Ryan Garko Placed on Waivers

Sigh. This is the type of move that really annoys me. No, it’s not a team-killer, and no, it’s not real surprising after what we’ve all been hearing over the last two weeks (although I certainly did not expect them to just let him go) – but it just comes off as kind of, well, dumb. Ryan Garko is a more valuable player than Mike Sweeney – he’s younger, he’s got significantly more upside at this point, and he can actually play first base. There’s no way that this organization doesn’t realize that – they aren’t stupid. What that means is that they’re making this decision based on something other than value and talent, which isn’t the best way to do things when you’re trying to build a winning team. They’re doing this for team chemistry reasons, which is something we’ve already seen once this off season with the Griffey signing. The Griffey signing, however, I could handle, as an isolated event. I didn’t think back then that there was any chance of Sweeney coming back.

I think what annoys me the most is that this organization has made so many good moves this off season, and done so much work to turn this team into a contender – work that a lot of organizations probably aren’t smart enough to orchestrate. But then they’re faced with such an easy decision, and they opt to go the route of team chemistry, and putting stock in Spring Training stats, rather than taking the route of on-field value. Please, Sweeney-supporters: Don’t get me wrong. I really like Mike Sweeney, and a small part of me is really happy for him that he’s going to make this team. However, Mike Sweeney is a rich major league baseball player who could easily find a coaching job to quench his baseball thirst and continue to be set for life – I care much more about this team’s success than I do about him getting a shot to hold on for one more season.

I guess that’s the end of my rant. Hopefully, this won’t turn out to be too big of a deal. It’s just one of those things.

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Tags: Ken Griffey Jr Mariners Mike Sweeney Ryan Garko

  • Derek Wescott

    While I partially agree with your thoughts, I think you aren’t putting enough value in team chemistry. We’ve got plenty of talent on the team even if we fill 2 of our 25 roster spots with Junior and Sweeney. Guys like these are what can bring together the other 23 to take full advantage of that talent as a team and not just 25 guys playing on a field that happen to be wearing the same logo.

    Also, one of the biggest things I think Sweeney brings to the table is his ability to pinch hit. Not a lot of guys (especially young guys without much experience) can come into a game late and get a clutch hit. Sweeney can, so that ups his value in my book.

    Also, the Mariners offered him a coaching position before they allowed him to suit up as a player. He said he didn’t want to coach this season and that he’d either play (for us or anyone else) or take a year off with his family. After the year off he’d think about coaching.

  • 200tang

    Mike Sweeney last year put up a 1.045 OPS while pinch hitting in 12 PA.

    He’s a career .660 OPS hitter while PH in 57 PA.

    I mean, even if those 12 PA are his true talent level, which I highly doubt, are those handful of PH appearances over the course of a season enough to warrant keeping him?

    Sorry, but no way you’re going to get me to believe that Sweeney’s PH ability is the reason they kept him.

    Totally agree with the rant though. This seems like such a no brainer and they go with the opposite choice while blowing our minds with trades for Cliff Lee/Franklin Gutierrez/etc…

    I’m totally confused.

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    Derek, I think my biggest discrepancy with what your saying is that this team is not in a position to sacrifice talent for chemistry. If they were the clear division favorite it might be a different story, but they aren’t. They’re right there with the rest of the division, meaning even the most marginal improvements or drop offs can make a big difference in terms of playoff hopes.

    And yeah, I understand that he wants to play another year and doesn’t want to coach yet – but that really shouldn’t be the Mariners’ concern. Winning should be the Mariners only concern.

  • Sean

    you guys are forgetting that Ryan Garko isn’t very good. And while we’ve all suspected he is a poor fielder, the coaches had a chance to watch up close for a month and confirmed it for themselves. I watched him at ST and he seems lethargic, almost disinterested. For some reason it never seemed like a good fit. With Kotchman the everyday 1b, I honestly think that Sweeney has more upside this year, given the fact that neither are going to see more than 250 PAs. Garko is unproven, and Sweeney is proven hitter, 5 time All Star. Chemistry isn’t that important until your comparing players that will be playing far less than half the games. at that point character and leadership matter because most days are spent on the bench.

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    Ryan Garko wasn’t going to be a bench player, he was going to be in a platoon at first base with Casey Kotchman. He’s not a good fielder, and he’s not a great hitter, but there’s absolutely no denying that he can hit lefties. Casey Kotchman, on the other hand, has trouble with lefties.

    And to a point, you’re right – those ~250 PA’s aren’t going to have a huge impact on this team’s success. However, the point I keep trying to stress, is that when you’re talking about a team that’s in a position to contend, even the moves that seem fairly insignificant can make a large difference. 1 win can be the difference between a playoff team and a non playoff team.

  • Sean

    I agree with you Griffin on the point that Garko has more value to the team on paper, but at the same time I think there were a series of moves that lowered Garko’s value on this team:

    1. Griffey as primary DH
    2. Bradley as primary LF
    3. Kotchman full-time 1b

    For the record I’m not thrilled about these moves, but I’m warming up to Kotchman’s glove scooping throws at 1b every game.

    Most people in the M’s blog community seem to favor a breakdown more like this:

    Bradley: 80-90 starts LF, 50 games DH, 20-30 days off
    Griffey: 60-80 starts DH, pinch-hitter
    Byrnes: about 40-50 LF, pinch-runner
    Garko: 40 starts 1b, 30-40 DH
    Langerhans: 20-25 starts LF, spot duty in CF, RF

    Here is why this plan didn’t work:

    -Langerhans will be cut so long as we have 12 man pen as Lee sits.
    -The coaches saw Garkos defense at 1st and said “We would rather have Kotchman play everyday.” Even though Kotch can’t hit lefties(though the team really seems to think he will be an improved hitter).
    - Griffey will get a lot of playing to time to start the year and prove he can hit. I love the guy, but I suspect he won’t hit that well.
    - Byrnes will not platoon to start the year, from the sounds of it he’ll just be a reserve OF.
    - Team won’t mention or consider that Bradley, as a Switch-hitter with injury history, would make a great fit for DH vs lhp.

    I’m firmly in the boat that all of this is going to change after the first 5-6 weeks of the season. By June they might have an 11-man pen. Barring injury, we’ll probably see the platoons we want later in the season. maybe not at 1b though.

    So really if Bradley starts seeing time at DH, and Kotch at least holds his own vs lhp, that RH bench player that can’t play D is going to see even less than 250 PA.

    I know we all looked at Garko’s line versus lefties and thought he was a great fit.

    But when your asking who takes those DH at-bats, your looking at two guys who will be around 0.5 WAR or less over fewer than 250 PAs. To be fair, Sweeney actually has a reverse split, Garko a pronounced conventional split. So maybe Garko would have that 1 WAR upside if he mashes.

    But Sweeney finished strong last year, Garko didn’t. Sweeney is having a great spring, Garko is having a bad spring. Sweeney is beloved by his teammates, Garko has never fit in or made a strong case for himself.

    At the end of the day, chemistry is a more important factor in this limited role, and there just isn’t much difference between the production we can expect from these guys, so you go with the proven leader.

    I know you don’t believe in “chemistry,” but I feel it’s a factor: chemistry between coaches and players, trainers and players, front office with fans coaches and players, fans and players, and YES player to player chemistry. That 08 team would have never lost 101 games without their toxic clubhouse atmosphere and lack of leadership.

    I think a coaches and players poll asking Garko or Sweeney would all choose Sweeney, because he’s a leader and he has proven he can still mash.

    with all that said (sorry it went long), I do really hope Garko clears waivers, but he won’t. Just hope he doesn’t end up in Texas and killing us!

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    I do believe in chemistry, I just think it’s being severely overblown by a lot of fans right now. The 2008 team lost 101 games because they were horrible. When your team isn’t talented, it doesn’t matter how well they get along.

    I won’t argue with the fact that this probably isn’t a huge deal – I never thought it was, it’s just a bit of an annoyance, and I’m sure a lot of it has to do with how spoiled we’ve been as fans over the last few months.

    However, I’m not sure I see the relevance with your rundown of what lead to the first base platoon idea being thrown out. Even after those decisions you listed were made, I still don’t think going with Sweeney over Garko was necessary or smart. I won’t quibble any more about it though, as you’ve been respectful with your comments, and it just doesn’t matter all that much.

    I dislike the decision, but it isn’t earth shattering, and I’ll live with it.

  • Sean

    Yeah I think we’re all just so anxious for baseball that we quibble over small roles, and who can maximize their value in that role. Such a small role that chemistry comes into the equation (you won’t hear me bring up chemistry for Bradley, for example).

    The relevance of the list is that, like it or not, the value of a non-positional RH bat is seriously reduced given the decision to start Kotchman everyday. And if Bradley starts getting DH starts against LHP, that role is pretty insignificant until someone gets hurt.

    As for the 08 mariners, look at the 07 roster and give me another reason for dropping off 27 wins. Sure their was some talent lost, terrible trades, and a big fat pitcher signed to suck it up. 27 wins though? I think that 08 team had the worst attitude, worst coaching, and just generally shitty morale after injuries. Take the total flux of changes between the two seasons, and bad chemistry has to amount to a few losses right? By the way I hate assigning the word “chemistry” to every intangible that takes place off the field. Is good coaching chemistry? Are friendships chemistry? Leadership? Mentoring? Healthy communication? I just think there is value in all this that shouldn’t be derided as “just chemistry.” I know it’s not as important in pro baseball, but it is important in all team sports to a degree. The real point isn’t that GOOD chemistry necessarily helps in the win column, just that teams with BAD chemistry like the 08 M’s seem to let it effect their play and lead to underachievement. We all know of teams struggling, then getting bad attitudes and exacerbating problems while the season spirals out of control.

    Was Dice-K’s decision last year not to take place in Red Sox conditioning program a chemistry issue? I would argue it was, or at least a case of a player not joining his teammates in the program b/c he felt special (I know, WBC contributed). If he swallows his ego he probably doesn’t get hurt though.

    So all I would say, in conclusion, is that “chemistry” isn’t just slapping backs and making friends in the dugout. It’s the totality of actions taken by the organization to get the most out of their players, and the players to get the most out of each other. I hope this is the case with Cliff Lee mentoring Ryan Rowland-Smith!

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    A lot of people fully expected the ’08 Mariners to have a huge drop off, because the ’07 Mariners just weren’t anywhere near as good as their record. They were extremely lucky.

    As for Daisuke, you’re talking about a whole different issue. If a player makes decisions that hurt the team’s on-field performance because he doesn’t like his teammates or whatever, I’d call that stupidity, not a chemistry issue. And things like that only happen in rare cases. The Mariners already have Griffey, as well as a guy like Jack Wilson and a cool-headed manager. They were going to get along just fine, with or without Sweeney. If this was a team that was having clubhouse conflicts all the time with players that were constantly at each others throats, I think this would have been a lot more easily justified.

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