Tag Archives: illuminati

Everyone Needs A Hobby

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] S [/dropcap] eems appropriate at this point in time, in light of a few recent victories that could be readily classified as very un-Mariners insofar as said victories were not only emphatic but, in a way, expected, to address the elephant in the room: this Mariners’ season has coincided with the invention and subsequent growth of the blog you are reading today. Luckswing may be responsible for the Mariners’ successes.

What are the things required as a winning baseball team? Good players are certainly nice. Baseball is a good place for identifying good players because the numbers over large sample sizes tend to allow for some pretty well-thought predictions as to a players’ future successes  and failures. That being said, Chris Young sort of flies in the face of that. Chris Young sort of flies in the face of everything though. The term “Flies in the face of” is an unexamined idiom. Idioms are pretty much always unexamined which is why idiomatic language pretty much never translates well between languages. They just do not make sense divorced from the cultural context that birthed them. To shatter the generalization I just made, apparently this particular idiom’s origins involve some rural-ass scenario where a hen flies in the face of whatever predator, probably some canine like the dogs we keep as pets or the foxes we wish we could keep as pets, attacks her. So basically Chris Young is waging an assault against conventional metrics and expectations fueled by sheer farm-animal-desperation and he, like the rest of this improbable team, is succeeding.

Now that we have introduced improbability and desperation into the scenario, let us subsequently introduce the creation of this blog and by doing so really obviously connote (the words obvious and connote are also indirectly competing words but fuck you) that there was a certain degree of desperation in this blog’s creation—the quiet sort of desperation that manifests itself in really boring symptoms from probably more boring causes.

Luckswing was created, in a way, out of desperation. It shouldn’t take any reader a very long time to realize that this blog is more of a hobby than a job. Jobs pay you money and are almost by definition boring. If you think your job is exciting, there is a fairly decent chance that you are a habitual abuser of anti-depressants and are rapidly accelerating towards a hell of a wake-up call or you simply haven’t worked at your job for a very long time.

Hunter S. Thompson has a quote for this scenario that I have liked for some time: “Old whores don’t giggle.” Seems simple enough given a brief, cursory look. Great job on that first glance because it is every bit as simple as it seems initially or “out of the gate,” (to further estrange this from whatever subaltern other we feel like alienating today by using more idiomatic language).

Fuck it though. Let’s dig into the aforementioned simple-ass quotation just for funsies. Sex is fun and that is probably the jump-off point Hunter is trying to construct to then jump to the second axiom “jobs are boring” and see where he gets from there. Sex is fun because the chemical response to orgasm is literally a volcanic eruption of fun-chemicals attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endogenous morphine. But that is not all that there is. Obviously this is not the case. There is a different part of people who enjoy sex because it intrinsically validates a perception that is browbeaten into young people in American society and likely several other societies as well: the idea that the subject, male or female, can attain objects of their sexual desire and in doing so simultaneously validate their own need to be desired as well. It is the exultation in possessing and being possessed. Feelings of attachment post-sex make sense because the act correlates so strongly with notions of objectification that it will usually take real, mental work to adopt the kind of loosey-goosey collegiate attitude towards sex that most people can only get or at least pretend to get once they have done it enough. But even then, this work can often only be internally justified if the sexual subject is themselves confident of their own ability to possess multiple objects and thereby require less of an attachment to just the one, in which case they are more a collector than anything and they still covet the sexual object of possession but in their case what they covet is less of a single entity and more of a state of mind whose passivity is only supported by the ability to switch into successful attainment of a unique object at any given point in time. Basically this is like the Spotify of people fucking each other and similar to Spotify once your wifi connection ends up sucking i.e. you get fat or old and can no longer possess the multifarious objects of attainment at will any longer and are forced to either A) settle down, a term that explicitly includes the uncomfortably connoted “settle” or B) die cold and alone with your better years behind you and the distinct feeling that you may have wasted whatever energy you had on something that ended up being about as frivolous as a heroin addiction except perhaps even more expensive if you managed to knock/get knocked up along the way.

Neither of these seem like good options, which is why people will struggle with notions of “want” wherein they claim to want somebody to see past their own ability to be objectified and bitch and moan and wail about how nobody perceives the real them when in reality the only “real” thing under the surface essentially is anxiety regarding the desirability of the surface. Sucks to suck, as they say.

Ignoring all of that, let’s just accept the supposition that yeah, sex is fun. If that is the case then sex as a job is inviting tedium into what should be qualified as an escape from tedium. That is essentially Hunter’s point then when he says that “Old whores don’t giggle.” Any activity when pursued for and subsequently equated to financial benefit for too long shifts from having its end as something pleasant to having its end as something we deem necessary. It becomes an act of survival and the performance of that act repetitively until elevated to the rank of “profession” becomes just a faculty or aptitude, an adaptation for capitalist survival.

Fun things become un-fun very quickly when you are forced to participate in these activities against your will for extended periods of time for fiscal compensation that is in no way related to the object, subject or product of your labor but is instead a function of whether or not you are doing whatever it is you told somebody you were going to be doing for money. Somebody thinks that what you are doing for work is worthwhile. They have to. “Worth” is even in the fucking word and worth in this context is referring to money. To then retranslate the sentence above: Someone is giving you money to do something that they think is worth money. If they are paying you to do something that they did not think was worth money, then they are either extremely generous people or clinically insane and these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive in the least.

Operating within the worth-as-fiscal-compensation paradigm it is pretty easy to see that this site, what I am doing presently, is “worthless.” Writing doesn’t intrinsically benefit anyone if your notion of benefit is restricted to those things that allow you to, as they say, “put food on the table” or “pay the bills” or whatever else. Earning money for doing something has become the human equivalent of being say, a hunter or a gatherer, except that in this case there are actually just a few entities providing the necessary elements to living such as food and shelter while the rest of us basically just wallow in our own compensatory filth. Homeless or unemployed people in this setting become sort of the equivalent of a lion with a broken leg or a really lazy vulture and basically have no place in the edifice we have constructed over time beginning with whatever fuck thought capitalism as a system was a good idea when really it was just a way to create a society that flits from distraction to distraction and constructs flimsy, lazy narratives to ascribe meaning to what is essentially a living breathing game of flappy-bird untowards death with the worst part about that ride being the fact that we evolved to realize how pointless it is and in so evolving now strive to counter that helpless feeling by assembling a meaning as to “why” we have this awareness when really all we want is a compelling reason to stick our fingers in our ears going ”LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA.”

So yeah, blogging is worthless. It compounds its worthlessness by virtue of it being but one of many blogs amidst an absolute sea of un-edited unrestricted buttfuckery that plagues every deep corner of the internet—millions of people advocating their right to be heard without realizing that the cacophony of the group and the singular lack of specialness inherent to each individual entity makes their voice but one dissonant tone amidst a garbled scream that sounds like a stadium filled with teenage girls all enacting some sort of reverse-peristaltic apocalypse. Word vomit. It’s like Mean Girls, basically.

So yeah. This site was created as one of those voices amidst the cacophony-orchestra (the cacophestra?) as a means to exert some sense of voice or will or something that is pointless. If the rantings and ravings of this post haven’t made it abundantly clear how I feel on the matter there is this tidbit: participating in activities for one’s own survival are necessary but necessity is not enjoyable and necessity does not satisfy the “want” to feel as though the ever-elusive and ever-self-deluding “I” has a voice separate from its efficacy within a system of buying and selling.

The worst way to conceive of this voice is the whole “My voice matters, I am going to change the world, blah blah blah.” These are the words of deluded millionaires and their children-turned-sofa-activists who probably aren’t even 100% sure what their definition would be of “the world” and certainly do not seem conscious of the fact that the pedestal for ignored reform and change is itself a luxury inherited by being born to the royalty of the system they pretend to hate. Seems kind of shitty that “change the world” has become a cliché, but it has. The whole notion of changing the world has become one wherein it is less important that this nebulous “world” has changed but rather that the person wants it to be themselves who have changed it and thereby validate their status as a precious little snowflake for which there is none other so special and unique and just lovely.

So instead: Sports! Why not? Has there ever been anything as meaningless as opining as to the outcomes of events structured within arbitrary rule-sets for which people are paid millions of dollars to skip their formative educations and hit round things with sticks? There probably has! But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t some pretty meaningless shit we are hitting on here. This is the point. If you ever find yourself taking things too seriously or losing grasp on the meaningless expressions within life’s little hell-ride towards extinction than you do so at your own loss. You lose the joy of, “wow that orgasm sure was nice” and creep ever closer to Hunter Thompson’s hypothetical whore being dully pounded into oblivion without so much as batting an eyelid and all of those little giggles become yawns and you have turned pointless hobby into vocation into job into total bore.

So now we can make claims like, “The Mariners’ successes coincide with Luckswing being created. We are responsible for their success.” Why not? I invite all readers to come bury their heads in the sand with us. Everyone needs a hobby, right?

#BREAKING: CHRIS BROUSSARD ADMITS TO INVENTING PERSONA TO SAY ALL THE THINGS HE REALLY MEANT TO SAY ON SPORTSCENTER

According to sources inside the ESPN organization that are familiar with the situation (and are definitely not part of the entourage/pulling things out of their ass), Chris Broussard has invented a twitter persona @LetMeBGreatt to say all the things he wants to say on Sports Center, but isn’t allowed to say per company policy, FCC regulations and the general unspoken laws of polite human interaction.

Sources confirm that immediately following a segment wherein Broussard confirmed a source confirming insider confirming an agent confirming Lebron James willingness to stay with the Miami Heat, Broussard lost his shit.

“Fuck this!” Broussard allegedly told his social media intern. “These white people are too fuckin’ stuffy with their J.J. Beane catalogs and New England sensibilities.  I gotta let my motherfuckin’ freak flag fly on this motherfuckin’ social network site, bruh!”

Following in the footsteps of Jonny Manziel, Broussard admitted to our sources that he had gotten fed up with being forced to pretend to be so buttoned up, and in a recent self-rediscovery binge watched Boyz N The Hood, Above The Rim and Juice, simultaneously rekindling his love affair with Dead Prez, Wu Tang and Immortal Technique.

Recently the account claiming the handle @LetMeBGreatt popped up with sharp criticism of the sports-media-circus-complex:

Y’all swear y’all know how NBA players think

— $corpio ☕️ (@LetMeBGreatt) July 3, 2014

 

Then Broussard got nostalgic:

My Kobe jersey I got when I was like 13 is my pajamas tonight & still fits

— $corpio ☕️ (@LetMeBGreatt) July 3, 2014

 

Then it got personal:

 

In a twist worthy of a Steve Soderbergh flick (and perhaps fearing that his secret would be found out), Broussard turned the sharp sword of his avant garde twitter nom be plume on himself:

Re-evaluating Past Success and Scuffles: The Logan Morrison Story

With another series win over the Boston Red Sox, the Mariners have vaulted themselves forward in the standings amidst another manic episode within the context of their season’s untreated bi-polar disorder.

Having won 6 games in a row before finally dropping one to the Sox, the Mariners continue to not surprise, but rather amuse, as they toe the line between a team that looks unbeatable and a team that looks utterly inept on offense as so many Mariners squads in past years have appeared.

And yet, in this maddening sea of inconsistency, reality does actually align ever so delicately to expectations, with perhaps a smidgeon of optimism crème-fresh-ed on top.

Let us ignore what we have seen before and what has, by virtue of being old, become stale and tired. Robinson Cano continues to be exactly what we need him to be—a reliable source of offense within the middle of the order. Seager continues to produce every couple days or so, as his season continues to trend towards the best of his career but in that particularly awesome, unflashy, 5’11” way that Seager does it. Zunino has hit 4 dingers in the past 5 games and will inevitably suck for another month or so while playing some pretty spectacular defense behind the plate.

Ignore.

Let’s talk instead about Logan Morrison.

Logan Morrison became a forgotten character fairly quickly in his first Mariners’ season. He played very inconsistently and, despite having what was at worst a pretty average spring, he seemed to garner quite a bit of hate among the folks lurking around the usual Mariners internet-haunts such as Lookout Landing and U.S.S. Mariner.

I personally have always been, if not a believer, then at least a proponent of Logan Morrison as experiment. It seemed to me that there were worse things the Mariners could do than simply run the guy out there and see if he had anything to provide. Admittedly, the injuries were there and they weren’t exactly minor injuries either. But, looking upon his acquisition from a perspective that assumes a return to health, we can see that the Mariners may have lucked out huge when trading rosey-cheeked and basically useless Carter Capps for Lomo this offseason.

Let’s look at Logan Morrison’s rookie season. The 2 years since that season and the statistics that accompany said years should themselves be accompanied by a huge motherfuckin asterisk. Lomo was playing hurt. In addition to that one particular piece of adversity, he was also playing for an organization that didn’t seem to want anything to do with him, at one point even demoting him to AAA under some flimsy pretense to reprimand him for being too much of a beast on twitter. 

Let us look at a couple of quick lines side by side.

G BA OBP SLG OPS HR RBI OPS+
100 .218 .307 .371 .678 13 48 82
123 .247 .330 .468 .797 23 72 116

 

Those rows represent the statistics for Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison, each in their age-23 seasons. Morrison’s line is the decent one. Smoak’s is predictably the one that is terrible.

Both Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison were highly touted prospects as they moved through the Rangers and Marlins organizations, respectively. Smoak has played semi-regularly since he was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade by the Mariners and, for whatever reason, we have been subjected to him on a consistent basis since that time. Morrison came up with the Marlins and produced right away, showing the power that blew scouts away as a prospect—with his HR numbers from his slightly-abridged age-23 season prorating to 30+ over the course of 162 games. Smoak has never hit 23 HRs in a season. Lomo did it more or less instantaneously upon his first call-up.

Now, this is glossing over a pretty substantial period of time during which Morrison fell entirely from grace in Miami. He suffered a couple major leg injuries that kept him off the field for prolonged stretches and limited his effectiveness during those times he made it onto the field. He has said himself that he rushed himself back. Could you chalk this up to simply an excuse? Maybe. Though it certainly seems a plausible explanation for a dip in production from a player who is still just 26 years old. It is unlikely that the skills that produces the numbers above simply vanished. They were simply masked by injuries until frustration caused the Marlines to ship him off for what may end up being a pretty sub-par return, though Capps’ does have projectable stuff if he gets his shit together.

Smoak, by contrast, has been more or less healthy for his years in Seattle and has never so much as allowed us a glimpse of comparable offensive upside to what Lomo brings to the table. Smoak has also been a first baseman his entire career, a position where offensive production is expected for any team to have a chance to even feign competency. Lomo and Smoak have both been terrible for a couple years, but Lomo was terrible with a half-broken leg, Smoak’s terribleness is just par for the motherfucking course.

We have seen Lomo come on for the Mariners in a big way the past few games. His 4 for 4 night with multiple HRs was eye-opening to be sure—though if we pay attention than maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. He will undoubtedly have plenty of slums in the near future and maybe some hot streaks similar to the one he has presently, that is just part of the game. What matters though is that Lomo appears to be 100% healthy and if the potential he showed as a rookie was any indication, a healthy Logan Morrison provides another presence in the middle of the order that the Mariners sorely need.

Oh yeah, and he is hilarious on twitter.

Leave Smoak in AAA. Lomo party.

#BREAKING, JESUS MONTERO TESTED POSITIVE FOR STEROIDS OR SOMETHING UPON EATING A BURGER FROM THOSE DUDES WHO WERE THE BAD GUYS IN “GOOD BURGER”

Remember Jesus Montero? The catcher who couldn’t catch but could presumably hit (read: eat)?

Turns out he wasn’t very good at either. Jesus spent most of last year rolling around the basepaths as his weight continued to fluctuate and his potential continued to wither on the vine. At least he would roll around the basepaths if he ever got on base. But, lost in the general awfulness of his performance in 2013 is that said terrible underachieving performance was also aided by cheating. This means that he had to cheat to be terrible.

But there is more to this story than meets the eye!

Upon further testing and an ongoing investigation into both Montero’s suspension as well as local burger place “Mondo Burger” (Noted rival to “Good Burger” which is apparently oft overlooked by locals despite a very tasty and yet a little bit too ambiguously crafted, ingredient-wise, sauce) our source revealed that Montero’s suspension was actually due to the consumption of whatever the bad guys from the movie Good Burger put into their burgers to make them huge. Air? Chemicals? Chemical air?

Regardless, we can now blame Disney villains for Montero’s suspension. That, and his penchant for eating the largest thing within arm’s reach at any time.

We will now expend our covert source’s resources to pin Ryan Braun’s suspension on the Icelandic Youth Hockey Team from Mighty Ducks 2.

#BREAKING PHIL MICKELSON ACCUSED OF INSIDER TRADING FOLLOWING A STRING OF ACTUALLY SHREWD INVESTMENTS UNTIL AUTHORITIES REALIZED HE WAS ALREADY AN UPPER-MIDDLE CLASS WHITE PERSON

phil mickelson

Authorities looking into Phil Mickelson’s recent string of successful investments had initially been willing to go ahead and prosecute Mickelson for insider training, on the grounds that he was a professional athlete actually profiting from his investments. 

“When we noticed he was spending his money on safe, profitable, well thought-out investments that was an absolute red flag. He hadn’t bought a single one of his friend’s restaurants, and as far as we could tell, hadn’t even thought about self-producing an album.”

Upon further digging, however, authorities changed their tune. 

“Turns out he is a professional golfer who was already pretty wealthy prior to his success in the sport. Guy doesn’t even own a single Wendy’s.” 

“We have literally never seen this before.”

Mariners diddle mediocrity, Kyle Seager flirts with a perhaps underestimated ceiling

 

The Mariners, having recently crushed the Yankees in their own stadium for the third time in a row, have crawled back above .500, continuing the trend where they diddle with mediocrity while various players experience cavernous lows and inexplicable highs—often in such a way as to balance out the latter with the former, producing the same sort of mediocrity you see now except typically worse because, you know, Jason Bay.

The Mariners story this year was supposed to be one of change- like Barack Obama in the 2004 Presidential election, these bleeding-heart liberal fuckers just don’t know when to quit! Yet, similar but also not at all similar to Obama’s reign as supreme high sultan of the White House, the Mariners are not changed insofar as they are relying on new faces, they are changed instead by the increased production of old ones.

Utterly worthless analogies aside, much was made regarding Robinson Cano’s arrival with the Mariners this past offseason—and reasonably so. Cano came with an enormous price tag. The money Cano received to be the Mariners’ second baseman for the next 10 years was more than “go buy yourself a new car” sort of money; it more closely approximated “Sylvio Burlesconi sodomizing 15 Italian prostitutes in a pile of cocaine” sort of money.

Cano has been very good yet simultaneously disappointing since his arrival. He is without question the steadiest source of offense on the squad and far less prone to the precipitous ups and downs that plague even the more talented and productive of the Mariners’ other offensive contributors. That being said, the power numbers have yet to show up. Admittedly, this has hindered his production, as his slugging percentage is presently sitting well below his career average. Though really, anyone who thinks this is a long-term issue is a buffoon. Cano did not forget how to hit dingers out of the blue. In fact, Cano is not even a guy whose offensive game is predicated around trying to hit the ball out of the park all of the time anyway. Cano likes to spray the ball around the field. In doing so, he achieves a level of consistency that most Mariners (who commonly feature all-or-nothing approaches spurred by either the ignorance of youth or the ignorance of their coaching staff) lack.

If this sounds familiar, then you are one of about 20 people to have read my prior post from about a month ago pertaining to Kyle Seager. In this post I discussed Seager’s approach at the plate as well as his batted ball profile. Seager is a fly ball hitter who tends to pull the ball to right field—that is his greatest asset but it is also one of the reasons that his production tends to fluctuate between the frigid, Regina George-esque slump with which he entered the season and the zesty, Michelle Rodriguez-style hot streak that he has been riding ever since.

Guys who pull the ball and guys who hit the ball in the air suffer when the ball doesn’t leave the yard. These same guys tend to post below average BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) as well. Both of these trends make sense as most fly balls that do not go for dingers tend to be caught by the oft very good and in the worst case probably adequate fielders who are literally paid millions of dollars to ensure these balls do not touch the ground. Further, by pulling the ball all the time those few ground balls that these types of hitters DO hit are far more likely to be gobbled up by the shift—something that has become increasingly en-vogue in Major League Baseball since managers have apparently realized finally that you do not need to look like David Ortiz in order to pull the ball all of the goddamn time.

As I discussed earlier, Kyle Seager will get his. That has been proven over the course of two years and I am of the mind that the numbers Seager has had in the past will likely resemble the numbers he puts up in the near future, until age and injury eventually catch up to him, though those two events may exist in a place relatively far in the future.

All that being said, I think I (and other like-minded Mariners’ fans) may have been unfair to Seager in making this assumption. The Mariners have been so consistently terrible over the past few years that our appreciation for Seager has probably been greater than say, a fan of the Red Sox rooting for a similar player over a similar period of time. We have not been accustomed to good players, so when we have actually had one, we cherish him and do not demand any more than the 3.6 WAR that Seager seems readily capable of. In adopting that sort of mindset, however, we lose some of the space for hope in terms of progressing towards something even better than what we have now.

It is possible that Seager, as of right now, is simply in the midst of one of his many hot streak to which we have become accustomed. He will ride this wave of productivity like Patrick Swayze in Point Break until the wave crashes and he dies and comes back to haunt his wife like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I can live with that progression, as the hot and cold streaks have thus far happily balanced out to an effective aggregate product. But I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t more to see here.

Seager is only 26 years old. He came out the same year Ackley did and while Ackley is commonly pegged as somebody to whom the “Breakout Candidate” tag can be fairly attached; Seager is represented as a guy who has reached his potential and will coast until decline inevitably seizes him by the balls and renders him old, wealthy and chubby with a flaccid power stroke and a struggling libido.

But why not discard this notion and instead believe that this is Seager’s breakout year. In doing so we are taking a leap of faith only insofar as Seager’s stature indicates a player whose ceiling could not possibly be that high. But hey, is that really a fair judgment to make, seeing as that same player with that same stature has been crushing dingers like these to right fields all over the league for 2 years and doing so with only about 2 years of major league experience under his belt?

I’m hardly guaranteeing that this is the case. In fact, I really doubt that it is. That being said though, why not wish for something better? It has been a long time since we have had a homegrown position player who has panned out as someone who contributes. It has been even longer since we have had a homegrown talent who has become a star. Seager is 26 years old and should only now be entering the prime of his career. He has been tearing the cover off the ball.

Who says he can’t keep it up?

Go Mariners.

The Steroid-era and the appreciation of good pitching

It occurs to me that there are not quite as many Major League Baseball fans as once there were in our once proud nation. Some say that the game has lost its luster in the relative offensive doldrums that have followed the otherwise ridiculous steroid-era, where 40 HRs in a season was commonplace and any rube with a television could tune in and “oooh” and “ahh” at the superhuman feats of strength on zoo-like display daily.

What we have figured out subsequent to the steroid-era is that those superhuman feats were in fact….superhuman. As in, those people were doing things human beings were not actually supposed to be doing, because they were doing things that human beings in a professional athletic setting are LITERALLY not supposed to be doing i.e. shooting human growth hormone into each other’s asses like it was going out of style.

In many ways, this is something to lament. The game of baseball was at the core of my upbringing. My relationship with my father growing up was largely predicated upon going to baseball games, watching games on TV, and otherwise talking about what was happening in the offseason when baseball was away for a few months. Say what you will about whether or not this was a healthy way to bond with one’s father- but it worked for us, and continues to do so.

Baseball has a certain mystique to it that many in our generation fail to appreciate- and I think this lack of nuanced understanding is as much a symptom of the plain, unexamined brutishness of the steroid-era as it is a product of the growing popularity of the NFL/NBA. I think most ardent baseball fans can readily relate to this. Most friends I have had are more or less completely uninterested in baseball, readily offering up the lazy adjective “boring” when defending their lack of aforementioned interest. Aside from being completely fucking un-American, this sort of critique of the game is less a critique of the sport itself and more a revelation of a lack of understanding for its most important aspect: pitching.

Good pitching is a fine wine- it is meant to be enjoyed casually, slowly, with that certain air of sophistication that comes with the appreciation of something fine. There is an intentionality to pitching that makes the truly great pitchers seem more akin to artists than athletes; completely in control, the great ones take a sport like baseball and transform it into an overt testament to the skill of the individual.

Power hitting, conversely, is a group of people butt-chugging box-wine in a public place as blacked-out onlookers cheer on in guttural, animalistic tones, spittle and dip-spit flying from their mouths as they exhort their compatriots to greater acts of depravity. Every white shirt within a mile is stained pink and there isn’t a woman in sight. Sometimes, bikes are involved.

Breathe the free air again my friend

The one requires effort and understanding from the audience. A truly great pitching performance is boring to those without the patience to sit back in a recumbent pose and appreciate that the dominant suppression of offense can be every bit as impressive and enjoyable as the satisfaction one sees when runs are put on the board. The other solicits the edge-of-your-seat excitement that people have come to expect from sports, to the extent that exhibitions of skill have become instead exhibitions of physical freak-shows.

Casual fans of baseball have seen so much of the freak-show, that their pallets have been dulled to the appreciation of some of the finer aspects of the game. Headlines have reported that offense has been suppressed league-wide and the articles subsumed under these headlines have then connoted that this is somehow a symptom of an ill, rather than the result of some brilliant young pitchers who have come to the Major Leagues wise beyond their years, having labored ceaselessly to become artisans rather than mere laborers, pitchers rather than mere “throwers.”

Tonight we get the opportunity to watch a true professional pitcher at work in Hisashi Iwakuma. For those who like pitching, Iwakuma is a joy to watch.

Despite a relatively flat, hittable fastball, Iwakuma hits his spots and then wipes hitters out with a splitter that is one of the best pitches in baseball. For those familiar with the Mariners, Felix Hernandez’ changeup is a reasonable analogue. 

Iwakuma’s split is anywhere from 84-88MPH with great late bite. It is the pitch that allows his entire repertoire to function. Fans of the Yankees have recently had the opportunity to watch Masahiro Tanaka obliterate hitters over in the AL East with a similar pitch. The Split is presently en vogue in Major League Baseball and it is hard to deny its effectiveness. To the batter’s eye, the pitch shows similar rotation to the fastball until it dives sharply downward with some additional arm-side run. In Iwakuma’s case, the pitch dives away from lefties and down towards the back foot of righties.

The pitch has limited platoon splits, and even the threat of it causes hitters to let fastballs in the zone by for easy strikes early in counts. By mixing the pitches with professionalism and deception, guys like Iwakuma can make opposing lineups extremely uncomfortable, forcing some bad swings and misses as well as freezing more immature hitters with otherwise hittable fastballs.

So, if you have a friend who thinks baseball is boring- have them watch a game where Iwakuma is pitching and force them to look up from their fucking smart phones while he is on the mound. It is impossible to make someone love the game if they grew up completely uninterested by it, but at the very least it should be possible for them to appreciate a professional who has honed his craft to be the best at what he does. This isn’t weight-room bullshit. This is smart pitching by a normal, kind of skinny guy from Japan who has made millions of dollars through tireless effort honing his craft.

If that isn’t worth watching, there is always Franzia.

 

 

 

 

The Seattle Mariners, reclaimers of optimism

The Mariners recently decided to take 3 of 4 games from the Oakland A’s. They wrapped the series with a completely unnecessary doubleheader yesterday brought on by a situation earlier in the year where Oakland’s poverty literally leaked on to the field of play, turning it into a Swamp of Sadness-equivalent and resulting in several of the Mariners’ ponies losing the will to live, languishing in the muck adrift in their own sense of desperate apathy, the faint call to carry on muted through the mufflers of their own helplessness until they were utterly submerged.

 

Yesterday’s doubleheader played itself out in about the oddest way imaginable. The Mariners picked up a win in the first game, going to extras following a weird start by Felix Hernandez in which we didn’t appear to have any of his pitches working. Felix surrendered eleven hits and 3 runs, yet the Mariners, behind a couple well-timed dingers by team strongmen Hart and Zunino managed to make it out alive from a game where Yoervis fucking Medina was credited for the win. Oddness.

 

The second game saw a resurgent Erasmo Ramirez return briefly from AAA in order to turn in possibly his most serviceable effort of the season, going 6 innings and allowing only 2 earned runs in the process. The problem in this second game was offense, which seems to hardly be surprising when the lineup includes the corpse of Brad Miller, Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero. I understand we want righties in the lineup but you need to have quality right handed hitters for this to make sense. If I want beer but don’t have any beer I don’t start fermenting my own urine. The Mariners are fermenting their own urine. It smells like Bloomquist’s grit.

 

A big positive to come out of the 1st of these two games is James Jones’ play in center field. The guy looks infinitely superior to anybody else the Mariners have wheeled out there since Franklin Gutierrez was patrolling center. He made a fantastic diving catch in the seventh inning and made a few excellent plays in the early innings besides. His routes look rather…sober…compared to those we have become accustomed to with Abe Almonte scurrying about. To cap it all off he flashed a plus throwing arm and was able to reach base a few times as well.

 

I still have no fucking clue why McClendon went ahead and slotted him in the 2 hole for his first start in the Major Leagues, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief if the guy continues to play well because frankly, the Mariners need good defensive outfielders to man center and if he can make the tiniest bit of noise at the plate and on the base paths I think he could be a valuable addition moving forward. The tools are there, if the polish can come with it on the job, then welcome to the squad Mr. Jones.

 

The Mariners are heading home following a road trip that took them to a game above .500 where they will be taking on the Kansas City Royals who presently mirror the M’s location around the mythical .500 line. Royals fans probably expected more from their squad moving into 2014—they experienced one of their better seasons in recent memory last year and have been posturing as though gripped by a win-now mindset as evidenced by their (probably idiotic) trade of former No.1 prospect in all of baseball, Will Myers, for serviceable former Rays’ starter James Shields.

 

The trade reeked of the same desperation-spunk surrounding the Mariners’ trade for disgruntled Canadian injury-enthusiast Erik Bedard in which we gave up Adam Jones, now a perennial All-Star for the Orioles and emerged no closer to “winning now” than we had been before, with the added caveat of lacking even the “winning then” that perhaps Jones could have helped with.

 

In that sense—I feel for the Royals’ fan base as a similarly afflicted bunch. The Royals also have several home grown positional prospects-turned-regulars who have taken forever to develop and often developed into something that rested well below their perceived ceilings as prospects. Eric Hosmer never became really as cool as he seemed, Alex Gordon didn’t figure it out until he was like 26, etc.

 

I suppose both of those players are better than their Mariners’ counterparts in Smoak and Ackley, but regardless, the results have not been there with a similar organizational approach.

 

So hey Royals, throw us a bone here. We can’t both make it to the playoffs can we? And you had George Brett once! Your franchise has even won/been to the World Series before!

 

At this point, as a Mariners fan, it is cool to even be able to care still. I have seen optimism dwindle so much faster than it has this season and for the team to remain afloat at this point in time is a revelation. I look forward to going home and seeing the Mariners play baseball and I have been able to do this for more than a month. I think this is what it must feel like to be a fan of a team that is good. I like the feeling. It makes it easier to sleep at night and it saves me money on liquor.

 

Go Mariners.

Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. The time for change is meow. Nobama.

Count me among the bajillion people who, in regards to their expectations for Brad Miller, allowed their optimism to grab them by the balls and lead them to the bedroom only to emerge the next day with a rash of regrets as well as just the normal, medical kind of rash.

Brad Miller is absolutely lost at the plate this season. He is only the most recent example of a promising Mariners’ position prospect coming to the Majors to briefly impress only to fall victim to the disturbing trend of trying to pull everything. This, as with every other player to whom the curse has lent its sinister shadow, has resulted in Brad sucking. He is, as they say at times, “in-between pitches.” He has adopted a tendency towards taking called strikes on hittable fastballs until he falls into pitcher’s counts, only to readily offer at off-speed pitches out of the zone, resulting in a 26.7% K-rate and a putrid .534 OPS.

What’s worse is that he is allowing his disappointing season at the plate to leak into his defense, where the mental miscues are beginning to aggregate into a serious concern. These miscues, when coupled with Brad’s expected above-average offensive production at the position seemed like charming hiccups. Those charming hiccups have turned into foam burps which have then turned into aggressive projectile vomiting session post-franzia-night all over your white carpet.

Let’s pull a spray chart for Mr. Miller real quick.

brad miller spray

See all of those stupid magenta squares over by where the 2nd baseman pretty much always is? Those are groundouts to the second baseman. Brad used to be a guy whose main positive trait was the ability to spray line drives to all fields, resulting in a projectable batted ball profile that would indicate a high BA and likely doubles power. He bulked up over this past offseason in an effort to ass a little power and meat-titan-ness to what was before a slight frame and it seemed that in the process he may have become pull happy in an effort to put those muscles to work. This strategy has not yielded dividends.

I wrote a piece earlier disparaging Dustin Ackley from falling into this trap. I also recently wrote an article basically forgiving Seager for doing the same thing. The difference here, however, is the way the players pull the ball. Seager launches baseballs into the air like it’s his job. He is a fly ball hitter and he has consistently shown that, though he pulls the ball a bit more than you would like, he gets the ball in the air, some of those balls leave the yard, and the result is a productive major leaguer.

When Ackley and Miller fall into this trap, their production declines precipitously. They let pitchers get ahead of them in counts and then, when they are at the pitcher’s mercy, they expand the zone and either whiff or pull a pitch off the plate on the outside off the end of the bat to the second baseman for an easy out, or a double play. Yippee.

The suggestion here: send Miller down and bring up either Chris Taylor or Nick Franklin in an everyday role and see what they can do. I know people are not crazy about Franklin’s defense at SS. That being said, however, I think Miller’s performance in the field has declined to the point where their defense is comparable. Franklin struggled during his previous call-up this season, but he was playing in spot-duty at an unfamiliar position with inconsistent at bats. In layman’s terms, he was not given a chance to really prove that he had figured out major league pitching or that he was ready to do so.

Franklin has an OPS of 1.079 to go along with 2 dingers in the past 3 games down in AAA. He has nothing left to prove at that level. It seems at this point that the Mariners, given the framing paradigm of a team seeking to win games NOW should use the depth at their disposal in order to keep afloat.

Having a black hole at the bottom of your lineup is bad. This problem is exacerbated by the volatility up and down the rest of the lineup.

It is one thing to have a bad apple among a bunch of kickass apples. It is another to have one obviously bad apple surrounded by a bunch of organically grown apples (read: no preservatives or whatever wait can apples even have those?) that might be left in a microwave or something at any given moment, becoming bad apples themselves!

There have been some who have been clamoring for Chris Taylor to be the guy rather than Franklin to get the call. I understand this desire as we have yet to really see what Taylor can do in a Mariners’ uniform and therefore he still has that new-prospect smell that always seems to elicit the grass-being-greener-over-there mentality from the fan base. This makes sense as we have all been getting pretty tired of recycling the same prospects only to have them sent back down and replaced with similar prospects who were probably recently sent down for similar reasons themselves blah blah blah.

The fact of the matter is, Taylor is new to AAA and isn’t on the 40-man roster. If they bring up a guy it is going to be Franklin and I do not have a problem with that. The move serves multiple purposes that make sense given the Mariners’ situation. The Mariners do not benefit from Miller’s continued struggles and for a team looking to contend (even if that is wildly unlikely) he weighs down the rest of the lineup too much in his current condition. Moving to Franklin almost certainly helps them in the near-term as they try to piece together a lineup capable of winning as many games as possible. Further, the move rewards Franklin who has been doing nothing but mash in AAA and has absolutely nothing else to prove at the level. Finally, the move is in Brad’s best interest as the SS of the future for this club. Continuing to scuffle and lose confidence at the major league level is only going to make him press that much more.

Nick has earned a shot. Miller needs time to collect his thoughts and get his confidence back. The Mariners need another bat capable of making the occasional impact.

Brad Miller AAA party now plz.

Go Mariners.

 

James Jones, Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and the Mariners changing up the outfield situation

The Mariners went ahead and blissfully released their fans from the Sisyphean self-flagellation brought on by having to watch Abraham Almonte handle leadoff responsibilities for the month of April. Almonte struggled in spring training but had caught the eye of Manager Lloyd McClendon for reasons that seemed somewhat unknown but in light of recent events are actually probably a little more known.

Almonte is a player who is too unrefined at this point in his career to figure things out at the Major League level. That being said, Lloyd McClendon has been around the game a long time, and despite what ivory tower-bound writers immersed in statistics and data may want to believe, there is some value in experience and the old-fashioned eye test. This is a game played by humans. Other humans have to look at said humans and make decisions based on a number of factors including past statistical performance as well as potential room for growth and improvement. Almonte was a player who had not been great in the Minor Leagues for long, but he had played well there for a while. He was also a player with whom it could be easy to fall in love with as a Manager like McClendon presented with a roster otherwise devoid of any traditional center fielders.

The Mariners have done 1 of the 2 things that many fans have been calling for. They have freed Michael Saunders from his concrete-bound aviary and allowed him to soar in an expanded role as a leadoff man. I have always liked Saunders (It is not hard to become infatuated with Saunders’ raw tools and potential) and many believed that his disastrous stretch during last year’s campaign was as much a result of a kamikaze condor-dive into an outfield fence than a sign of mediocrity or true regression from his 2012 campaign that saw him break out for a 2.5 WAR season that could have actually been closer to 4 WAR had his defense in centerfield not counted against him (although then he would have lost the weighted value WAR gives to players out in center field that is much lower in the corners, which is why Trout’s value this year is already so high despite the fact that his offensive numbers pace to be more or less the same and perhaps a tad worse. WAR as a catchall stat is weird like this because it is super convenient but the internal numbers are actually pretty fucking confusing).

Which brings us to our next point and the reason why Jones’ call-up was somewhat of an inevitability.

It is regarded by many (certainly defensive statistics indicate this) that Michael Saunders will never be more than a slightly below-average defender in centerfield. These same defensive metrics, however, consistently point to him being excellent in right. Looking at last year’s Rtot/yr (the number of runs above or below average a player is worth per 1200 innings), Saunders in centerfield sat at -18 runs, in left he was at -24 runs and in right he ditched that negative number bullshit and went straight up to 9 runs above average.

This means in pretty basic terms that, if we trust the way defensive metrics are taken over at baseballreference.com than we can assume that a year of condor-action over in right field is a 27 run defensive swing over a year of Saunders out in center (provided an at-least-adequate defensive replacement is taking over in center). Despite what many believe, the people who work in the Mariners’ organization are not idiots. Wealthy people do not like to hire idiots, and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the people making these decisions are probably a hell of a lot more qualified than I am. If I can spot this, they have probably already spotted it, circled it in red and subsequently paid an intern sub-minimum-wage to make a fucking PowerPoint out of it to present at a conference.

So yeah, the same team that allowed Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse and Jason Bay to share outfield duties AT THE SAME FUCKING TIME, actually had a fairly decent reason to keep Saunders out of center. Almonte has one loud tool and that is his ridiculous speed. Speed profiles well in center and they felt for a time that Almonte’s offense as well as his defensive approach in the field could improve quickly enough in the Major Leagues to turn that speed into value out in the field and at the top of the order.

That didn’t happen.

Almonte’s struggles at the plate this season were catastrophic. He led the league in strikeouts with 39 in the month of April- this despite being a leadoff hitter whose sole purpose is to put the ball in play and use his aforementioned speed to get on base and subsequently be a chubby pain-in-the-ass running hither and thither to the detriment of non-Mariners nationwide. You can’t get on base if you strike out. You also can’t steal first base. This isn’t ‘nam, you can tell because of all the fucking rules.

This all leads one to believe that though the Mariners believe in Saunders at the top of the order, they may not also believe in him as a defensive centerfielder. The logic eventually leads us straight to James Jones who can absolutely fucking fly down the line and out in the field. In the few innings I have seen of him in Spring Training and in a few Rainiers’ games, he doesn’t take the same “Leonardo DiCaprio on Quaaludes” routes that made Almonte such an adventure out in center, either. It is true that Jones has actually logged more time in the corners than he has in center during his minor league career– but it is also true that he has more or less always been an outfielder. He looks like an outfielder. He quacks like an outfielder. The quacking will ensure that he and Ackley have a solid rapport in the field. Gone are the days of the all-second-base Mariners’ outfield. Two of our outfielders are outfielders now. Hooray for small miracles.

So basically what we have is a Frankenstein’s monster comprised of Condor’s bat sewed horrifically to the center-field-defense of James Jones, murmuring “kill me” as Lloyd cackles maniacally. Another way to put it is we have swapped in Jones to provide defense, allowed Saunders an expanded offensive roll and perhaps incidentally cut out some at-bats for Ackley and/or Romero. I don’t mind this horribly, as I still expect to see Condor patrolling Center every now and again. It isn’t his best position, but it is hardly a disaster and I think at this point even if Saunders does not continue to hit .400 as he has been doing the past couple of weeks, he has shown enough to warrant everyday inclusion in the lineup.

This also probably spells a bit of doom for Logan Morrison in the outfield. That shouldn’t bother anybody. If Morrison plays, he should be playing at DH or first base anyway. 2 cents provided.

Worst comes to worse, we have a shiny new fast player to care about for a couple of weeks until he develops Krohn’s disease, can’t hit, or swan dives down a flight of stairs into his wife’s face.

Welcome back to the squad, Mr. Jones.