It's February, and we M's fans are already three sheets to the wind, trying to hit the second baseman with batteries, leaning over too far on the follow and - falling out of the upper deck. You've gotta wonder what we'll be like once the first intrasquad game arrives. Gimme daps, man.
HEY! HEY, BLUE! No, not you, ump. The blue on the HORSE with the .357 MAG. Wing a few of ‘em down in front so we can catch some spring training here, wouldja?
For his first D-O-V brilliancy of the column, Dr. D would just like to point out that no one is plugged in as the number five. That's fairly safe to say, considering that nobody's plugged in as the number four, or the number three, for that matter. No, don't thank us. That's why they pay us the big bucks.
Nobody will be plugged in next week, either.
Over the next month, the roster will be weaving as left-and-right as a Rent-An-Ace at 1 a.m. the night before a big start. Is there any way we could NOT spill our sodys onto each other, after each head-fake towards the gutter?
Hold Up Those Golf "QUIET" Signs While We Think, Dept.
It is unnervingly true, however, that Ryan Franklin's Rotation Slot Number Five is bequeathed to a motley lookin' crue: Aaron Sele, Dan Reichert, Jorge Campillo, or, well, Ryan Franklin.
Which is a little like saying that first base will be given to Richie Sexson, or to Matt Stairs, or to Mario Mendoza. We're evaluating. Give us a second, can'tcha.
You will have noticed that Brian Price said earlier, "we need young help in the rotation." And you will notice that the Mariners promptly amputated their 5-slot choice down to the four oldest rotation candidates in camp, 1-2-3-4.
Realizing this, Mariners fans are entitled to stare hard at D-O-V, then over at the M's brain trust, then back to the stats sheets, then over to the brain trust again –
Red Sky At Morn, Mariners Be Warned, Read The Signs Of The Times, Dept.
So the Mariners spent the entire offseason talking about 2006-07 – and now then, they spend the first week of spring training whistling innocently, and moving their aircraft carriers into the Gulf for 2005 war.
Jose Lopez seemed like a good idea at the time – that time being, when the M's were hoping they'd lose. Just for the morbid fascination of watching a 116-win team lose a hundred. Now that the M's want to win, Lopez is stuffed as deep down into Tacoma as Chris Snelling's only pair of socks into the bottom of his carry-on. In Lopez' "build towards 2006-07" area, is a 32-year-old shortstop with an OBP of .271.
Clint Nageotte, Matt Thornton and Cha Seung Baek were the club's sweeties in 2004 – but now we see the M's fussing and fretting about desperately needing "consistency" in the rotation (read: "proven" starters like Sele and Franklin). Nageotte has as much chance of endorsing Speed Stick as he does of pitching for the 2005 Mariners. ("Keeps me talcum-powder dry. Even in those humid Texas doubleheaders!")
Scott Atchison, J.J. Putz, and George Sherrill were ready for Prime Time, as long as it wasn't Prime Time. Now, Brian Price not only nods benignly at the 51-year-old Jeff Nelson, but sells him as the critical right-hand matchup guy that the Mariners absolutely have to have.
This stampede towards the Proven Big Leaguer Leg Blanket Warmers could be excused a little. But stirred into this retread stew is the revelation that even Bobby Madritsch may be deemed too shaky a foundation for the 2005 Mariners' plans.
Telling us that three years was too much for Pudge, that one we could roll with. But this, gentlemen, is going too far.
D-O-V tosses all these banana peels and tin cans into the hopper and what spits out?
The 2005 Mariners brass is too focused on winning in 2005.
Never Trust A Big Bet If It Won't Look You In The Eye, Dept.
Okay, you are holding a full house. You just bet half the Monopoly money you have left on the table. The gumby across from you smiles, counts out your $5,000, adds $5,000 of his own, and looking you very steadily in the eye, extends his arm fully and drops the money in from a height of six inches. He stares at you, in obvious amusement, until you duck your head and look at your cards.
Call or fold?
In poker, it is the guy who will NOT look at you, who is HOPING you will call. That's the guy who thinks he has the best hand.
The guy who stares you down, is the guy who hopes you will FOLD. And you know what that means – he doesn't have a good hand.
Never bet into a guy who raises you and then sucks his personal aura in, studying an earwig on the edge of the table.
Hargove and Bavasi Bet Big, And Look Away Innocently, Dept.
Pat Gillick was master of the pot-splash – the big July raise, thrown into the pot from two feet away, and the big wild-eyed challenge, "I DARE YOU! C'MON C'MON CALL THISSSSSS, MEAT!" And, of course, he was holding a handful of nothing.
Bavasi talks about "players who can help us in 2006 and 2007," and then quietly shoves 2005-only players, like Sele and Nelson, onto the 25-man roster.
PHFWEET! Detect-O-Vision throws its first yellow flag of the year. We've got Loss Of Perspective, Deploying Re-Tread Pitchers In A Rebuild, 15 Yards Loss Of Down.
You can-NOT be SER-ious about Aaron Sele? Noting his Runs Above Replacement the last three years of -10.0, -19.1, and -8.6, Ron Shandler wrote "Poster boy for the adage, ‘It is better to have a horrible ending, than to have horrors without end.' " That'll do for us too. Except: PHFWEEEEEEEET! 20 yards. (I know.)
The Mariners see Aaron Sele as being 90% of Ryan Franklin, if they powerflush Franklin for other reasons not named here. This in turn would make Sele what? A two-month placeholder for Felix Hernandez. Dr. D sees Aaron Sele more as a guy he'd love to watch a ballgame with. Preferably the home opener.
But! If you're a baseball fan. Don't tell Dr. D that it doesn't make your inner child giggle. The M's want to win. You know you want it. The '05 Division - as in.
M's Fans Close Their Eyes And Hope, Dept.
Remember that Jim Belushi/Charles Grodin comedy, where Belushi, the convict, needs the warden to sink a 15-foot putt for Belushi's freedom?
Here we are. If Warden Hargrove sinks the putt and sorts the stars from the zombies, well, we get Campillo parole. So we all line up behind the Mexican star with the scowl, and start screaming, "HEAD DOWN ELBOW STRAIGHT FOLLOW THROUGH PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!"
The M's are definitely overconcerned with "veteran consistency," which is forgivable because it means they want it too bad. The 2005 division, that is.
But M's fans have a single out clause here: Jorge Campillo.
Campillo reported to camp with a "two in a row" changeup, which calls to mind Joe Morgan's bench interview in Ball Four. Morgan strikes out for Houston in a pennant-race game and, coming back to the bench, is interviewed by a sympathetic teammate who wields a rolled-up magazine as a microphone. Paraphrasing:
"Joe, Joe Morgan, can you tell us what pitch that was you struck out on?"
"Jim, that was a ‘Two In A Row Change.'"
"Joe, can you tell us the difference between a ‘Two In A Row Change' and a regular changeup?
"Sure, Jim. Your regular change, the pitcher takes a little off his fastball, kinda keeps you from loading up. You can read it pretty early and if he centers it, you can tee off.
"Now, your ‘Two In A Row Change', your Radke change, that's different. The pitcher's arm comes through harder it does on his fastball. The ball comes out of the bozo's hand looking 90 mph because your eyes track with the hand. As you start your swing, whoooom – the ball slows down in midair and next thing you know, it's chicken-pluckin' strike three."
"Thank you, Joe Morgan."
NASA Phase II Diagnostics on Asteroid Campillo reported the Two In A Row change, as well as a 90-92 fastball thrown "so that the catcher didn't have to move his mitt all day."
One outstanding ‘net scout, down in Peoria, reported Campillo's workout thusly:
Campillo was VERY impressive. He was throwing pitch sequences like
All on the money, good velocity 90-92+ on the FB and pinpoint control.
He keeps this up and there will be a lot of re-calculating of the rotation. He would be an excellent 4-5 and a solid number #3 if need be.
Um, no. He keeps that up and there will be a lot of re-calculating the 2005 MLB season. Campillo, if he brings that papaya in big league games, will be no Brad Radke and certainly not a solid #3. He will be Jim Hunter... on the day that Catfish threw a perfecto.
For some strange reason, D-O-V seems to be the only machine around that recognizes the limitations of MLB hitters. Why is D-O-V constantly correcting our ‘net amigos on this stuff? "Yeah, this Steve Kansas kid was very impressive for the first day. Threw 108 and killed three catchers this morning. Spinocranial trauma traversed through the metatarsal bones, said the coroner. They are really going to have to take a long look at Kansas for the 5-slot."
I love y'guys, but y'do crack me up. Find me an MLB pitcher with true plus-plus command, and a true plus-plus change, who is NOT a star? You can't find any. And the reason you can't find any, is because there aren't any. MLB stars like Dennis Eckersley, Catfish Hunter and Dan Quisenberry had absolutely nothing EXCEPT teacup control.
If later ‘Asteroid Campillo' scans confirm this "70" command along with a Radke change, much less add in a late-biting slider, then Campillo is an MLB star, end of story.
C'mon, what do you think Greg Maddux does? He paints and changes speeds. MLB hitters can only cover so much at a time.
Is it possible that the 26-year-old Campillo turned the corner this last year, and took a huge leap forward? I dunno. Is it possible that Ben Sheets and Johan Santana did?
30,000-foot View Dept.
So the M's have gathered Reichert, Sele, Franklin, and Campillo and sat them down in a Lamaze circle to share feelings as to who should take the 5 slot.
The Sele talk means one thing. M's fans now should be lining up behind Campillo, eyes clenched, chewing our collars in fear, like Jim Belushi standing behind the warden's putt. Cam-Pi-Yo!
But then that leaves us with another question.
So who's number four? Bobby Madritsch or Felix Hernandez?
Mercy, son. It's the third day of spring training. I don't think my heart can take it.