitting Seattle. Maybe it is those Viva Las Vargas shades. Getting honored as the AL Pitcher of the Month in July probably didn't hurt either. The showdown with Jered Weaver yesterday isn't the only feather in Vargas's cap, merely the most recent.

I love what Vargas is accomplishing right now but I was struck by how excited other fans are. I listened to some of the radio post-game show yesterday on 710 KIRO and I couldn't believe some of the comments. One fan called Vargas a 20-game winner. Another implied that he compares favorably to Cole Hamels. Others talked about Felix and Vargas as one of the premiere one-two punches in the American League. In general, I got the sense that Jason Vargas is currently seen as more than a good pitcher in a good stretch. Has he ascended to a new level?

No.