Although he is no longer a Seattle Mariner, former prized prospect Jarred Kelenic found a way to bring more anti-Mariner content to the world. In an interview for Foul Territory, Kelenic admitted to some of his frustrations with the team that traded him this offseason to Atlanta in what was essentially a salary dump move that he was attached to.
Now before I dig into what Kelenic said, can I just say that the Foul Territory’s constant crushing of the Mariners is really weird? I get that they are a new show that is trying to be the next Talkin’ Baseball, and the offseason has been slow, but is Jerry Dipoto really their only line of content? I'm no Jerry Dipoto defender, but maybe if they spent more time on other teams, instead of bashing Seattle, they would have more than just 4% of the following that Talkin’ Baseball has.
When it comes to Jarred’s comments about Jerry and the clubhouse, it makes me rethink my viewpoint on this offseason so far.
This offseason has been dominated by baseball teams being broke due to RSN uncertainties, with the Seattle Mariners taking the brunt of the heat from the media. Obviously this has been boosted by the stupid comments made by Jerry Dipoto this offseason, and the moves clearly leave local media thinking that John Stanton has strangled the purse.
There is clearly enough smoke to see that financial issues are affecting the Mariners, I don't doubt that. One thing that the Kelenic comments do make me wonder, was the 2023 clubhouse broken?
We've constantly been told about how Jerry is not viewed positively in the clubhouse, but what is not discussed as much is some of the issues that have been rumored in the clubhouse among the players. In 2022, we found out that Jesse Winker was somewhat of a clubhouse cancer, and created real issues with team leader Mitch Haniger. Speaking of Haniger, it was clear that this team missed his voice during the toughest moments in 2023.
Horrific offensive seasons by Kolten Wong, AJ Pollock and Geno Suarez had to hurt the “good vibes” of the clubhouse. Teoscar Hernandez just completely disregarded the “Control the Zone” philosophy. Ty France, an all-star in 2022, is now in the hand of Driveline to keep his once promising career from potentially being on life alert.
The dark cloud of frustration and disappointment that was Jarred Kelenic could easily be seen on the field, and was likely affecting the clubhouse. As much promise and hope that he showed us in glimpses, the broken foot from kicking a Gatorade jug was the climatic moment of the Shakespearean tragedy that is Kelenic’s Seattle career.
Don't forget there was a time when Kelenic was a higher rated prospect than Julio Rodriguez. The contract extension that was rejected made the vibes feel off from the very beginning. The way he was brought up, then forced to stay in Tacoma as the team surged behind Julio had to be unbearable for Kelenic. From his interview, it's clear he is aware enough to realize where he needs to grow, but it felt impossible for that to ever happen in Seattle.
All of these disappointments clearly put too much pressure on the likes of JP Crawford, Cal Raleigh, Julio Rodriguez, and a dominant pitching staff. While it's clear Cal was frustrated with leadership, I do wonder if those frustrations would still be there if more than half the lineup didn't massively disappoint, costing the Mariners a playoff spot.
The players need to get better and play better, whether there is cash to spend or not. It's not an easy job for Dipoto, and his mouth has not helped. What he has done is reset the lineup, and potentially rebuilt a new and improved roster, on both the field and in the clubhouse.
The signing of DH Mitch Garver should add some real thunder and plate discipline to the M’s lineup, but as he has shown in his recent radio interview with MLB Network, this guy comes across as a leader that believes in this team's capabilities. The ability to reacquire Mitch Haniger, bringing him home, is going to be a massive boost to the clubhouse with his leadership and work ethic.
Another underrated addition to the team was trading for Luke Raley. Raley had an incredible season last year in Tampa Bay before an injury cost him the stretch run and postseason. Raley has taken a unique route to the Bigs, but has been taught and flourished under the tutelage of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays. I'm not sure there are two organizations that better teach a player how to find their role that helps the team, commit to that role, and succeed in that role.
I'm not gonna sit here and say that these three additions make the Mariners a better team offensively than in 2023, but I do believe that Jerry sees these guys as professional ballplayers, all at three different points in their careers. They all provide experiences and lessons that could be a massive benefit to Julio and Cal.
It sure would be nice for all of them to kick ass, but it may be just as important for them to help this still young roster be prepared to start fast in April, fight through the dog days, and know when it is time to turn on the burners and do whatever it takes to bring some banners and hardware to T-Mobile Park this fall.
The Mariners may still be broke, but this team should feel more united than ever.