Beer Brats without Baseball

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George H Bush, the former Yale first baseman knew, as did many other Presidents, that Beer Brats without Baseball rendered you almost unelectable. In fact, some believe that an Atheist will take control of the White House before any candidate caught eating Beer Brats without Baseball. They say it’s un-American.

I for one am proud to sharpen my brat eating skills during spring training, but with pictures like this surfacing prior to the primary, I admit that it may be too much for Firefox to overcome.

Pitchers and Catchers, and Kawasaki Report

30 Japanese Reporters, 2 from Seattle

Japanese All-Star Shortstop Munenori  Kawasaki in Camp

Where is all the Seattle Media?

Spring Training is up and running in Peoria Arizona, but somebody forgot to send the memo to Seattle media outlets. Mariner blogger Shannon Drayer is not present. Groz, Gas, Softy, Salk, Rizzs, Sims, Blowers, hello is anybody there? It seems that the only two reporters from Seattle actually present in Arizona are Mariners MLB.com beat writer Greg Johns and Seattle Times beat writer Geoff Baker. That’s it, two. The only news article on the MLB web site as of this posting was from the AP. Not a single entry in national outlets represented by Seattle writers.

Meanwhile according to the AP, the Island nation of Japan, still recovering from last year’s tsunami tragedy, has sent some 30 reporters to cover the Seattle Mariners spring training. Japan is going crazy over the Mariners again, and it’s not just Ichiro anymore, there’s Hisashi  Iwakuma, the free agent right-hander who looks to be a cinch for the 3rd spot in the rotation. The surprise in camp however, is the left-handed batting Kawasaki. Kawasaki is eager to steal the starting SS job. With his history of .300 hitting, it shouldn’t be too difficult to bump defensive specialist Brendan Ryan.

Then of course there is catcher Jesus Montero, reporting to his first Mariner camp. Projected as a future Hall of Famer and member of the 600 club since he was in diapers, Montero drew more attention from Seattle media in the days leading up to his trade for Michael Pineda, than he has his first day in uniform. Odd?

I’m not sure odd is the word I would use to describe the apathy that Seattle Media is showing toward this camp. Disinterested possibly? Or maybe, irresponsible? In a sports town with only two professional teams, I guess the media outlets have better things to do in the middle of February than fulfill their responsibility to the readers, listeners and viewers eager for a sniff of what’s going on there. For the real take on the Seattle Mariners this week, I guess I’ll have to turn to NHK or TV Japan.

Do the Mariners have Room for Saunders?

Just a quick reminder to Mariner Nation about the odds of Michael Saunders making this roster. Z’s efforts to re-build the farm system to some level of success gives us one of the best springs in years when it comes to outfield prospects, Saunders is not one of them, he is a hold-over from the pre-Jack Z era, and he has already had more chances with this club than any club would normally give. He got his chance and not only is it over, it’s a numbers game, let’s take a look:

Three seasons in a row Saunders has had more than 100 at bats with the Mariners. His career batting average after those three seasons and 572 at bats is .196. In his career he has more strikeouts 180, than hits 112 and walks 53 combined 165. When evaluating a prospect, 100 at bats is the magic number to see where he will end up, Saunders 572 is more than sufficient. Furthermore, most prospects that can hit, get better with time. Saunders has done just the opposite, he’s gotten worse every year, going from .221, to .211, to last season at .149. These numbers are absolutely dismal.

If you think this is bad, his power numbers are getting worse also. In 2010 he had 10 HR and 33 RBI, then last year dropped to 2 HR and 8 RBI. After three years as a professional athlete, any Front Office that gives this kind of production a roster spot is on thin ice. But do the Mariners have any better options than Saunders? I think so:

Of the outfield spots that will be available on this roster, we know that the first two will go to Ichiro and Guti. Next come proven players in Carp and Casper Wells. For those interested, this should be quite an interesting competition for the everyday starter in Left.

That takes up 4 roster spots for the outfield, so now we move on to the prospects trying to make the club rather than AAA. Of the remaining candidates, Trayvon Robinson, Chih-Hsien  Chiang, Johermyn Chavez and Carlos Peguero all show more promise and upside than Saunders. Of the four, how many roster spots do you think they are competing for? Probably 2, which leaves Saunders on the outside looking in. Of this deep group of prospects vying for the club, I am personally most interested in Chavez from Venezuela, this kid looks the part.

So my belief is simple, the proof is in the pudding with Saunders, he can’t hit and there isn’t room for him on the roster. So if he does break camp with the club, it’s for two reasons; so Z can maintain another year of club control over someone else and showcase Saunders to a National League team for trade bait. Unfortunately for Michael, I don’t think anyone is biting which is why I think he belongs in the stands and not the dugout.

Rangers Avoid Arbitration with Andrus

I have to commend the Texas Ranger front office for the outstanding turn around they made. After finishing last in the AL West in 2007 Ryan was able to blow some life and build a sense of urgency into that franchise. In three years he had them in a World Series, he stuck by his man Washington through some very tough times, and then goes back and does it all over again. And he did it right, by building an offense that punishes the other teams pitching, while building a staff of his own. Right now, Texas is the template that all teams wish they could follow.

Deals like Andrus make me believe that Texas will have every chance to do it again this year. So please whatever criticism you Ranger fans have over Darvish’s money or the loss of Wilson, look no further than a town that hates you very much. Here in Seattle we have a GM that tucked tail and bailed on his own guy Wakamatsu at the first sign of trouble. He gave up on Beltre because he couldn’t hit (if you can believe that) and now he’s resorted to desperation by trading an All-Star for a AAA prospect in the Pineda/Montero deal. If that deal doesn’t work Seattle will be sunk another 10 years.

But don’t think you’re out of the woods yet Texas, because if your bats don’t solve Pineda during the regular season this year, it might  be to your folly in the post season.

A More Patient Mariner Offense?

I’m not sure that patience and discipline are the best characteristics for this offense. Last year they ruled the roost when it came to taking pitches and getting walks. Even after Cust left they continued to rack up walks, but the runs never followed.

What I’d like to see in 2012 is a tight-fisted group of aggressive hitters reminiscent of a young Pete Rose. Wait just long enough to get the pitch you like and then crack it. Or in the words of Dave Henderson, see the ball hit the ball.

I Wouldn’t Want to Run Against Obama

People often ask me why I don’t run for President. Victor, they say, wouldn’t the world be better off with you in the White House? I really haven’t got an answer for them, because certainly it would. Yet I can’t help but feel that America’s not quite ready for my socially liberal conservatism. And like Hilary, I wouldn’t want to run against Obama. But is that all? In the name of worldwide prosperity, are there any other reasons Victor, that you wouldn’t run for President?

I will do my best over this election season to give you every reason to vote for someone else. My promise of concrete evidence to support the theory that any candidate out there may actually be better than I at ruling the world is certain to weigh greatly on the minds of a troubled electorate. For now all I can grant you is this one piece of truth; the truth that all presidents are judged by their dogs. As a man whose dog has been known to wear socks in the house, I believe my electability might come into question. See for yourself:

Friar

In Your White House?

Time to Own Up

Revisiting Summer’s NFL Predictions

Super Re-Match Belies a Thing or Two about Coaching

My 2011 NFL forecast was right about one thing, good coaching determines the Super Bowl. Of course, I said that Pete Carroll and Rex Ryan were my guys, let’s not forget that Coughlin and Belichek have their own say.

I believed in this strike-shortened season that coaching, quarterback play and defense were the ultimate determinates. I was right, although for most of the season we thought defense was out the window. The playoffs reminded us again that defense, red zone efficiency, and special teams are all matters of good coaching.

However, I was wrong to believe that Tarvaris Jackson could change his uniform and delivery anything different. Even with Pete Carroll at the helm of the Seahawks, they were clearly a team one quarterback away from the playoffs. The Jets? Rex’s ability to coach a team and not just a defense is still an open book.

As for the standings, I predicted that the Colts would finish last and the Broncos first. I predicted that the Ravens would finally steal the division from the Steelers. Except for two teams, I had the entire AFC Playoff picture correct.

As for the NFC West taking over as the power division, that is still a work in progress. The West finished 7-9 against the East, and if it were not for the Seahawks blowing a lead at home against Rex Grossman with 3 minutes left in the game, the two divisions would have finished 8-8 against each other. There is reason to believe that the scales will tip next year for a couple of reasons, primarily becasue two dysfunctional teams already have franchise quarterbacks in Dallas and Philly. I think the proof is in the pudding, and until those two cities go through complete re-builds, they are exactly what we see.

Washington stands to improve itself in the draft, and NY is light years beyond the rest of the division. What about the West? St Louis is obviously a team destine to improve along with the Cardinals and Kevin Kolb. SF proved they could battle with the elite in spite of Alex Smith, so here come the Seahawks.

In two seasons Pete Carroll and John Schneider have completely re-built the roster, established a smash-mouth-run-the-ball-down-your-throat offense, and a stop-the-run defense. Moreover, with three pro bowlers in their secondary, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner, it’s not even their fabulous defensive front that’s getting the credit. If you liked watching the 49er’s defense this year, wait until next season with Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant absolutely stuffing the line of scrimmage. Pete Carroll’s rebuilding process is done, except for one.

The talk is that Carroll will find a way to acquire Matt Flynn, who is now ready to step in and lead a team. If he does, the Seahawks instantly contend in the NFC. They already beat the Giants in New York. We know what they can do against the Saints. Harbaugh was lucky to win in both matchups against Carroll, but what if Matt Flynn is not available? Will Tannehill be the answer at 11 in the draft?

Those are questions for next month, when free agency opens and we get ourselves ready for the draft. For now, I say the Patriots win the Super Re-Match. No person in sports is as competitive as Tom Brady, and Belichek won’t lose twice to the same team. I say this one will go to the offense on both sides, so take the over.