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Old 04-02-2019, 02:32 AM   #1
billethius
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What if the Mariners Just Went For It?

Introduction:

It's probably been a decade since I posted on the OOTP forums, but the start of baseball season brought me back and the 3D engine, primitive as it is, has really sucked me into the game. I used to mostly just sim my games, but I've had a lot of fun watching them play out in the new version.

Anyway, I've (unfortunately) been a Mariners fan for as long as I can remember, and they've been a bad team for ~90% of that time. One of the brief periods in which they were somewhat good was during the mid-90s, when they had four hall-of-famers (Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr, and Alex Rodriguez) but due to cheap ownership and incompetent GMing, only managed to turn that nucleus into 1 ALCS loss and 1 ALDS loss. I want to see what would have happened if they had realized what they had and just went for it?

Game Setup:

1996 is the obvious starting point, as it was Rodriguez's first full year in the majors, but I'm starting in 1995 for two reasons: 1) After the 1995 season, ownership didn't want to pay Tino Martinez, so they traded him along with Jeff Nelson to the Yankees for Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis. Hitchcock lasted one season with the team and Davis was a disaster over parts of four. Meanwhile, the team found a suitable replacement for Martinez in Paul Sorrento, but one of the main reasons the team was such a failure over those years was the lack of reliable relief pitching. So I'm going to rectify some of that by not making the same trade. And 2) Rodriguez, at age 19, slashed .360/.411/.631 in AAA. This was before I followed prospects, but that's ridiculous. He did get 142 ABs late in the year, and he wasn't great, but he probably should have spent most of the year with the team regardless. Instead, they gave those ABs to Felix Fermin who put up an OPS+ of 20 (!!). Rodriguez will spend the season with the team in my game.

The Plan:

This team will have plenty of offense. In addition to the HoFers, guys like Jay Buhner and Tino Martinez were pretty good players and even Mike Blowers and Dan Wilson were able to put up respectable offensive seasons. And then there's the pitching staff. Randy Johnson is obviously great, but after that it's pretty ugly. Journeymen Tim Belcher and Chris Bosio are the #2 and #3 starters. IRL, the team picked up failed prospect Solomon Torres and decent starter Andy Benes mid-season. Both were terrible with the team. My initial options for the #4 and #5 rotation spots in-game are:

Bob Wolcott (had a brief -- though longer than I thought -- MLB career)
Dave Fleming (he's an interesting one -- he put up a few decent seasons and then just fell off a cliff. Unfortunately, 1995 is in the free-fall part of his career)
Jim Converse (I know nothing about him)
Ryan Smith (Never made the majors)
Osvaldo Fernandez (Another guy I have no memory of, but it appears that he did have a short MLB career)
Matt Wagner (I remember being excited about him in 1996, and he did have some promising MiLB seasons, but he never appeared in the pros again after those handful of starts that year. Too bad. He was always a star on my Front Page Sports: Baseball '96 teams.)

I'll obviouly be looking to upgrade there. The bullpen is even more annonymous:

Jeff Nelson (The game sets him as the closer, which is interesting. I don't remember him closing many games for the Mariners. Regardless, he had a pretty solid career)
Bobby Ayala (lol)
Bill Risley (Also had a decent career, but mostly in Toronto. Woody Woodward traded him for Edwin Hurtado and Paul Menhart, who both posted ERAs > 7.00 in their time with Seattle. The poor job the GM did was probably more harmful than the cheap ownership.)
Bob Wells (Basically a 0-WAR reliever. He can eat some innings.)
Tony Phillips (Not that one. This is someone else who never appears to have made the majors)

And then whoever loses out in the rotation battle. Derek Lowe is in the minors, but too far away to help this season (Woodward, amusingly, apparently traded him AND Jason Varitek to the Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb after the Red Sox GM asked for one or the other).

So -- let's get started and see who I can pick up during Spring Training.

Last edited by billethius; 04-02-2019 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 04-02-2019, 03:12 AM   #2
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Spring Training 1995:

The free agent market doesn't look too interesting. Doc Gooden got $600k from the Blue Jays but his ratings aren't any better than the guys I've already got.

I can look for a trade, though. The addition of Rodriguez to the roster means that I can ship out a middle-infielder. Luis Sojo has better ratings, so Joey Cora is the guy I'll shop. Which honestly makes me a little sad. Cora was a huge part of the 1995 team.

But -- shopping him proves to work out for me. Baltimore offers up Jamie Moyer, who really came to the team from Boston in 1996. So, a package of Cora and aging backup catcher Jerry Willard nets me Moyer and RP (though still listed as a SP) Authur Rhodes. We're halfway through spring training at this point and that'll probably do it barring any injuries. Moyer will step into the rotation and Rhodes will go into the bullpen.

News From Around the League:

Barry Bonds signed a 6-year, $48m deal with the Giants. It contains an opt-out clause after year 2. As long as he doesn't opt out, something tells me that's gonna be quite the steal for SF.
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:07 PM   #3
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Good plan. Interesting approach. Enjoy.
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Old 04-04-2019, 02:29 AM   #4
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I'm still trying to figure out how I want to write these up, so bear with me at the beginning here as I try out different styles. Anyway...

Opening Day! The owner, who doesn't want to give me any more money, wants to remind me that I'm supposed to stay close to a .500 record this year. I hope that the pitching will be good enough that we can do a bit better than that.

The Top Prospect Report is out, and Alex Rodriguez is #1 as expected. Four other Mariners make the list:

#16 Derek Lowe
#33 David Ortiz (He started his career in the Mariners organization as David Arias before being traded to Minn. at some point)
#43 Raul Ibanez
#51 Jason Varitek

For the first series we'll be in Toronto for three games with the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned on Opening Day. David Cone shut the offense down over 7ip and Randy Johnson didn't pitch particularly well (5ip, 6h, 3r, 6k, 3bb)



Games 2 and 3 weren't much better, with the Mariners losing 9-0 and 10-3. The only noteworthy thing in those two games was the first homerun of the season for Griffey. Well, that and almost getting no-hit by Al Leiter.

News From Around the League:

* Pedro Martinez of the Montreal Expos has been suspended for 3 games for throwing at a player and starting a brawl.
* Astro's pitcher (Astros? I don't remember that at all) Doug Drabek no-hit the SF Giants, striking out 9 and walking 2 on 120 pitches.

Last edited by billethius; 04-04-2019 at 02:47 AM.
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Old 04-04-2019, 02:48 AM   #5
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4/7/95 - 4/9/95: Three with the Brewers

After getting swept in Toronto, we get to head home for the home opener and a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers. The offense finally showed up in the first game, as the Mariners got their first win by a score of 9-2. Rodriguez hit his first career homerun (also his first career hit that wasn't a single) in the 6th inning off of Alberto Reyes to break the game open. Tim Belcher had our first decent start of the year (6ip, 8h, 2r, 3bb, 4k) in the win. The only other thing of note is that the Brewers apparently have a terrible third base coach. He got two different runners thrown out at home, and neither play was particularly close.

Thanks to an off-day, we can avoid pitching our Osvaldo Fernandez and instead give the second game in the series to Randy Johnson. This turns out to be a good decision, as the offense scores just four runs -- none after the second inning. Johnson meanwhile has the kind of start I remember going to watch as a teenager: 8ip, 2h, 1r, 3bb, 12k. Jeff Nelson tried to give it away in the 9th, loading the bases with nobody out, but he got out of it thanks to two strikeouts and a weak groundball to 1b.

I was going to say something about suspecting the Brewers aren't very good, but then they came out and beat the Ms 10-2 in the third game of the series, racking up 15 hits. Bosio was terrible for the second straight game. The only positive to come out of this game was Tino Martinez hitting his first homer, but otherwise the team couldn't manage anything off of Steve Sparks*.

*Sparks' nickname on bbref is listed as 'phonebook'. I thought that was odd, so took a look at his bullpen wiki page and it has this note:
In the spring of 1995 Sparks dislocated his left shoulder while trying to rip a phone book in half.
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Old 04-10-2019, 01:29 AM   #6
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4/11/95 - 4/12/95: Two with the Blue Jays

So Toronto was terrible IRL in 1995, going 56-88, but they roll into town here with a record of 7-0. Moyer (0-2, 7.71) was bad again, giving up 10 hits and 6 runs over 4 innings, though only 3 of those runs were earned thanks to errors by Rodriguez and Blowers. Even so, this game was kept relatively close thanks to Griffey starting to heat up, going 2-4 with 2 solo homeruns. In the end, the bad pitching and poor defense were just too much to overcome and we lost 7-4.

The second game was even closer, as the Mariners tried to comeback against Toronto's closer Darren Hall. Tim Belcher (1-1, 3.55) was pretty decent again but the 9th inning homers by Edgar and Tino weren't quite enough to get the victory. We lost 5-4.

4/13/95 - 4/16/95: Four with the Brewers

We seem to be bouncing between good and bad teams to start the season. After Toronto swept the short 2-game series to go to 9-0, it's on to Milwaukee (3-5). It's a good thing that they suck, because our offense really needs to get going. Apparently Bill Wegman was happy to help out. The Mariners racked up 20 hits and 13 runs off of Wegman and a collection of MIL relievers while Randy Johnson (2-1, 1.64) got the call for the third time in 9 games and pitched a CG shutout even though this was the least-necessary game for him to do so.



Game 2 of the series also went our way. Unlike last time, we were able to get to Steve Sparks and his knuckleball for 12 hits and 7 runs over 3.1 innings. Bosio (1-2, 8.66) was once again terrible, giving up 7 runs of his own over 6ip, but a timely solo homerun by Tino Martinez in the top of the 7th broke the tie and the bullpen kept the Brewers scoreless over the last three frames.

Game 3 started out real good, with Osvaldo Fernandez (0-0, 0.00) getting his first start of the year. He had a solid line (6ip, 3h, 0r, 5bb, 9k) and handed a 4-0 lead off to the Bob Wolcott in the 7th. Wolcott managed to give up 6 hits and 4 runs while throwing just 17 pitches and getting 0 outs, thus blowing the lead. Aurthur Rhodes went 3.0ip in relief, but did give up the walk-off homerun to Derrick May in the bottom of the 11th.

Game 4 was a brutal win. Buhner and Tino were both injured running the bases and Moyer (1-2, 8.79) was once again bad. I guess I neglected to consider that Moyer didn't actually get good until 1997, his age 35 season. But we won 11-7 thanks to plenty of offense and some real bad pitching by the Brewers.

********

Side question for anyone who might be reading this -- anyone know why the game didn't use the actual 1995 schedule when I created a historical game? I would have expected to play a 144-game season rather than a full 162.
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Old 04-11-2019, 03:12 AM   #7
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Next up we head to Cleveland for two games against the Indians. They've started the season 9-3 and that seems just about right. This was a team on the rise before the strike in '94 and then proceeded to go 100-44 in '95. They're good. They're a little ahead of where the Mariners are at this point, but their situation isn't too different. Their lineup contains two Hall of Famers (Eddie Murray, Jim Thome), one who should be (Manny Ramirez), one who should have gotten a much better look and who I hope the veteran's commitee will take a look at (Kenny Lofton), and then a bunch of solid players (Sandy Alomar Jr, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Omar Vizquel, and Paul Sorrento). Their pitching is a mix of mid-career (Charles Nagy) and late-career guys (Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser), with some more help on the way in the minors. Sure, they never won a title, but they made the playoffs six of the next seven years and made the World Series twice. As a Mariners fan, that seems like a huge success.

4/18/95 - 4/19/95: Two with the Indians

After the last game we were told that Jay Buhner was day-to-day with a hamstring strain and Tino Martinez was day-to-day with a sore knee. Neither guy will be out long enough to warrant a trip to the IL. So, needing someone who could fill in at multiple positions I demoted 5th OF Gary Thurman and called out 22yo CATCHER Raul Ibanez. I also made the decision to drop ARod down in the batting order. He's currently hitting .196 with just three extra base hits. He'll hit 9th for a while and everyone else will slide up one spot.

... and the change seems to have paid off immediately! In the first game against Cleveland, Rodriguez hit for the cycle. That wasn't enough to net him player of the game, though, as that honor went to Mike Blowers, who went 4-6 with two doubles, two homeruns, and 6 rbis. Not a bad day. Couple that with another Randy Johnson (3-1, 1.88) start and you've got a recipe for 15-4 win.

The second game didn't go quite as well. Bosio (1-3, 8.63) started and gave up 7 runs (6 earned) over 6.1ip. Rhodes came in and pitched well in relief, not allowing a hit over 1.2 innings. The damage had already been done, though, and the Mariners lost 7-3. There were, however, a few bright spots. ARod continued his hot hitting since being dropped in the order. After picking up another homerun, his batting line is looking pretty respectable at .271/.348/.508. Ibanez provided the other highlight as he got his first MLB start and hit a homerun in his second career at-bat.
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