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Could The Return Of A Happy Eric Bedard Prompt The Trade Of Cliff Lee?

Erik Bedard is on his way back from labrum surgery. He has shown encouraging signs after his stint in the Arizona Rookie League, most recently last Saturday throwing 68 pitches and hitting 93 mph on the radar gun.

On Thursday, Bedard will kick off July with a Triple-A start in Tacoma, Wash., and could start for the Mariners on July 6th against the Kansas City Royals.

The biggest news in this chain of events is that Bedard’s apparent happiness. He’s as healthy and as happy as he has been in a long time. Remember his first two years in Seattle where it seemed he never cracked a smile?

The injuries and the pressure of performing up to expectations based on what Seattle gave up to acquire the left handed pitcher mounted up and sapped the life out of Bedard in his first stint with Seattle.

However, he was absolutely golden when he was healthy last year, so Seattle surprised many by signing him to a contract in the off-season with an option year for 2011.

If Bedard can stay healthy and happy, he could be a huge addition to the M’s for the rest of this year and next season.

He may find himself on the trading block if he performs well in the 4-6 starts he could get before the July 31st trade deadline. Lefty pitching is a valuable commodity these days and the Mariners already are dangling Cliff Lee in front of several teams.

Lee’s departure would mean the Mariners could rely on a healthy Bedard slipping into the rotation and keeping the pitching staff afloat. Somebody has to take the rotation spot vacated by Lee. Mariner fans dread the idea of Ian Snell coming back up from the minors to fill Lee’s spikes.

The timing of Bedard’s health seems perfect.

A rotation of Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, and Ryan Rowland-Smith is still pretty solid. Without Bedard, the starting rotation would be very pedestrian outside of Felix Hernandez.

Baseball in the Emerald City is pretty much on life support for 2010 and the Mariners should be looking at what the team will look like next year.

Trading Lee for prospects will help replenish the farm system and could add a piece or two to the 2011 roster. A one-two combo of Hernandez and Bedard at the top of the rotation would be a nice start to making the M’s more competitive as well.

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Seattle Mariners Trade for Russell Branyan; Is Ryan Doumit Next?

There are only five teams in Major League Baseball with a worse record than the Seattle Mariners.

The M’s are 14 games behind the red-hot Texas Rangers in the division standings. They’re 13 games off the pace for the Wild Card.

The Seattle Mariners should be sellers at the trade deadline, right? Well, they just gave up two minor-league prospects to the Cleveland Indians for 34-year old Russell Branyan whom they declined to sign over the off-season.

Yes, we’re all trying to digest this one: An aging power hitter with a .233 career batting average who has had injury issues the last few years is what Seattle needs during this disappointing season?

Russell hit 31 homers for the Mariners last year and they wouldn’t even reward him with a contract because of injury concerns with a herniated disc that cut his 2009 season short.

Matter of fact, Branyan wasn’t getting interest from any teams and didn’t get a deal from the Indians until Feb. 20 this year. He started the year on the DL with a neck injury.

Now, the Mariners are giving up prospects to take on the free-agent contract he signed with Cleveland. Branyan does have 10 homers this season, which is three more than Seattle’s Milton Bradley, who hit his team-leading seventh home run last night.

General Manager Jack Zduriencik won’t admit the Mariners are done for the year, but does believe winning some games the rest of the year is important to developing the young guys on the team.

“If you look at our team, as we move forward, just about every player who is here now will be here again next year,” he said. “We’re committed to the development of our players and that goal, that objective has never changed for us.

“But part of that development process is also winning games. We want our players to be able to experience winning games this year. And we’re trying to do what we can to give them what they need to get there.”

Since the Mariners’ offseason acquisitions have had abysmal outcomes, Seattle fans have been wondering what the team will do to right the ship for next year.

There are only seven games before the official halfway point of the season, and it seemed apparent the M’s would be finding a buyer for Cliff Lee and maybe unloading a couple of other players for prospects.


This move seems to dictate the Mariners are going to roll the dice and see what happens. Trader Jack is now becoming Gamblin’ Jack.

Zduriencik got a lot of credit for the moves the Mariners made and now he is getting some flak about how the new players have performed. Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley have been horrible. Ian Snell is in Triple-A.

Meanwhile, Carlos Silva has revived his career in Chicago and Brandon Morrow just pitched his fifth consecutive quality start.

Jack’s ego has taken a hit and he wants to prove this team capable of winning. If he can pull that off, he will be even more revered in Seattle.

If he can’t pull it off, he will have cost the Mariners a chance to gain valuable prospects from the trade of Cliff Lee as well as the prospects given up for Branyan and possibly another offensive piece coming soon.

Cliff Lee is a free agent at the end of the year, and though he is probably the most sought after and valuable trade option this year, teams aren’t ready to give up a bunch of top-level loot for a rental player.

The Mariners will still get compensatory draft picks for Lee if he signs elsewhere as a free agent in the off-season, so maybe Zduriencik believes it wise to keep Lee in the lineup for the year and see what happens if the Mariners can score a few more runs by adding some offense.

Maybe Jack’s idea is to right the ship for this year!

Seattle has a strong pitching rotation with Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Jason Vargas. They got Doug Fister back from the DL last night and Erik Bedard is due back, barring any setbacks, sometime in July. The Mariners rank ninth in the Majors in team ERA.

They are fifth in quality starts and third in complete games. They are only going to get better from this point going forward.

Adding Branyan is a good way to get some power in the lineup, but their offense is beyond pathetic, ranking 29th in runs scored, 29th in hits, 27th in batting average, and dead last (30th) in home runs.

Branyan is not going to correct those numbers by himself, so Gamblin’ Jack will need to get another bat in the lineup.

Rumors of players potentially becoming trade options before the deadline include Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, and Lance Berkman.

None of them seem to make sense now that Branyan has been acquired and all of them would require several prospects and, in Kemp’s situation, Major League-ready starting pitchers.

It was rumored that Seattle was looking for a catcher in any deal with Cliff Lee. Could Zduriencik pull off a trade with Pittsburgh (they have trading history) for Moses Lake, Wash., product Ryan Doumit?

Doumit would bring a veteran presence and a bat with some pop in it. He is a three-hole type hitter and along with Branyan, would revamp the middle of the Seattle batting order at a reasonable cost.

Doumit has also had some issues with Pittsburgh management that has landed him in the doghouse in the past. He is signed through 2011 with club options for 2012 and 2013.

Would a lineup of Ichiro (RF), Figgins (2B), Doumit (C), Branyan (1B/DH), Franklin Gutierrez (CF), Mike Sweeney (1B/DH), Milton Bradley (LF/DH), Jose Lopez (3B), and Jack Wilson (SS) be enough?

The Mariners have won seven of their last nine games, including a six-game winning streak, but they lost a half game in the standings to the Texas Rangers.

Texas is on pace for 98 wins. The Mariners would have to go 67-21 the rest of the way to win 98 games. Can they win 76% of their remaining games? It is unlikely, so they would need both the Rangers and Angels to stumble along the way.

Gamblin’ Jack may be looking for the right piece of the puzzle to get his team back in the race, but at his point it seems too late in the game.

If not, Branyan is simply a morale booster to help build some confidence that Jack hopes will carry over to next season.

Giving up two prospects for a 34-year old morale booster seems too costly, so look for the Mariners and Gamblin’ Jack to make another move very soon.

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Seattle Mariners: Baseball’s Interpretation of Snow White

“Hi-ho. Hi-ho. It’s off to work we go.”

Those are the immortal lyrics sung by the seven dwarfs in the classic Disney movie “Snow White.”

These words represent exactly what the Seattle Mariners need to focus on if they want to salvage any dignity from their season.

Every manager, supervisor or human resource department in any industry deals with employee issues on a daily basis. All businesses have workers who are sleepy, dopey, bashful, happy, sneezy, or grumpy.

The movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” has found a new setting in the Pacific Northwest and an All-Star cast of new characters.

“Snow White” is played by GM Jack Zduriencik, in danger of being stalked by the wicked witch of free agency and being duped by the poison apple of baseball acquisitions gone wrong. The dwarfs love him, but they can’t necessarily protect him at all times. Evil lurks around every corner, and the magic mirror sees all.

“Doc” is played by Manager Dan Wakamatsu who is strong and steady but trying to get the most out of a rag-tag pack that needs to overachieve to be an average group of baseball major leaguers.

The rest of the cast was set at the beginning of the season:

“Dopey”: Eric Byrnes; Obviously.

“Bashful”: Ichiro; Solid and reliable but always somewhere out of the spotlight.

“Grumpy”: Milton Bradley; Duh.

“Happy”: Mike Sweeney; Clubhouse leader with smiles and fun attitude.

“Sneezy”: Erik Bedard; Always productive when allergies (injuries) aren’t acting up.

“Sleepy”: Ken Griffey, Jr.; Nap-Gate, hello?


The Mariners have the cast, but they’re not reading the same lines. They’re offensively inept. When they do manage to score runs, the pitching breaks down. The bullpen is struggling. Nobody is working together to get the job done.

Hi-Ho. Hi-Ho.

The M’s need to get it together, sing a song in unison, work as a team and protect each other from dragons, witches, poison and any other curveballs thrown their direction.

Problem is that the Mariners are down a couple dwarfs.

Ken Griffey Jr. retired yesterday. Erik Bedard was transferred to the 60-day DL last week. Eric Byrnes was released a month ago. Chone Figgins has failed to show up on the set at all—although his bat is auditioning for the vacated role of “Sleepy. Milton Bradley may not have the ability to show up on a regular basis regardless of his mindset.

Minor league players, injured stars and possibly a free agent or two (Jermaine Dye, Pat Burrell?) are auditioning for new roles. Avoiding new dwarfs like “Sleezy” (Ben Roethlisberger), “Crazy” (Jose Canseco), or “Liar” (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds) will be paramount.

Whoever the Mariners are going to send to the mines, they just need to work together. Individually, they are nothing to write home about (Ichiro, Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee excluded), but if they work together there are loads of gold to be mined.

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Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Albert Pujols? Griffey Gets the Nod

Ken Griffey Jr. has called it quits after 22 years. One of the best players of all time, “The Kid” has endured one too many injuries, aged one too many years, and sat on the bench one too many games. After a stellar career, he has decided to hang up his cleats.

Griffey was the Player-of-the-Decade in the 90’s: Voted to the All-Century Team when he wasn’t even 30 years old; 10 gold gloves; 40+ homers in 7 seasons; 56 HRs in 1997 and 1998; .300 batting average.

Griffey averaged 52 HR, 142 RBI, 19 SB, and had a .294 batting average from ’96-‘99! Yes, those were his average totals.   Nothing “average” about them.

In comparison, the current most feared hitter in baseball and Player-of-the-Decade for the 2000s, Albert Pujols has career highs of 49 HRs (2006), 137 RBI (2006), 16 SB (2009,2005), and .358 batting average. (2003).

That means for a four year period, Griffey averaged more homers, RBI, and stolen bases than Pujols has ever had in any given season. Pujols has won three MVP awards and Griffey won just once. After nine full seasons, Pujols is still almost 300 homers behind Griffey.

Pujols is a great, great player and that shows just how ultra-great Griffey was in his prime.

That’s why it was so hard to watch the 40 year old “Kid” struggle this year. He should have gone out last year as the catalyst for an over-achieving team while smacking 19 HR’s in just 117 games. Instead, he goes out after “Nap-Gate” and a .184 average with zero long balls for an under-achieving team about ready to dismantle players at the trading deadline.

If the Mariners could have turned it around prior to Griffey retiring it would have been unlikely. Without their veteran team leader, Hall of Fame voice in the dugout, fun-loving, practical joke playing mentor, the M’s success this season seems impossible.

Griffey hit 630 homers over 22 seasons, an average of one long ball every four games of his career.

He had four seasons where he played in 83 games or less, missing 370 games in the prime of his career due to various injuries. Had he played those games he would have likely hit 100 or more home runs.

Regardless of the injuries, his statistics place him among the best players in the history of the game; however, his achievements are much more impressive than his “numbers”.

“The Catch”, “The Double”, the smile, the leadership, the chemistry, the enthusiasm, and the savior of baseball in Seattle (and possibly for MLB after the 1994 strike season put many fans out of favor with baseball), all point to Griffey being much more than just a great baseball player.

He was arguably the greatest of the last 50 years: offensively, defensively, leadership.

Ken Griffey, Jr. will be missed in Seattle and in Baseball. He is the last chapter in the book of the Mariner’s teams of the ‘90s: Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson have a new teammate in retirement.

Thank you, Griffey, for all you gave to us. Good night and good luck.

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The Five Reasons Cliff Lee Shifts the Balance of Power in the AL West

Finally. Or maybe that should read, “Final-Lee?”

The Seattle Mariners made a huge trade in the offseason to acquire the services of former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, and tonight, a month into the season, he will make his first appearance on the mound.

Lee got off on the wrong foot this year. Literally. Literal-Lee. A couple of weeks prior to spring training, he needed a minor surgery on his foot and would miss the start of the exhibition season.

Spring training was no kinder to Lee, as he took the brunt of a collision with Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder, and strained his abdomen. He continued to pitch in the game, only to get into more trouble.

Lee’s foot and midsection injuries forced a pitch to sail over the head of Snyder in his next at-bat. The wild throw was later ruled to be intentional, resulting in a five-game suspension to start the season.

However, the injury was more of an issue than the impending suspension, and would land him on the disabled list to start the season. During the rehab process, which included an experimental, platelet-rich injection to the abdomen area, Lee’s appeal of his suspension was found to be legitimate, and MLB dropped the suspension.

His foot also seemed to heal completely. “Complete-Lee” appears to be a great descriptive for his current condition.

Lee described his injury as a “non-issue,” saying, “It has been more than a month since he felt discomfort.”

The Mariners were very cautious because this is the third time he has been sidelined with the same type of injury. The first two times, he missed significant playing time, and was not very productive immediately following the healing process.

The M’s know they most likely (“like-Lee”) have his services for just this season, so they wanted him at a hundred percent so he could contribute at his normal, stellar capacity.

Lee is healthy now. Lee is motivated. Lee is focused.

In his Triple-A start last Sunday, he allowed just three hits (including one on a bunt and one where a fly ball was lost in the sun), while striking out four and walking none.

Lee said he is anxious to “get back and help the team up in Seattle and try to have fun and let it all hang out.”

The rest of the AL West Division may be a little bit worried at this point. Seattle is just a half-game back in the standings, and they just got a whole lot better with one of their two Aces ready to take aim at division rival Texas tonight.

The balance of power in the division has shifted toward the Mariners, simply because they can now start relying on both of their Aces to carry them the rest of the year. The pennant is there for the taking, and there are five reasons Cliff Lee will be leading (“Lee”-ding”) the way.

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