7.23.2007

On freeing Adam Jones

I was listening to the Mariners postgame show a few days ago on KOMO, and team reporter Shannon Drayer and host Tom Glasgow were discussing the merits of adding pieces to a team that seemed to be struggling to score runs.

They both agreed that it would be good to add an upgrade somewhere, but then Drayer went where most traditional baseball observers go.

Chemistry.

I'm paraphrasing here because I didn't write down the quote word for word, but her "analysis" went something like this:

"In the four years I've been covering the team, this is by far the best chemistry I've seen out of the Mariners. These guys genuinely like each other and are pulling for each other to succeed, and is a big reason why they're winning," she said.

It got better. Or worse, depending on your perspective.

"I think if this team can add a bat, it definitely should do it, but it should be careful who it adds. If the Mariners can add a proven, veteran bat who's comes to the clubhouse with some respect, I think the guys put on the bench will accept it," she said.

Then, the kicker.

"But I would be careful about adding a bat that's unproven at this level. That really could disrupt what this team's got going. I would be very wary of that."

Of course, that last comment was a not-so-subtle shot at all of us who are clamoring for this team to find space somewhere in the lineup for Adam Jones, far and away the team's best prospect at AAA.

In case you've been in a cave the last three months, Jones is putting up unreal numbers in Tacoma. He's got a .315 average, .382 OBP and .590 slugging percentage, and he has 23 home runs and 79 RBI. Granted it's AAA, but for a little perspective, among the regulars only Ichiro has a higher average and OBP on the big club, and no one is even close to that kind of slugging percentage. Additionally, the defensive transition from shortstop to outfielder appears to be nearly complete, as scouts now characterize him as an above average outfielder.

That he's major league ready is no longer in question. But the Mariners' intelligence is.

There were myriad complaints the past two years that this team lacked a leader in the mold of Jay Buhner or Brett Boone. Chemistry is such a big deal with the M's and their front office that the signings of Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro were characterized as not only upgrades in talent, but "more importantly" adding some veteran leadership to the clubhouse.

Drayer doesn't come up with that kind of bunk -- and it is bunk -- on her own. She's drinking the organizational Kool Aid. My guess is players have expressed reservations privately to Drayer off the record, and also shared their thoughts with decision makers. Thus, Jones rots away in Tacoma, beating the crud out of the PCL.

There's no doubt that leadership matters on a a team -- any team. No matter the organization, having strong leaders does make a difference. But chemistry? Something entirely different and extremely overrated.

"Chemistry" does not breed success, especially in baseball where everyone has their own job to do. Guys hit and pitch well because they have talent, and don't because they don't. I've been around plenty of organizations where everyone liked each other and produced plenty of crappy work. Likewise, I've been around those where few people could stand each other, but everyone did their job well. Why? Because everyone benefits from the organization being successful, and it's stupid to waste time worrying about things like chemistry.

Success breeds chemistry, not the other way around.

This team feels good because it's 13 games over .500 ... not the other way around.

So, back to Jones. He's saying all the right things, but one has to wonder at what point it begins to discourage him. Here's to hoping Bill Bavasi was waiting for a good excuse to bring up Jones, because that time is here. The team has failed to score a run in each of its past two games, and it's heading to the bandbox that is The Ballpark in Arlington.

Where to put him? How about left field, where Raul Ibanez -- bless his heart, he's a nice guy -- has become an embarrassment as one of the worst fielders in baseball. Even if Jones doesn't hit a lick, he's got to be worth some runs for his defensive abilities alone. Additionally, Ibanez has become one of the worst hitters on the team. His line in July? Batting average .147, OBP .202, slugging .232. That is horrific ... and it's WORSE against lefties. AND HE'S BATTING THIRD.

It would be one thing if he's a guy just going through a prolonged slump. But the guy has six home runs. SIX. He's 35 years old. The end is near.

And let's not even start on Jose Vidro, he of the emptiest .299 batting average you'll ever see. Yes, his OBP is a respectable .361. But his slugging percentage is a pathetic .366 -- well below the accepted slugging "Mendoza line" of .400. It's easily the worst slugging percentage of any regular DH in the American League, and let's not forget the guy has grounded into 16 double plays this year -- second in the league.

Oh, and about that myth that Vidro is a patient hitter? He sees just 3.6 pitches per plate appearance, better only than Kenji Johjima and Yuniesky Betancourt (3.3) among Mariners regulars. For perspective, to be among the top 29 in the American League, you need to see at least 4.0 P/PA.

If I hear Rick Rizzs say Jose Vidro is the perfect number two hitter "because he does all the things a number two hitter is supposed to do -- see pitches, handle the bat, put the ball on right side" one more time, I will literally throw up. (And when I say literally, I mean it, as I'm fighting the flu right now. Awesome summer vacation!)

OK, so I started on Vidro. I digress.

I will throw in one caveat regarding Jones. It's possible he's still at AAA because the team is considering trading him and that's the best way to keep his value high. If that's true, I really, really hope Bavasi gets value in return -- not something stupid like Jason Schmidt or Dontrelle Willis. Confidence is not high after his debacle deals this past offseason. How nice would Rafael Soriano be in the 8th inning right now?

So here's to getting Jones to Seattle in what has become a long overdue move. We don't have to make a trade to make our team stronger.

9 comments:

DrPezz said...

As far back as I remember, this club has a history of leaving great talent to waste in the PCL (or to trade them away at the 11th hour). I even remember a guy, who I heard was a pretty good hitter, stuck for a couple years playing third for the M's in Tacoma because he was behind Jim Presley. His name was Edgar Martinez. Also, most people forget that he was decently speedy before his hammy injury. He actually came in as a pinch runner for his first play in the majors.

Anyway, I'd love to see Jones brought up if a trade is not in the works.

Have you gone to see him play in Tacoma?

Nuss said...

I haven't seen him this year. I did watch him last year, where he still looked a little undisciplined at the plate and unsure of himself in the outfield.

All reports this year are that those areas have improved greatly. He's striking out more than most people would like -- about once per game -- but there's a lot of evidence out there that strikeouts don't hurt teams as much as people tend to think they do. (I just can't find it at the moment.)

Anonymous said...

Nice blog, this is my first time reading it. I have just added it into my favorites.

Who would qualify as being an acceptable acquisition for Adam Jones?

Nuss said...

Probably somebody whose name hasn't been mentioned yet. The guys who are supposedly available definitely aren't the kind of guys you trade away Jones for.

I could think of a lot of guys I'd take in return for a package that includes Jones. I just have no idea how many of them are available.

AJH said...

DO NOT TRADE ADAM JONES.
Bring him up. Rotate him through the outfield and DH spots giving rest to everyone and putting power in the lineup.

Bench Sexson and let Broussard play against RHPs.

Those 2 moves will make this team a contender. As of now, they are pretenders.

Anonymous said...

I do agree 100% with getting Broussard more at-bats. I've said from the beginning of the season that 1st base had to be a platoon situation at worst.

If you average his numbers per at-bat, and compare them to Sexson's, Broussard would have 12.6 HR's to Sexson's current 16. What's the justification of having Sexson in the line-up everyday? Oh, that's right, his power. Well, I'll take 75 points on a batting average over a four HR differential any day.

And another thing; being 6'8" doesn't make you a great first basemen. Sexson is good in the field, but reports that I've heard on Broussard in the past are that he is a Gold Glove caliber first basemen if given the opportunity to play everyday.

All that Broussard has done with the opportunity that he has been given is produce. He has produced a heck of a lot more than Sexson, Vidro, and Ibanez, or any of those two players combined for that matter. And apparently he can play any of those positions as well. What is keeping this guy out of the line-up? Answer me Nuss, what?

Broussard everyday, and Jones with the big club may be a spark, but the truth is, this team will not make the playoffs with out at least one more reliable starter on the mound.

Jo~Jo

Nuss said...

The fact that he isn't making $15.5 million this year?

Broussard really isn't a very good defensive first baseman, but your point still stands. The guy kills righties, and first place would be the least bad place to put him in the field.

Well, I guess DH would be better ... but we've got the worst DH in the AL, so why would you want to replace him?

Anonymous said...

i have to disagree with raul being an embarrassment. he is tied with guillen and ichiro for throwing people out and has made several spectacular plays this year...

Nuss said...

Spectacular only in that he was so slow getting to the ball that it required a tough-looking effort to make the play.

And as far as his noodle-arm goes, the next time you see a runner afraid to take an extra base on his arm will be the first.