I guess in some ways it's good to remember that this team is still capable of making me mad. It's just that today was kind of like getting our hands on the Bill and Ted time machine, dialing up "our future," and packing the booth with a homemade pipe bomb loaded with shrapnel. There's no way to sugarcoat it - this has been a bad day for both the current team and the team of tomorrow, and after an offseason that saw most of us become enamored with the organization, this is a tough way to get the ball rolling in 2009.
Jeff Clement going back to AAA is a move I hold against the front office and coaching staff. Offensively, he has nothing left to learn in Tacoma, and defensively, I question how much further development is realistic considering that he's 25 and his body seems to prefer something different. He might be able to make some incremental improvements given intense instruction and enough playing time to work out a few kinks, but incremental improvements aren't going to change the way he's perceived. This organization is still reloading - as opposed to trying to win now - and as such, they should've given Clement the chance to sink or swim behind the plate with the big club in 2009. That they don't appear willing to do so does no favors for our present, our future, or Clement's career. Regardless of whether or not you think Adam Moore was going to make Clement obsolete in 2010 anyway, this is a move that takes a bat away from the 2009 Mariners while simultaneously serving to reduce Clement's value. In the minors, he just has so little to gain and so much to lose.
The Mariners clearly don't think that Clement is a viable big league catcher right now. If they did, he'd still be with the team. Something they're hoping for, then, is that he's able to take a step forward as a backstop while sustaining a productive bat, but more realistically, they either need to convince him to change positions or they need to find another team that's willing to give him a shot behind the plate. In the event of the latter, they'll probably want to strike soon, before he has a chance to drive his value down even more. It's just a lousy situation all around that doesn't make anyone happy but Rob Johnson, and nobody gives a fuck about Rob Johnson.
Jeff Clement was supposed to be the slugging catcher of the future, but I don't know that he's ever faced longer odds of fulfilling that dream with Seattle. Here's hoping he's able to bounce back from this and still give us a good chunk of value down the line, be it as trade bait or as a 1B/DH (or, I guess, as a catcher). You better not let me down, Adam Moore. Now all eyes turn to you.
The Brandon Morrow decision, however, I do not hold against the front office. At least, not this front office. As best as I can tell, his main reasons for wanting to switch back to relief are:
- he feels more comfortable and excited in the bullpen
- his issue with diabetes is easier to control as a reliever
- he feels his arm and body are best suited for relief
#1 sure sounds like the fault of one Bill Bavasi, doesn't it? From Pravda:
"Once you get a taste of closing, I don't think many people would want to go back to anything else."
Had the Bavasi administration handled Morrow as a starter from the beginning, rather than rushing him into a one-inning role as a Major League reliever, Morrow never would've developed a taste for closing in the first place, and that whole situation could've been avoided. This is just the latest bit of evidence that bad front offices don't disappear overnight. You can sever the head and you can sever the limbs, but while the body may be dead, there's no telling how much longer one may remain aware of its influence.
But as for points #2 and #3, what are Zduriencik & co. supposed to say? There were questions about Morrow's durability and stamina back in college, and when you add in the whole diabetes problem, at some point you have to throw up your hands and concede that there's nothing you can do. Morrow had the right attitude transitioning into a starting role last summer, and he did his best to get acclimated to the new situation, but he was having trouble with his blood-sugar, and his arm felt like shit the day after starting. All starters will experience soreness after throwing 90 or 100 pitches, but with Morrow, he could barely move his arm. Yes, he was able to recover in time to make his starts, but that's a pretty significant signal that something isn't right.
Zduriencik and Wakamatsu could've expressed to Morrow their desire to keep him as a starter. I'm sure they did. Several times. But at the end of the day, if Morrow doesn't think his body can handle a job in the rotation, then that's his decision, and the team simply has to make the best of it. You can't just force him into doing something he doesn't think his body can do. I mean, you could, but that hardly seems prudent. As disappointed as I am by this news, I'm going to give Brandon the benefit of the doubt that he knows his body and applaud him for being honest. A Brandon Morrow that's successful in relief is better than a Brandon Morrow that's inconsistent or injured as a starter.
As a closer, Morrow has the stuff to be lights-out. We've seen it before, and if he's able to keep himself steady, he'll end up being worth somewhere between 2-3 WAR, hanging out with the other elite relievers in baseball. That's good. It's not terrific, and we all know that a guy with his repertoire has the potential to be an enormous value in the rotation, but if Morrow can't do it, then this is a reasonable Plan B. Something tells me the Red Sox aren't too bummed out about Papelbon's failed starting experiment.
What this means for the M's is that (A) they don't need to worry about the closer anymore (best wishes, Tyler Walker), (B) Josh Fields looks redundant, (C) they need to address their starting pitching depth, and (D) the future got a little less bright. C and D are the biggies. As far as C is concerned, there's no one behind Garrett Olson, and there are no righties behind Carlos Silva (edit: forgot Batista). Prepare yourself for a trade or, at the very least, a signing. And as for D, I don't care how good Morrow is as a closer - good starters are more valuable than great closers, and Morrow as a starter had limitless potential. Not to put too much pressure on the guy, but I imagine it won't be long before Phillippe Aumont starts feeling the heat. We kind of really need him to not bust.
Today isn't the day I wanted to have, but now that we've had it, we've no choice but to deal with it and move on ahead. If you feel that familiar warmth wrapping itself around your shoulders, it's your old identity, and it's welcoming you back.