If you want the real deal on the M’s, certain bloggers have it


By Terry Benish
Special to The Sports Paper


Sustaining as a fan of the Seattle Mariners is difficult. The team has been uniformly bad for most of its 36-year life. The M’s have had four playoff years, so on average one trip to the playoffs every nine years.

Unfortunately, the four playoff teams fit into a seven year stretch. So first there was an 18-year run of terrible baseball, then a seven year oasis of fun, and since then 12 years of crap and counting. If you want all the details follow this link: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/SEA/

An interesting thing took hold during the end of the oasis period. People began to write about the Mariners and write a lot about the Mariners. Not in newspapers, mind you, at least not at first, and not in magazines but online in what became known as blogs.

If not the first one, certainly the one blog that was the biggest was USSMariner. It was started by Dave Cameron and Derek Zumsteg. There were and are still other contributors, but in it’s heyday it rose to be the best team specific blog in all of baseball.

That blog is largely a backwater now as its founders have moved on to other things. Cameron founded Fangraghs and writes about baseball for the Wall Street Journal, ESPN and other spots. Zumsteg has largely retreated from writing about the Mariners.

One of the more imaginative blogs was Leoneforthird, which was named for former Mariner Justin Leone, a graduate of St. Martins University in Lacy. It was the product of Jeff Sullivan, who went on to blog about the Mariners there and at Lookoutlanding and now writes for Fangraphs and USSMariner. He now writes for the latter effort sporadically and the former seemingly on a daily basis.

Jason Churchill later started Prospect Insider which is sort of ‑ kind of ‑ about Mariner farmhands but mixes in some thought on the Major League team.  He has gone on to join 1090 the Fan on the radio, and other folks write stuff for the blog.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a blog for the better part of three years about the Mariners as well and achieved a writing discipline.

These blogs singularly tried to write about things you would not find in the three major newspapers and two small papers that covered the Mariners.  Specifically, they sought to show beyond a recap of the box score and a couple of quotes that were found in the papers were not what was really going on.

The approach they used was to discern through the use of statistical analysis who was and was not playing well, and were the Mariner field managers and general managers making good decisions on the field or off the field as per the analysis?

The statistical analysis of baseball was largely started by Bill James, who now works for the Boston Red Sox. It is called Sabermetrics. If you want to dive deep into that follow this link: http://sabr.org/sabermetrics.

So some of the blogs were deeply into this and the aforementioned blogs USSMariner and Lookoutlanding were the zenith. You can still from time to time, get really good stuff at USSMariner, because it has both Cameron and Sullivan.

Lookoutlanding survives, at least in name.

Since Sullivan left there is a corral of new writers who mostly are writers and not analysts. It is easy to take some shots at them, but I’m here to tell you that the early work of the USSMariner and Lookoutlanding did not achieve brilliance daily and wrote some really goofy stuff, but they kept at it and tried to improve their craft and did, which is why they write for places that generate revenue now.

So the newspapers said wait! We can do this stuff too and they jumped in and created online efforts that they called blogs.

Then the team jumped in and the radio station that covers the Ms did so too.

Now the Seattle Times has a blog that Geoff Baker created. The Times just hired Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune to be their beat writer and write a blog and I suspect that one of the TNT stable will replace Divish, shortly.

Shannon Drayer the pre and post-game reporter for 710ESPN, writes a good blog too.

While these efforts are called blogs and they DO publish around the clock, they are mostly newspaper kinds of things.  They report on stuff, kind of describe or hint at stuff, but hardly ever do the things that blogs do such as statistical work, or even channel the stuff of scouts about what is happening with players.

Baker has been highly critical about the efforts of M’s GM Jack Zduriencik and only a little bit about club CEO Howard Lincoln and club president Chuck Armstrong.

By blog standards, Baker has not tied out to anything beyond a recurrent drumbeat for the ownership to spend more money on players. He has cited stuff from Forbes and divorce proceedings, and if there was any meat on it, none of the other local writers have picked at it.

Local beat writers have ritually not made any type of statistical work part of their efforts. It is more like the same old stuff that was in the papers before blogs; heavily about the box score and quotes from the manager and the game.

So who should you read now?

There is not much to choose from. There were over a dozen blogs at one point and now really it falls into two categories:  News and analysis.

The news can come from the Seattle Times and TNT and from the team assigned MLB reporter, Greg Johns.

For analysis go to USSMariner and Lookoutlanding.

Scott Webber of Lookoutlanding ponders rumors and national internet baseball writers. He is way more charitable about those national writers. I regard them as shills.

Webber works the latest stuff and asks my question, which is, “Who on the Mariners is talking to Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney?”

I don’t believe anyone is, while he thinks it’s a mystery. I think it’s an agent shilling to influence other teams and use the Mariners as a stalking horse.

At this point, despite the type of head fakes as Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton the past two years, if you follow and write about the Mariners you feel like a large mouth bass rising to the surface after a lure instead of a minnow.

So why waste the motion?

Why should the M’s spend any money and be like the Angels, when their value according to Forbes keeps going up?