2014 Seattle Mariners: Credibility isn’t free


Mike Ferraro

Third baseman Mike Ferraro wasn’t a Seattle Pilot for very long — he batted five times, made four outs and walked before he was traded at the end of April 1969 to Baltimore (reliever John O’Donoghue was the only one of the three players the Pilots received to make much of an impact on the Pilots’ season or Ball Four). Ferraro spent the next three years in the minor leagues as the Orioles won pennants, never playing for them. Ferraro was traded back to the Seattle organization, by then in Milwaukee, and was a semi-regular for the Brewers in 1972, hitting .255 with a .606 OPS. He never played in the major leagues again, ending in the minors with the organization he had started with — the Yankees. It was the Yankees with whom Ferraro gained the most notoriety. Ferraro was the third-base coach for the 1980 Yankees who waved Willie Randolph into an out at home plate in Game 2 of the ALCS, a 3-2 win for Kansas City. TV cameras captured owner George Steinbrenner’s disgust, and Steinbrenner demanded Ferraro’s firing. Manager Dick Howser refused to acquiesce and after the Yankees were swept, Howser resigned. Ferraro remained a Yankees coach for two more seasons, managed the Indians in ’83 and eventually reunited with Howser in Kansas City. Ferraro was a coach for the World Series-winning ’85 Royals, and when Howser fell ill in 1986, Ferraro took over as manager. Ferraro had two more stints with the Yankees as a coach and one with the Orioles. Final stats: .232 average, 2 homers, 30 RBIs, 500 at-bats, .553 OPS, 0-for-5 trying to steal bases, -0.4 WAR, 76-98 as manager.

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: The Mariners once traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero because they had other pitching and needed hitting. Now they have Robinson Cano and maybe wish they didn’t have Montero. And Pineda, missing two seasons, is pitching while Danny Hultzen is not and Taijuan Walker is rehabbing. The best-laid plans are often waylaid. So the Mariners made other plans, and it’s a good thing, because most of their top prospects — not including Walker who is saved a spot in the big-league team’s rotation — are in high Class A and expected in 2016. Third baseman D.J. Peterson will add to the glut in their infield — he slugged .553 and had a .918 OPS last year in two levels last year. The Mariners must like Peterson because they drafted him twice: first as a high-schooler in the 33rd round in 2010, and last year with the 12th pick of the first round out of New Mexico. That first-round designation better reflects what they think of him.

Trivia: The 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games, had three players with 100 RBIs and a fourth with 95. Name them. Answer below.

What he said: Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon on Yankees’ hitting coach Kevin Long’s criticism of Robinson Cano: “Anytime someone attacks one of my players, I’m going to defend him. And if you don’t like it, tough shit.” What he meant: “If someone attacks my players, Robinson Cano or Willie Bloomquist, I’m going to defend him. Just not as vigorously if it’s Willie Bloomquist.”

Outlook: What’s the price of credibility? About $24 million a year to the Mariners, which is what it cost them to sign Robinson Cano away from the Yankees.

Outbid the Yankees for one of their own, and people take you seriously,

Was Cano worth it? Too soon to say, but the Mariners have had four straight losing seasons and eight in the last 10. They needed something.

The Yankees’ hitting coach Kevin Long said Cano didn’t hustle on ground balls and didn’t run everything out. The Mariners could have responded that it’s all right with them if Cano takes his time 30 or so times year, on every home run he hits.

The Mariners will be better, but they should have been even without Cano after having won just 71 games last year. Cano can only do so much; the rest is up to their other — outfielder Dustin Ackley, catcher Mike Zunino, shortstop Brad Miller, infielder Nick Franklin. All have grossly underproduced thus far in their careers.

The Mariners also need the starting pitchers healthy. Walker, their No. 1 prospect, has a shoulder injury; Hisashi Iwakuma has a sore finger; young pitcher James Paxton has a lat strain.

In their absence, the rotation includes Cuban defector Roenis Elias, AAAA mainstay Blake Beavan and perennially sore-shouldered Chris Young, at 6-10 baseball’s tallest player. That’s 60 percent of a rotation which hasn’t produced a big-league win since 2012.

The Mariners dealt Pineda to the Yankees in 2011 for Montero in a deal nobody won. Montero played, but not well; Pineda didn’t return to his Rookie of the Year form until 2014. The Mariners kept Montero from catching so he could hit; when he didn’t do that well enough they moved him back to catcher so he could have more value and he hit worse.

That’s what brought the Mariners to a contract with Cano. And it wasn’t just the low victory totals — 71, 75, 67 and 61 — the last four years, but the diminishing audience. The Mariners’ three-lowest attendance totals were the last three, the only times they’ve drawn fewer than two million people since moving to Safeco Field.

Cano won’t be worth $24 million a year for the entirety of his contract, and the Mariners know that. For now, he just needs to be worth it in 2014.

Trivia answer: Bret Boone led the 2001 Mariners with 141 RBIs, followed by Edgar Martinez with 116, Mike Cameron with 110 and John Olerud with 95.

Team song: Fred Astaire: Putting on the Ritz

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