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Around the Horn

End of season potpourri

Well, that was a fun World Series, eh? The Washington Nationals won their first championship (as either the Nats or the Expos), the Astros were denied bragging rights, and weirdness abounded—the road team won every game (unprecedented); the umpiring was comically bad at times; an assistant GM got fired; Gerrit Cole lost a game; Justin Verlander lost two games; and on a team with Cole and Verlander, the best start for Houston came from a rookie most of us had never heard of.

Solid. Too bad it was one of the lowest-rated ever in terms of TV viewers. People missed out. (Or did they? What about Internet viewership? Domestically online viewing is supposed to be blacked out, but you know how it is...)

In any case, it's over. The season is officially in the books and the offseason has begun. Even the World Champion Nats couldn't celebrate long before their team started to dissolve, with World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg already opting out of the remainder of his contract with Washington and becoming a free agent.

2019 was a blast (for some) and a nightmare (for some), as most seasons are. But time keep on slipping, as the song says, and we look ahead to 2020.

More than half a dozen teams will have new managers next season, and sadly none of them are the Seattle Mariners. The M's are still stuck with Scott Servais at the helm, a guy that inspires no confidence at all when it comes to in-game strategy. Presumably he has value in the clubhouse, right? Is he handling egos and mentoring young players and otherwise keeping morale in good shape? I sure hope so, 'cause he's lousy during games.

Meanwhile, new managers will take over in Anaheim, as Joe Maddon brings his brand of fun and successful stewardship to the Angels; in Kansas City, where former Cardinals skipper and gold-glove catcher Mike Matheny takes over for the retiring Ned Yost; on Chicago's north side, with former Cub catcher David Ross taking over for Maddon; in Queens, with ex-All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran assuming the helm for the Mets; in San Diego, with Jayce Tingler hired to replace Andy Green, who the Padres lost faith in after a last-place campaign; in Philadelphia, where Joe Girardi returns to the dugout after a couple of years away to right an underachieving Phillies ship; in Pittsburgh, still a vacant gig after Clint Hurdle's firing; and in San Francisco, also still vacant after Bruce Bochy's retirement. Beltran, Tingler, and Ross are all first-time managers, at least at the Major League level (Tingler had managed at the rookie-league level and in the Dominican Republic). Green, Hurdle, Brad Ausmus, Gabe Kapler, and Mickey Calloway are now out of work, unless any of them end up taking the San Francisco or Pittsburgh jobs, which seems unlikely.

If you ask me, Clint Hurdle could be useful with the Mariners as either bench or hitting coach. Neither of those positions are vacant, but certainly the hitting coach job should be after this season's spectacular affair with striking out. Currently, the M's have openings at pitching coach, bullpen coach, and third-base coach.

Player-wise, the Mariners have already done some cutting as they get prepped for 2020. No adds yet, though some are surely coming. Let go already are the following:

  • LHP Wade LeBlanc, whose option for 2020 was declined thus making him a free agent.
  • 1B/3B Ryon Healy, who chose free agency rather than minor-league assignment. The trade of promising (and now exceptional) reliever Emilio Pagán for a power-hitting, defensively-challenged, low-on-base-skilled corner infielder always seemed like a bad idea and is now an unqualified failure.
  • OF Keon Broxton, to the surprise of no one.
  • RHPs Matt Wisler and Anthony Bass, both lost to waiver claims. Neither is much of a loss, though Bass showed some potential this year. Wisler is now with the Twins, while Bass was claimed by the Blue Jays.

 The Mariners' extended family lost a brother last Wednesday, as former M's broadcaster Ron Fairly passed away at the age of 81. Fairly had been suffering from esophageal cancer and complications from radiation treatments. A popular presence on Seattle TV and radio dials from 1993-2006, Fairly was primarily a color commentator alongside the late Dave Niehaus and current radio voice Rick Rizzs.

Though known by some (e.g. me and people in my social circle) as "Ron Fairly Obvious," Fairly had a knack for reiterating what was already plain to see, as well as misusing the phrase "that of," as in "Buhner stands taller in the box than that of Randy Winn." But he was entertaining in his misuse of language and his statements of redundancy, and he had a seemingly endless supply of anecdotes from his playing days to spice up those moments in a lopsided blowout game that threatened to bore radio listeners into switching over to news or music. Fairly played in the bigs for 21 years, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and was one of just a few players to log time with both Canadian franchises, the Montréal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays (he was, in fact, an original member of both expansion teams); he had lots of source material.

My only in-person meeting with Fairly came at spring training in 2000, when I was among a scrum of reporters doing postgame Q&A with Seattle manager Lou Piniella after a rather humbling loss. I was standing next to Fairly and after Piniella had given his trademark gruff answers to three or four questions, Fairly said to me and anyone else in his immediate vicinity, "yeah, he's not going to give us anything today; stick around if you like." He headed back to the clubhouse and I followed, Fairly explaining as we walked that you can tell from facial tics and tone whether Lou was in a mood that would give a decent quote or not. "He'll have to get that [useless ranting] out of his system first, it'll be tomorrow before he has anything you can use."

Safe journey, Ron. It was fun to hear you tell your stories and mangle the language in your own special way. Much more eloquent than that of Fox's John Smoltz.

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