In a game obsessed by predictive analytics, it is sweet when randomness raises its goofy head and delivers a chef’s kiss.
In the fourth inning of a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, manager Scott Servais was answering a live-TV ESPN interview question in the dugout when the Mariners’ star-in-waiting, rookie Jarred Kelenic, was at the plate. He powered up the Mariners’ first exhibition home run, an opposite-field job, no less.
As with many sublime moments in life, timing was everything. Just as Servais finished answering the suddenly provocative question about when to call up rookies to the big club by saying, “Players will let you know when they’re ready,” Kelenic launched.
Our first spring homer: @JKelenic_1019 💪 pic.twitter.com/x3ijLzn1DI
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 3, 2021
Boom. Kelenic has spoken.
Apprised of his exquisite exclamation point to Servais’s observation, creating irony so strong it could bend light waves, Kelenic, on a Zoom conference, smiled.
“Perfect timing,” he said.
As you may recall from the imbroglio created last week by Kevin Mather’s gaffe about deliberately slowing Kelenic’s progress to the majors, helping cost the Mariners president his job, player and club were thrown front and center into a national baseball maelstrom.
Mather spoke a truth that has never acknowledged by baseball executives, a self-pantsing that signals the commencement of towering fight between owners and the players union in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement after this season.
Independent of, but related to, Kelenic’s batworks, matters grew a bit more intense Wednesday.
MLB announced that it was going to push back the start of the minor league season to the first week in May, ostensibly for health reasons.
If COVID-19’s declining rate of infection and the growing availability of vaccines eases the pandemic threat, chances improve in the summer to resume some normal routines and travel, as well as bringing back some fans to ballparks. Also, vaccinated prospects reduce the chance of spreading the virus upon call-ups.
All of that is, of course, aspirational, and highly vulnerable to things like the knucklehead governors of Texas and Mississippi, who are re-opening all businesses and gatherings now, because that’s what knucklehead governors do. Let’s not digress further than that.
The owners, who are planning on a full regular season starting April 1 — among more than 20,000 covid tests at spring training, only 20 were positive, according to MLB — also will re-institute from the 2020 stump season “alternate training sites,” or summer camp for bigger kids.
That’s where MLB stashed its top prospects when the minor leagues shut down. At Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, the youngsters would cobble together a few innings every day against each other, then go home and jump around the lawn sprinklers until the phone buzzed from Seattle, needing to fill a roster spot.
That’s where Kelenic spent 2020. He hated it.
He believed he was being punished for turning down an offer of a contract that gave the Mariners options to keep him beyond the six years of service time required to reach free agency.
Mather confirmed Kelenic and other top prospects would never be allowed to begin their service clocks in ’20, even if it meant putting “my big tummy” on the field, he said. Kelenic also wasn’t getting the development time inherent in serious competition.
So unless Kelenic has a killer spring and forces his way onto the 26-man major league roster — the Mariners love to say that he has only 92 at-bats above Class A — a return to the T-Town gulag is in the cards.
Unless you ask Kelenic.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I went through that all summer last year. I played extremely well all throughout the alternate site.
“But here’s the thing — it’s not sunshine or rainbows, whatsoever. It’s very hard to develop at all when it comes to an alternate site. It’s not real like games. You’re not playing against other competition.”
Other top prospects with the Mariners and across baseball are in potentially similar purgatory, but only in Seattle is the issue inflamed, thanks to Mather, and Kelenic’s return of fire. When general manager Jerry Dipoto tried to apologize for the organization at a team meeting, Kelenic told USA Today, “It was literally like someone farted in church. That is the exact expression on everybody’s face.”
When Kelenic followed that spoken bomb with the baseball kind Wednesday, Servais on his Zoom had a little zig-zaggy expression too.
“Yeah, I was doing the live interview and we have a nice rally going and Jarred did get a ball up in the wind that got out,” he said. “Again, we’ve got good young players. They’ve all got plenty to prove. The timing of what they do and when they do it is, uh, it’s interesting.
“It’s baseball. You never know what’s going to happen.”
If ever a baseball team had a week in which to bold-face that bromide and bump it up to a 96-point headline, it was the Mariners.
Kelenic, 21, seemed to savor the moment, yet didn’t go full Mather lather and say something he shouldn’t.
“Something like this comes up and I think you can look at it one of two ways,” he said. “One, you can sit and pout about it, or you can use it as motivation, and let it drive me even more. That’s kind of where I’m at. Each and every day I’m letting this drive me.”
He deliberately avoided further inflammation.
“At the end of the day, those are the cards that were dealt to me,” he said. “Hopefully this year, the dealer gives me different cards.”
By the look of his hand already, the Mariners shortly should fold, slide away from the table and call him the starting left fielder. If this is strip poker, the Mariners are almost down to boots.
He’s telling the club he’s ready.
What a doozy of a contract negotiation we will get to enjoy this fall, MLB in one corner and MLBPA in the other. 1994, anyone?
Where does the wind come in during a contract negotiation?
You can blow out a candle
But you can’t blow out a fire
Once the WIND begin to catch
The flame will blow it higher
(Biko – Peter Gabriel)
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Where would the comments section be without old rock lyrics?
“Electrically they keep a baseball score, and the beat goes on….”
If there’s a strike the only M’s people regretting it will be the popcorn and beer hawkers. MLS and WNBA have better followings, thanks to the one constant in the past 20 years: Lousy management’s lousy product.
You’d think they would not chance a strike. Not with half a million dead from Covid. Fahrenheit 1994. Best to avoid it.
There was a looming labor crisis in 2002, but both sides realized that a stoppage so soon after 9/11 would not look good, so they worked out an agreement.
That might have been a tie-breaker, but money is first, second and third.
You’d think. But every time there’s been a stoppage, you would have had reasons to say the same thing.
Soccer and women’s basketball do not have better followings than MLB.
They DO in Seattle! Apparently you haven’t attended a Sounders’ or Storms’ game. The M’s wish they could still draw fans, but M’s “fans” are season ticket holders who still think it’s baseball, and the fans of the OPPOSING teams, ie Boston, NYY, etc.
The Storm and Sounders are winners. When the Mariners were winners, they drew 3+ million four times, topping out at 3.54M. If/when the M’s win again (and post COVID), they will again post enormous attendance figures.
Agree with Husky73. When baseball is done right, there’s nothing like the daily-ness of a pennant race. Although after 20 years, starting September five games back of the last wild-card berth isn’t going to overcome the built-up cynicism.
MLS and WNBA have passionate followers, but their leagues haven’t been around long enough for the players to have clout.
Baseball has had labor peace far too long. We’re overdue for a conflagration.
Instead of service time being the decider if free agency, I think the players should go for something along the lines of years after being drafted. College senior 7 years after being drafted, College Junior 8 years, Freshman/Sophomore 9 years, High school 10 and foreign players signed under age 18, when they hit 28 years old. If that was implemented, most players would hit free agency at about 28-29 years old.
The Player’s Association would never go for that.
Among all the player unions, the MLB Players’ Association is the only one with real power. The NBA is close, but . . . without player buy-in, this is a never-go. It would take a gigantic concession elsewhere by the owners.
Not sure that I ever saw Marvin Miller without a cigarette, but he lived to 95. He was married 70 years.
Miller thrashed the owners so hard and so often he probably could have been arrested for assault and battery.
May not be those exact years but something like tha t is better than what they have now which is required number of years on the big league roster. Teams can do what we have known since the M’s FUBAR’d with A-Rod, keep them in the minors longer to get max time before free agency. This way the players are guaranteed to hit FA at a specific point.
Promotion to the bigs is a hard thing upon which to impose a calendar or data. It’s a purely subjective call that allows both club and player to make competing judgments that aren’t necessarily wrong in the moment, only in hindsight.
I agree. The union would have to gain enormous concessions elsewhere to agree to delay the anniversary date for free agency. Possible, but unlikely.
Hoping for the best for Kelenic but prepared if it doesn’t happen. The M’s have had too many can’t miss prospects come up and not meet expectations. Or have a solid first season and then tail off. You know who they are.
The default position for you and most Mariners fans is the cringe. I wonder if any longtime fan can ever un-cringe.
MLB drafting and player development is more difficult that it is with NFL and NBA. Maybe even NHL. But I really thought Ackley, Montero and Smoak would at least represent the M’s once in an All Star game after seeing them play at Tacoma. Others who come to mind are Danny Hultzen, Jeff Clement, Brandon Morrow and Mike Zunino as high draft picks who ultimately didn’t work out. Don’t get me started on Al Chambers. That’s how far back it goes.
Hey, Dan Vogelbach was an all-star.
Kelenic will look good in Yankee pinstripes.
He’s a tough young dude, rough around the edges in his interviews. I expect him to be in LF on opening day.
He seems born and raised to star, like Russell Wilson. Except Kelenic will be the anti-hero.
Like Steve McQueen?
James Gandolfini? Picture that kind of personality in the M’s clubhouse.
James Dean, maybe.
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Pissing in the wind
Betting on a losing friend
Making the same mistakes
We swore we’d never make again
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Can’t name that tune. Sorry.
I’ll bite. Pissing in the Wind, written and sang by the Great Jerry Jeff Walker, RIP and covered by many.
2 things: 1) If the kid hits in spring, bring him over right away. Then, if he scuffles, send him to Tacoma. If he doesn’t scuffle, it’s a great decision; if he does, you get suspension of service time.
And 2) Has it crossed anyone’s mind that the curse of the M’s almost demands that a strike occur when the club is at its most promising? Like the Expos of 1994, will they be in first place when the carousel stops and never see the World Series?
The service time clock doesn’t stop with temporary demotions
As far as curses, it would be most cruel to throw away ’22 with a work stoppage if ’21 ends respectably. So finishing 70-92 will take away the dreaded pressure to succeed.
Good article about Kelenic, the real meat of the matter is the upcoming CBA that will most likely be a real barn burner and possibly no baseball in 2022. Speaking of burning down barns, did Stanton leave town and move to Mar-A-Lago? Because there’s not been a peep from him or his minions since his lame speech “Of we have to do better.” I guess the M’s baseball executive committee are going to come away unscathed once again.
At least they’re consistent.
The Mariners would do a great service to the public, and the franchise, by explaining themselves.
Actually, the current franchise would do an even greater service by selling the franchise. It’s not going to happen because they’ve got a great gig going on. Never held accountable for “Anything” they do or say. Losing baseball, running a good ol boys club, being honest and upfront with fans/public. Why do any of these things as long as nobody holds them accountable? The politicians have basically handed the keys to the city to them. With the exception of a few members of the media the franchise has had their @$$es kissed since Danny Kaye and his buddies bought the team.
I love baseball more than any other sport, I played baseball thru Jr college when I eventually came to my senses and realized that I wasn’t going to be the next Cal Ripken and went another direction. I’ve followed the M’s since their inception in 77 like many other people on this thread. But the perpetual losing of the organization year in and year and the false promises from the lawyers and CPA’s that have run this team without any real hope of turning things. Couple that with Stanton buying the team which has turned into another false prophecy that he would take the organization to a better place. Really? It has taken the winds out of my sails.
There’s simply no easy answers for this franchise, they’re doing a tear down, step back, reimagining or whatever catchy new phrase that the marketing department comes up with hopes that the new kids on the block are going to ride to the rescue. Once again, “hopefully” they will. But what if it doesn’t pan out? Stanton & Co will just keep on keeping on with no accountability.
Ya can’t fire the monarchy.
If they could that would just open the door for another Jeff Smulyan to step in.
I always thought Smulyan could have been a good owner. But he was a minnow among sharks.
Agreed. The reason Smulyan tried to move the team to Tampa was because the loan he received to purchase the M’s was suddenly called due by the bank which I never understood. Unless he started to default on it. That’s when he morphed into Clay Bennett. MLB didn’t research hard enough on Smulyan’s qualifications. It was pretty amusing when he started dated KIRO anchor Monica Hart and how all of Seattle reacted. They were the local “It” couple for awhile.
I can see how you can reach that conclusion, however I believe that MLB would not even consider moving a team from Seattle again. But, never say never. I just think that the fans in Seattle are so numb to bad baseball that they’re willing to put up with anything as long as there’s MLB, or something that resembles MLB in Seattle.
Bad baseball is better than no baseball. Unfortunately the Mariner owners are well aware of that.
“false promises from the lawyers and CPA’s ”
Something eerily similar is going on at the local airplane manufacturing ranch. Ever since the Lazy B bought McD, the chart boys, yes men, umbrella holders, wannabe big shots, flashlight holders, and other worthless overhead. Presiding over the demise of a once great and proud company that impacted world history.
I defer to your greater wisdom. But it’s obvious even to us plain folk that the Lazy B is having a massive, systemic culture fail.
There is no great wisdom or really any other wisdom in the Spumoni dwelling. And I am the plainest of the plain, the tiniest of the tiny turtles, the most average of the average.
it is indeed sad to see Mother Bee going down the toilet, as they have not done a program well since the McD came in. 100% of all follow-on programs are/were ailing. And with the same folks in charge as before, no chance of effective recovery from the “massive, systemic culture fail.” Sorta like expecting the Mariners to magically win with the same management structure.
My original thought was the chart boys running both outfits are as incompetent in either or both.
There is an answer, and it won’t be easy. The Mariners have an opportunity to change their history…and his name is Theo Epstein. We saw how a man with a plan (Gillick) could build a powerhouse team. Epstein is Gillick-plus.
It’s a long shot. In any event, I don’t see how Epstein and Dipoto would work well together. But I’d make a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy watching.
I agree but Dipoto would never allow someone like Epstein into the picture. There can’t be anyone smarter in the same room at the same time as JD.
If Epstein arrived, there would be no need for JD. He’s done his job rebuilding the farm system. It would be up to Theo to build the major league roster.
I’m all in on Epstein stepping in and taking the reins. The big caveat is, would this current ownership dare take that step? Because Epstein would most likely demand full control of baseball operations and decision making and hire his own people. That would most likely spell the end of Dipoto and Servais as well. So I would venture to say, no way in hell.
Current ownership is a prodigy of the past, they were most likely influenced by the likes of Howard Lincoln and the Chuck Armstrong politburo. Nintendo went out on a limb to fetch Pinella and Gillick which turned the M’s into a real life competitive baseball team. Once they were run out of town, the franchise went to the dark side and has never looked back. Not sure that Stanton would go to those lengths given his short dismal history of running the franchise.
If Epstein came on Dipoto would leave or be fired. The M’s history shows they prefer people who are low key which Epstein isn’t. Of course the one time they hired a demonstrative manager they went to the playoffs. The one time they had a GM with World Series experience they won 116 games. After they left the club went back into their good old boy network.
That’s a hefty load of baseball despair. Hope you feel better having let it out.
The modern pro team sports are all monopoly operations, including sharing the bulk of revenues, which in another sphere would be called socialism, something the mostly Republican owners would shun. But nobody brings it up,
So yes, there is no huge incentive to risk a lot by competing full throttle. People will always show up for an afternoon or a night of safe, benign outdoor fun.
Thanks for listening to my rant, it was a moment of sheer frustration. Your comment of “ there is no huge incentive to risk a lot by competing full throttle.” Someone should tell that to the Dodgers $245+ million plus payroll. If that’s not full throttle I’d be curious to know what full throttle looks like.
It’s not all about the money with the M’s, their payroll had been mid level until they shed the dead money. Now they’re in the basement with the fine wine and spiders. Take a look at some of the lower payroll teams such as the A’s the Rays, they do more with less than most any other franchise. Wouldn’t that be an indication of they make it work with people in the organization that know baseball, and not knowing how to count money. Things like scouting, player development, having people that have a vast knowledge and motivation on how to get the most out of the players you have and consistently compete on a higher level year in year out.
Yes I realize that is what they’re attempting to do that now and hopefully it works.
Benign fun, boy that would have been a great motto for the M’s over the years. Ya can’t get much more benign than the M’s.
The A’s success, despite all the handicaps, is a mortal embarrassment for the M’s.
My non-competitive remark was directed at the M’s and teams like them that know they can tear down and glide for 3-6 years because there’s no other top-tier baseball choice. The Dodgers/Yankees are indeed competitive at the top of MLB.
I love the movie Moneyball. Until they get to the part where they catch and pass the M’s. Same old story between the two.
Fine job this morning on the radio this morning. Sue Bird!!!
Kelenic is giving the Mariners’ top brass a colonic. He’s a confident kid and seems to understand that he is dealing with idiots. As for mitigating the risks of farting in church, the CDC recommends maintaining six feet of social distancing and wearing a N-95 mask.
Is that you, Dr. Fauci?
Re: Kelenic: the melodrama gets better and better. Kelenic strains a knee. Mariners say he is out 3 to 6 weeks. Kelenic: I will be out seven days
Kelenic will try to come back in one week and tear his ACL.
That’s Disagreement with Management, episode 3. Sounds like fun.