I just got back from a stroll through the lobby here that wound up taking more than an hour.
I talked to Kevin Towers, the former Padres’ GM who is a coveted free agent after being fired last year. The Mariners have talked to him informally about the possibility of joining their front office in some capacity, and Towers told me that he’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. Towers pointed out his Northwest connections and his affinity for Jack Zduriencik, who hired him as a scout in Pittsburgh, as well as the fact he wants to work in the American League after spending so much time in San Diego. In fact, Towers and Zduriencik were chatting for a long talk in the lobby today, and Towers said he plans to talk further when Zduriencik’s schedule allows. But the Yankees and Red Sox are also interested in Towers, and he said he has not made up his mind. He said that wherever he ends up, he sees himself as a talent evaluator, someone the GM can call upon for advice on players they might be considering. He doesn’t want to manage people, he said.
I also had a nice visit with former Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who is in fine fettle. Piniella put in a good word for potential Mariners target Rich Harden, saying that the Cubs shut him down last September because he was tired, they were out of the race, and they wanted to look at Tom Gorzelanny. Lou said that if the Cubs were in the race, Harden could have pitched. The Cubs, he said, wanted Harden to be healthy and at full strength when he became a free agent. “That’s the truth,” he said.
I also asked Piniella about Edgar Martinez, who is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year.
“He’s a first ballot guy, absolutely no hesitation,” Piniella said. “For 10 years, there was no one better. Best DH ever. One of the best right-handed hitters ever in the history of baseball. About the only thing he didn’t get accomplished was to be on a world championship team. He’s filled all the other gaps. One of the elite hitters. Late in the game, you didn’t want to pitch to him. I got the most admiration for him. You know, when I got there, he played third base, batted second and stole a lot of bases. As he got bigger and stronger, his power numbers grew. Look, hitting wise, over the 10 years I was there, there wasn’t any one better.”
Finally, I picked up rumblings that the Mariners might still have some concerns about Russ Branyan’s back, which kept him out of action for the last month in Seattle and bothered him throughout the year. I don’t see any way they budge off a one-year offer.
Oh, thanks for the overwhelming twitter response. We’re at 500 and counting. Baker’s getting a little worried that I might catch him. Follow me at stonelarry.