Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said after 50 games he would know what kind of team he had. They have played 51 and are three games below .500 and twice of late have failed to rise above that mark. They are not a playoff team at present and most likely will not be. Even with over 100 games to play there is no sign they will get better.
In 2014 the M’s hit .244 next to last in the American League. After 51 games they are hitting .236 and only the Brewers .227 average is worse. Their .297 on base percentage is 28th in baseball. On the positive side they are slugging at a .396 clip, 16th in baseball. But since they are 28th in runs it means most of the home runs are solo blasts.
They are also 5th in baseball in batters striking out. That means not putting the ball in play; at least fly balls and ground balls have the chance to advance runners. Mike Zunino is striking out at a 42% clip. He is batting .183 and while I would loved to see him begin to hit, no team can carry a catcher, no matter how good is defense, if he is an offensive liability. An occasional home run does not help. Hitting below .200 for two consecutive seasons will bring into question of what to do with him in 2016.
Currently the Mariners have three hitters above .500. Nelson Cruz .333, Kyle Seager .277, and Seth Smith .262. Robinson Cano keeps swinging at balls out of the zone is batting an un-Cano .246. Dustin Ackley can catch the ball, can not throw it home, and is hitting .185.
Ackley and Zunino are the new Justin Smoak. Whenever Smoak got on one of his rare one week hitting binges, Mariner broadcaster Mike Blowers and others would bring out the old line, “it looks like he has it figured out now.” Of course Justin would go into a hitting funk lasting a month, then another brief fling of hitting brought out the tiresome cliché. When the 2015 season started and Ackley was hot, the cliché came out again, “it looks like Dustin has it figured out.” Wrong! When ever Zunino has a two hit game, we hear it again. Enough already. Neither has it figured out-as yet.
When the season started the Mariners wanted either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor to take the shortstop job. Neither has. Taylor, now in Tacoma, couldn’t hit, and Miller’s throws to first are not unlike a Fernando Rodney experience. And now Miller is not hitting.
Last season the Mariners got by with the best pitching in baseball, but that is not the case this year. Iwakuma is disabled and it is questionable whether he will return to his former self. James Paxton on the DL with a finger strain weakens the starting five and the bullpen has been inconsistent. Danny Farquhar, now in Tacoma is being stretched out to become a starting pitcher. It is a fail safe move in case Mike Montgomery, starting tonight against the Yankees, is not the answer with Paxton gone. So much for Mariner depth, the illusion of spring. The bullpen has been charged with 13 of the 27 losses.
The truth is there are no signs this is a playoff team. A weak hitting catcher, no shortstop, no left fielder, lack of hitting, too many players striking out, no depth in starting pitching, and an inconsistent bullpen are not signs of a playoff team. Wait till next year.
James Paxton is on the disabled list, so reason number one is that Seattle needs a starter and Mike Montgomery has been starting for Tacoma in Triple AAA. The second reason is that, like Paxton, Montgomery is a lefty. The third reason is that he has not started since May 26th, so he is rested. Naturally if Tacoma starts him before Tuesday he is not the answer.
Montgomery has no major league experience. He started his pro career at the age of 18 in 2008 when he was drafted out of high school by Kansas City. He has pitched in 164 minor league games, 159 were starts. he has only two complete games and his won loss record is 46-50 with a 4.24 ERA. His strikeout to walk issue is good and he does give up many long balls. Of course pitching at the major league level is another matter. His numbers are not overwhelming. But who else do the Mariners have to start with Paxton sidelined?
Mike Blowers has suggested Dominic Leone. But he is a relief pitcher, not likely to last three innings and his pitching this season has been ineffective. He was called up, but why start him? You will be taxing your bullpen, something Lloyd is loath to do. An ineffective reliever starting against the New York Yankees makes no sense.
It has also been suggested that Jack Zduriencik, Mariners GM, may be calling around trying to make a trade. I doubt being in a vulnerable position as the M’s are, any team will help Seattle and the asking price for a short term fix undoubtedly would be too high.
It is funny in retrospect that this past spring everyone said the Mariners had a lot of depth. But they really don’t have depth. They had one proven starter in Tacoma, Roenis Elias, and he was called up when Iwakuma went on the DL. Now Paxton is out. One more pitcher going down and the Mariners may be doomed.
It is difficult to report, but it must be told how the Mariners ignore the 300 section in Safeco while they cater to the 100 level. The Mariner’s are a class conscious corporate slumlord. Yes it is true. Read on felloe baseball fan.
Here is what I have learned. I sit in the first few rows of the 300 level, have done so for years, usually right behind home plate. Great seats. During the game the Mariners, along with one of their corporate partners, have some give away or contest. On the huge scoreboard in center field you see what looks like a slot machine. The first number comes up with the section, the second with the row, and if needed the third is the seat. The Mariners will tell you it is random. It is partially true. The randomness is about which section in the 100 level wins something. Every game I go to it is always the same. The 300 level fans may as be in the deep gray sea of Elliot Bay being eaten by sharks.
But that is not all. In the 100 level you see many types of vendors, though never one selling hot dogs, which to me is a crime against baseball fans. But I digress. The only vendor I have seen in the 300 level is selling cotton candy. That would be okay if I were eight years old, but I was that age in the last century, and I mean very far back in the century. The other night I did see someone selling ice cold lemonade. Just what I want in the chill of the night. Any hot chocolate? Laughter fills the air.
The point is that the ballpark is a set up as a class structure where the rich people in the 100 level are catered to, fawned over, and loved, while the people in the 300 level are considered like people in a tenement. We are in the slum of Safeco Field. I find that odd that we sit in the Penthouse of the Park, but are considered third class steerage like passengers on the Titanic.
A revolution is needed. A protest must be organized. I want my hot dog vendor. I want the chance to win something. I want equality. I don’t want to sit in the back of the bus. There will be a class war. It is coming.
It is not the .210 batting average that bothers me. Though the Mariners are 26th in baseball and 12th in the American League is not the problem. Their on base percentage does bother me. At .258 they are 14th in the American league, ahead of only the Twins at .249. The reason for that is the same as last season and that is the inability to draw walks.
They are 13th in the league in walks with 18 in nine games. The Twins have 17 and the White Sox have 13, but they have played eight games. Last season the M’s drew 396 walks, last in the League. Oddly Kansas City was last with .380. who finished with a 89-73 record. The difference was Kansas City hit .263 while Seattle hit .244 and that is why the Mariners finished dead last in on base percentage at .300.
The Mariners survived a poor offensive output in 2014 because their pitching was one of the best in baseball. It is early, but through nine games they have had only two good starts, one from Felix, the other from J.A. Happ. Paxton, Iwakuma, and Paxton have either struggled or floundered. And closer Fernando Rodney has blown up the last two games.
Everything looked good in spring training, but there is no pressure in those games; once the bell rings, high expectations can cause things to go wrong. I don’t know whether they feel the pressure of expectations or not. They say no, but what do you expect them to say. It could be the pitchers are not in their rhythm, are having trouble locating.
The focus of the everyday players has not been there. Cano thought the bases were loaded when there were runners at second and third and began walking home from third when a batter walked and Cano was thrown out. Logan Morrison forgot how many outs there were in consecutive innings. Brad Miller Forgot to cover second base once.
The 3-6 record is disappointing and while the starting pitching has been poor, it should not mask the Mariners inability to get on base. Homers alone will not win games. You need to be patient, get pitchers deeper into counts, draw walks, and get clutch hitting. The M’s are doing none of that.
It is time for the Mariners to step and during this nine game home stand. Forget expectations and start playing fundamentally sound baseball.
Willie Bloomquist is 37 years old and coming off knee surgery. Richie Weeks is 32 and not coming off any surgery. Seattle GM jack Zduriencik has said Weeks will compete (Jack loves saying the Pete Carroll buzz word) at the corner infield and outfield positions as will Bloomquist. It would seem the hand writing is on the wall for Bloomquist though Zduriencik denies it. I would not expect him to say anything else. Jack has said there is room for both players, but it is unlikely that Seattle will carry two utility players, both of whom bat right-handed.
Bloomquist has a slight edge because he has played all positions except catcher. Weeks, played second base in Milwaukee for 11 seasons, refused to try the outfield last season for the Brewers. Since Milwaukee did not want to pay him 11.5 million this season they said good-bye.
Weeks has played the outfield, but not since college. That was in 2002 for Southern University. However, when you have lost your everyday job, as Weeks did last season, and D-Day to spring training is close at hand and you are unsigned, the outfield or any position looks good. I think Weeks will be determined to make the team doing whatever is necessary. He could also DH allowing Cruz to play first base or left field once in a while.
Weeks did not sign a minor league contract with an invite to spring training; he was signed to the 40 man roster, meaning the Mariners expect him to make the team. Edgar Olmos a left-handed reliever, whom the Mariners picked up in November on waivers from the Marlins was designated for assignment. The Mariners have added Mike Kickham and David Rollins from the left side to compete with Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge so Olmos was expendable. It has also been rumored that Roenis Elias could be in the bullpen.
Spring training with sort out the lefties and who wins the utility job. Bloomquist is fan favorite, but I am betting on Weeks.
I am a 12. I love the Seahawks, have for years. The way the Super Bowl was lost by the Hawks on Sunday was devastating, crushing, depressing, unreal, unbelievable. The local talk radio airwaves are filled with fans ranting and raving in despair and anger. It was the wrong play they say. Of course they wouldn’t say that if the play worked. But the Beast should have been given the ball.
There is a cure for the Seahawk blues and that is for the Mariners to have a great season. By doing so our minds will be diverted from pain. I won’t say anything about healing process. The wound will go away, but the scar will remain until we are buried-or cremated. I want my ashes in either a Mariner or Dodger urn and given to the Hall of Fame. Either that or have my ashes put in a rosin bag.
But back to the matter at hand. Seahawk 12’s need diversion, something to cheer about. Without it we will go insane with grief and sorrow. Or go into a violent rage out of frustration. The Mariners need to step up and help Hawk 12’s by winning. Not just having a good season, not just falling one game short of the playoffs as in 2014. No they must win, win win. They must crush the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs, then beat whoever in the World Series.
If the Mariners fall short, even worse, not make the playoffs (I will never attend an M’s games again if not in playoffs) then Seattle reverts to that city of sports failure. The Sonics were stolen by the 21st century version of carpetbaggers. The Seahawks blew the Super Bowl. The Mariners continue to flounder like a dying seal in Elliot Bay.
The baseball season can not come soon enough. We need to be rescued from the sea of despair by the Mariners.
Baseball writer Larry Stone in a recent reticle in the Seattle Times said he votes for players known to use steroids on his Hall of Fame ballot. His reasoning is, to quote from the article, “The steroids era was a part of baseball, enabled by all parties, with statistics that still count in the record book; we don’t know definitively who used and who didn’t, and to try to make those distinctions is such a slippery slope I choose not to go there.”
Just because a slope is slippery does not mean it can’t be navigated safely. Yes the statistics still count in the record book. The problem I have though is saying the steroid era was enabled by all parties. True both the owners and Players union looked the other way. However, there was no sign in the clubhouse stating it was okay to use steroids. Not all players used steroids, so not all players were enabled and the playing field because of that was uneven. Some players cheated, some didn’t.
If there were no steroids how close would the known users stats have been to the clean players? Steroid users created a wide gap in performance numbers and clean players numbers pale in comparison and were cheated; it was not just the game, not just the records, not just the fans, but the clean players who were cheated as well. So why reward the dirty players?
While it is true that we don’t know all who did or didn’t. But we do know that Mark McQwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriquez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens are the most prominent users. We know their Hall of Fame numbers are distorted, corrupted, warped, perverted and defiled. If I were a clean player from that era I would not want to see steroid users rewarded. Until someone comes up with a sound formula to determine who from that era can be admitted, keep them out.
Larry Stones article, which is about why Edgar Martinez should be in the Hall of Fame is here. http://seattletimes.com/html/sports/2025226539_stone14xml.html