Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mariners Lost At Sea

Just like the age-old chicken and egg question, it’s always hard to figure out who between a GM and a manager should be fired first. Should the GM be fired for assembling poor talent or should the manager be fired because he’s not getting the most out of his players? Sometimes the answer is obvious and sometimes it isn’t.

In the case of the 2008 Seattle Mariners – a major league worst 25-47 (.347) – I thought they made the right call by firing GM Bill Bavasi on Monday. After all, he was the architect of a team that ranked 11th or lower (out of 14) in the following categories: FP% (11th), BAA (12th), WHIP (12th), AVG (13th), ERA (13th), DER (13th), OBP (14th), SLG (14th), R (14th). In short, this was a team that ranked in the bottom of every major mainstream hitting, pitching, and fielding statistic.

To make matters worse, Mariners management had deluded itself into thinking that the 2007 season indicated good things to come for 2008. After reaching their high-water mark of 18 games over .500 in the season’s 21st week (8/20-26/07) and leading the AL Wild Card by 2 games over the Yankees, the Mariners lost seven straight games and 11 of their next 13. While this losing streak and eventual ouster from playoff contention would seem to be a simple collapse and not indicative of any deeper problems, the M’s were outperforming their Pythagorean Wins projection by 8.5 games at their peak. In effect, they spent the entire 2007 season as a big fluke. Instead of realizing this, they traded their #1 (Adam Jones), #4 (Tony Butler), and #8 (Chris Tillman) prospects for Erik Bedard, thinking that the ex-Orioles ace would be the missing piece to a division title.

Fast forward to this year’s debacle where the M’s announced the firing of Manager John McLaren today. While McLaren may or may not be the right man for the job, it certainly doesn’t appear to me that he had much talent to mold into a division champion. The Mariners overachieved last year and management should’ve realized this and expected a regression. Instead, they fooled themselves into believing last year’s success was attainable, mortgaged the future, and are worse in the short and long term. McLaren shouldn’t be taking the fall for Bavasi’s ineptitude.

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