Manager Lloyd McClendon has said Justin Smoak is the Mariners first baseman. Does that mean joy in Mudville?
In Smoak’s first nine games he is 7-21 (.333) with 3 doubles, a homer, and 4 rbi’s. I am sure part of the reason is that he is a switch hitter and they need hitters from the right side when facing lefties. McCelndon would like to see Smoak have 40-45 doubles and 20-25 homers. The home run numbers are withing reach as he had a career high 20 last season, but he has never came close to 40 doubles, his high being 24 in 2011. McClendon is overly optimistic about a career .227 hitter and has fallen prey to everyone who watches Smoak in spring or goes on a hot streak in between his droughts.
In case Mariner fans have forgotten last spring Smoak batted .407 with 5 homers and 15 rbis. Everyone expected a great year where he would live up his advanced billing. But he hit .238 and despite the 20 homers had only 50 rbis. I hope for the best, but I have seen this every year and by now, as the saying goes, you are what you are. And Smoak is what he is and not what people think he is.
Spring Training is a chimera, the numbers meaningless. Consider Jesus Montero whose awesome spring of 2013 saw a .400 average with 2 homers and 11 rbis. He hit so poorly and was so bad as catcher he was sent to Tacoma to learn how to play first base, then was suspended for PEDS. He hit .208, 3 homers, 9 rbis with Seattle And it has been reported he came to training camp 40 pounds overweight.
Another example is Mike Morse who hit .357 with 9 homers and 15 rbis. Everyone envisioned 30-35 home runs, but he played himself out of Seattle, ending up in Baltimore and now is in San Francisco’s camp. Morse hit .226 with 13 home runs and 27 rbis with Seattle.
One more. Jason Bay .321, 2 home runs, 6 rbis and during regular season .204, 11 home runs, 20 rbis and was released.
Of those four who had great camps, three did not finish the season with Seattle. I call it Smoak ball-hits in spring, not in summer-because by summer the Smoak has cleared.
My e-book has no Smoak nor smoke. http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394520850&sr=1-1
Michael Saunders celebrated his return from his rehab assignment by hitting a home run in the first inning against Baltimore Monday night. His bat and defense will help Seattle, but one must question why Carlos Peguero was send back to Tacoma.
The outfield is Michael Morse, Endy Chavez, and Saunders. When Gutierrez is healthy again, Chavez will either return to Tacoma or head to the bench. Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay are the reserves. The latter two, provide the Mariners with the magic ‘veteran leadership.’ But if the Mariners want the young guys to come through, then Peguero should be in Seattle as the fourth or fifth outfielder.
Peguero was 2 for 6 with a home run in his two games with Seattle. I don’t know what he could do if he played more often with Seattle, but he is sure to hit more than .161, which is what Raul Ibanez is hitting. I know Raul is a fan favorite, is good in the clubhouse, but he is 40 years old and is playing the outfield like a 40-year old. Age has caught up with Raul. He may have a flash or two, but over the long haul Peguero would help Seattle more than Ibanez.
In 2012 Peguero had 56 at bats with Seattle, hitting .179 with 2 homers. Even worse he struck out 50% of the time. In 2011 in 143 at bats, Carlos had 6 homers and hit .196. Not good numbers and the strikeouts are alarming. Still he hit over .161, has more power than Ibanez, and is slightly better defensively.
The sad thing is the choice is between a 40 year old on his last legs who can’t hit and a younger player who strikes out a lot. If Morse or Saunders go down for any length of time, the depth chart for outfielders is scary. At the moment Ibanez and Peguero are bodies, not players. Perhaps the Mariners need to send out an S.O.S.
Since Seattle lost the opener of their spring training schedule to San Diego they have won eight straight games going into Sunday, March 3rd, which ties their longest spring training win streak, set back in 1994.
They have been winning with an offensive juggernaut that places them at the top of the major leagues with twenty home runs in nine games. Sure the ball flies in the Arizona desert, but they still are the leader. I don’t expect them to lead during the regular season, and I don’t expect long winning streaks, but it is fun to enjoy this run, even if it is spring training.
Justin Smoak in a make or break year is batting .533 with two homers. He has had hot streaks before, but they were few and far between, so I am not holding my breath. Jason Bay, fighting for a roster spot is 3-6 with two homers, Carlos Peguero who wants to play in Seattle, not Tacoma, is hitting .429 with 3 homers in 14 at bats with only four strikeouts.
If those numbers do not convince you that the Mariners are hitting in a parallel universe, consider that Brendan Ryan is 3-6 with a home run.
None of this seems real, and it probably isn’t. If you follow the Mariners it is impossible to get your hopes up because the good ship Mariner, like some car in the final lap of a NASCAR race, is bound to crash. They always do.
I imagine the beginning of an old 1960’s television show, The Twilight Zone, and Rod Serling, the shows writer and host, comes on and says, “What you are about to see may seem like the resurgence of a mediocre and nearly forgotten baseball team, one that has been ridiculed, one that has been a joke for a decade. But appearances can be deceiving, especially when unseen forces are at work, when things are happening in another dimension, and that dimension is the twilight zone.”
So enjoy spring baseball because Mariner hopes, like The Twilight Zone, will be cancelled, once the good ship Mariner comes back to reality.
Maybe the M’s should just stay in that zone, twilight and all.
The Kansas City Royals traded for two veteran starting pitchers, James Shields and Wade Davis, giving up two of their best prospects in the process. And since the Royals say Billy Butler, whom the Mariners wanted, is not available, it looks like Kansas City is putting coal in the Mariners sock this Christmas.
Texas lost their hope of adding Zach Greinke to their rotation. He signed with the Dodgers. That means Texas has money to resign Josh Hamilton, who wants to stay in Texas anyway. So it looks like Hamilton isn’t in the Mariner lifeboat.
Michael Bourn, a base stealing center fielder, is still out there. While he would help Seattle at the top of the order, the Mariners want to add power.
What is next for the trade marooned Mariners?
Can they still make a trade for Justin Upton? But are they willing to part with top prospects like Kansas City, who want to win now?
Jack Zduriencik was given the nickname Trader Jack , but last off-season he was gun shy. Is he willing to pull the trigger now? He said he would trade young prospects for the right player, but will he? I worry that Jason Bay will be the only move. I worry that Trader Jack is no longer the quick draw gunfighter, having lost the edge for the fight.
Other teams have been active, but the Mariners are silent. Maybe like a rattler, they are lying peacefully in the sun, just off the trail, waiting to strike at the right moment. Then again it is winter and that rattler is probably in hibernation, sleeping it off. Wake up Jack! Strap on that gunbelt, spin the cylinder, load that Colt .45, and get in the fight. Shoot some prospects over to those snakes in Arizona and snare Justin Upton.
Or sign Adam LaRoche to play first base.
But do something that will give the Mariners hope the way Kansas City did with their fans.
Mariner fans waiting for the big bat that Trader Jack is seeking to bolster the middle of the Mariners feeble offense need not scratch their heads with the Jason Bay signing, though in fact, he has yet to put his name on the dotted line. That should be Friday.
It is amazing that a .161 hitter can garner, if rumors are true, a $1 million deal. He was a a power hitter, but injuries have plagued him the last three years, making him, not a young 34, but an old 34. Still there is nothing to lose. He still has to make the team out of spring camp. At best he can be a 4th or 5th outfielder and DH once in awhile. It is a risk worth taking if his injuries are behind him.
The Kansas City Royals are said not to be interested in trading Billy Butler, but have said nothing, at least in my ears, about Alex Gordon, who would be a good fit for the new look Safeco Field. But no rumors surround his name.
Apparently if rumors are to be believed, the Mariners had interest in Justin Upton of Arizona and there was a possibility of a four team musical chair swap of players that would have brought Upton onto the good ship Mariner, but the deal fell through. But like Lazarus we can hope for resurrection.
The Mariners are still in the hunt for center fielder Michael Bourn, a player I said earlier would be great at the top of the Mariner lineup. He can hit in the 280’s and steal a ton of bases. One major problem is that Scott Boras, the Ebenezer Scrooge of agents, represents Bourn. Bah humbug!
Nick Swisher is still in being looked at by the Mariners as a corner outfielder. He is attractive for his leadership, his power, his run production, and the fact he can also play first base. Should Justin Smoak once again fail to hit until September, Swisher can change gloves.
Trader Jack said he is willing to trade some of their hot prospects and Taijuan Walker’s name was rumored in the Upton trade, and that is the way it should be. You hate giving up young prospects with a big upside, but you have to pay for what you want. And if Jason Bay is the only off-season move it will be a chilly summer at the Safe with more seagulls than fans. Those poor seagulls may starve to death.