Seattle’s GM, Jack Zduriencik, was fired this morning. No surprise, but was it all his fault?
Yes and no. It is not his fault the Bullpen , the strength of the team in 2014, was a disaster in 2015. His main problem was the inability to rebuild the minor league system. After seven years it is no better, if not worse, than when he took over. Kyle Seager is the only regular it has produced until this summer when Ketel Marte was brought up and his play shows he is a star of the future at shortstop.
With the demotion of catcher Mike Zunino to Tacoma, it looks like Jack was the reason Mike remained as catcher despite never batting .200 in nearly two seasons. He is one of the best defensive catchers, but his hitting is awful. He was kept up because Jesus Sucre is an even worse catcher and it was said there was nobody in the minor leagues to replace Mike.
Which brings up the trade for Welington Castillo from the Cubs, an excellent backup catcher, and one with power. But a week later Jack said he traded him to Arizona, because “Arizona needed a catcher.” Well, so did the Mariners Jack, so why trade him for the lumbering, defensively challenged, Mark Trumbo? A terrible trade, always is, when you trade a need for someone you don’t need.
The funny thing about Zunino’s demotion is that it was said, and I heard Shannon Drayer, who covers the Mariners say it, that “There is nothing he can learn in Triple A. All he will see is Triple A pitching and that won’t prove anything.” It would seem she was mouthing what the Mariners said. But most, it not all, young players who struggle at the major league level are sent to Triple A to work on their hitting.
At this point I do not know who was recalled as the news just came over the radio. But it will be a good wakeup call for Mike. In the majors you have to play defense and hit.
How the 2016 team will be reshaped by the new GM, whoever that will be, and whether manager Lloyd McClendon will return are yet to be decided. Stay tuned at Mariner Central.
I always get irritated listening to Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon in his post game interviews, when all to often I hear him say “We have to get better.” No kidding. But how Lloyd? Any ideas? After the Mariners last game before the break, Lloyd finally said that he had been giving the players some rope, but it hasn’t worked, and “we have to make changes.”
Change players? Be more demanding of players? Choke them with the rope?
They will not win the division, nor will they be a wild card; both avenues are blocked by multiple teams, and not all teams ahead of them are going to go south at the same time. Not being close to the scene I can not blame McClendon. At least not entirely. I do believe it is a managers job to get a team ready to play, to play consistently fundamentally sound baseball. The way the Mariners have played it does not look like they care that much. The enjoy playing the game, but despite players protestations, they don’t’ seem to have the fire to win. Players say what people want them to say.
If Lloyd gets part of the blame, Jack Zduriencik, the general manager, gets some blame for not being able to scout non-pitchers in the amateur draft. Kyle Seager was a find, but Dustin Ackley and to this point Mike Zunino have been a bust. And their shortstops Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are only holding the job until 21-yeard old Ketel Marte, switch hitting shortstop, is ready. According to an article on MLB.Com, Marte was to be brought up at the end of May, but an injury shelved him.
It could be that Marte comes up when the Mariners realize they must see if he is their shortstop for 2016. That is one thing they should do. Another is trade Trumbo to a contender for a relief pitcher. Find a backup catcher. At the end of the season, on fan appreciation night, have two dollar hotdogs and a fan ballot on whether to fire or keep Jackie Z. But the best thing is to get Paul Allen to buy the team.
My fictional account of the New York Giants and Charlie Faust in 1911
Last August umpire Tony Randazzo ejected Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon on consecutive nights. The reason for running Lloyd out of the game the second time night was lame, as my blog at the time points out. Here is a link to that blog, though you will have to scroll down to find it:
Randazzo and Lloyd have a history that goes back years. And it’s not a good one.
But lets be honest. There are bad cops, bad politicians-okay they’re all bad-bad lawyers, bad doctors, and yes, there are bad umpires. Some carry personal grudges onto the diamond. Last night it started when Brett Gardner on a full count, checked his swing-well according to Randazzo who was umpiring at third- but Gardner had taken two steps towards the Yankees dugout (even he thought it was a strike), then stopped when he heard the umpires call, tossed his bat, took off his arm pad and walked to first. Replay shows, according to my eyes and the eyes of many, that he did not check his swing. It should have been a strikeout. It was important because later in the inning A-Fraud Rodriquez checked his swing and the first base umpire said it was a ball on another full count. This was too close to call; it could have gone either way. The Yankees scored a run that inning, one that had they not got, would have given the Mariners a win instead of losing in extra innings.
Mariner catcher Mike Zunino objected and was tossed from the game and Lloyd had enough. He stormed out of the dugout to first, got ejected, then made a tour of the umpires, heading to home for a brief bark, then on to third to chew on Randazzo’s ear. Stone-faced Tony to his credit stood his ground with courtly stoicism. I think he knew Lloyd had a beef. I also think that Lloyd was already gone and he was glad of it.
I don’t care what the umpires association would say if anything. Nor do I care what Randazzo might say. It is political posturing. Umpires are human. They can dislike players, dislike managers, and they can give a favorable call on a close play to those they like and give an unfavorable call to those they don’t and who is going to be the wiser.
Granted that checked swings are in the eye of the beholder; it is a judgment call made in second. But it is not coincidental that Randazzo all to often gives Lloyd and the Mariners the dark side of the close calls.
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.
It is not officially over, but it is only a matter of a couple of days before the bell tolls on the Mariners post season shot. The Good Ship Mariner crashed in Toronto’s Rogers Centre in two very unlikely games.
Felix Hernandez had his worst outing of the season, a very unlikely Felix performance, going 4.2 innings, 7 hits, 3 walks, and 8 runs. It came the night after James Paxton had the worst outing of his career, pitching just 2.2 innings, 7 hits, 6 walks, 9 runs, 8 of which were earned. In fact the best pitching staff in the game has allowed 42 runs in the last four games. They are no longer the best, for to be the best you must win when it counts and the Mariners pitchers, both starters and relievers, have failed to do that.
After beating Houston at home on September 8th to go 15 games over .500 at 79-64, the Mariners have gone 4-10. They still have five to play, but they show no signs of getting things turned around.
Manger Lloyd McClendon suggested Paxton’s poor, make that miserable, outing was because the Canadian was pitching in his native country for the first time. He felt the stress of pitching in a wild card race along with the stress of pitching before his fellow countrymen affected his concentration.
But what about the veteran King Felix?
Mariner broadcaster Mike Blowers suggested that after the home run to tie the game 2-2, that Felix, knowing how hard it has been for the Mariners to score runs, tried to be too cautious and lost aggressiveness.
There will be many theories, including the familiar “Same old Mariners” or they choked, folding under the pressure, or just pick out the usual cliché. The players will deny it. But what I have noticed is that when spring training rolls around they will be more honest about this collapse.
The good news is that even if they lose their last five games they will finish above .500. Nobody predicted in March they would finish above .500. But I still think the M’s have one or two wins in them before the Good Ship Mariner undergoes an autopsy.
Umpires make mistakes. On occasion they miss a call, but the majority of umpires have integrity and do their best to be impartial and honor the game. Others abuse their power for personal reasons. This type of umpire needs to be weeded out because if an umpire is not impartial then he his dishonest.
Major League Baseball needs to look at umpire Tony Randazzo for his actions Saturday and Sunday in Detroit when he kicked out Seattle Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon in consecutive games. And the reason for the second run is ridiculous.
Saturday night Randazzo was calling balls and strikes and McClendon was not happy with the calls for his pitcher Felix Hernandez. Nor was Felix happy. Watching the game with the strike zone box that allows fans to complain it was clear Randazzo was missing calls from time to time. Okay that happens. Keep in mind this was the third time Randazzo was behind the plate when Felix was pitching. His ERA in those three starts is over 8.00. I am not suggesting anything here, for Randazzo has nothing personal against Felix-that I know of-but he does against McClendon.
Randazzo ran McClendon from arguing balls and strikes, claiming that Lloyd said something from the dugout. I don’t know who said what, if anything, but I doubt Randazzo could distinguish whose voice he heard. Then Sunday Randazzo, umpiring third, did not call a third strike when Mariner catcher Mike Zunino pointed to third looking for the call. It did look like the Tiger batter swung, but Randazzo called ball. Then Randazzo ran Lloyd from the game again. Lloyd did not say anything, and if he had, he would not have been heard from third base.
Here is why he was kicked out according to Randazzo. He “shooed away my call with his hand.” What?
Crew chief Brian Gorman said after the game that hand gestures are a powerful statement. Again, what? Keep mind no middle finger was used in the hand gesture, Lloyd simply “shooed away the call” and he was sitting in the dugout. He never came out to argue. I have a feeling this happens every day in some game and nobody is thrown out.
Here is what got Lloyd ejected: http://i.imgur.com/ubwWv5s.gif
This is personal with Tony. He has only two ejections this season. Lloyd McClendon on consecutive days. That’s it. Last year he tossed one, the year before two. So he does not throw out managers or players lightly. Couple that with the fact that Randazzo was embarrassed by a bad call in 2005 when Lloyd was managing the Pirates-feel free to Google Pittsburgh Gazette and do the search. Randazzo is letting personal feelings get in the way of his job. I hope he will not umpire many Mariner games down the stretch. I would hate to think his antics could cost Seattle a playoff spot.
Baseball does not need umpires like Tony Randazzo.
Nobody sang “That’s Life” any better than Frank Sinatra, a song about not getting down in life, but persevering, “I thought of quitting, baby but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it.”
Throughout the baseball season when the Mariners hit a bad stretch, such as their 13 game losing streak, or their five game losing streak, or when they have been shutout twice in three games, scoring two runs in the other, reporters ask Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon questions like, “Are you worried?” or variations of that question.
McClendon’s answer is always the same. “That’s baseball.”
It is a true statement. He always says it is a long season, this is just one stretch of it. Also a true statement.
“You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June”
For the Mariners they were riding low in April with a 7-13 record. But before last nights 2-0 loss to the Twins they had risen to nine games above .500 and have the best record in all of baseball since April 23rd.
“I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race”
And that is what the Mariners have down, they hit a bad stretch and bounce back. As McClendon say’s, “That’s baseball.” He is saying you don’t get too down, and you don’t get too high. There are always good and bad stretches of baseball and don’t get caught up in either one. McClendon doesn’t worry publicly, in fact when things are going well, he might nitpick wins, saying we have to get better. He does not get upset, maintaining a well balanced equilibrium during bad stretches.
The song does end with potential of a bad ending:” But if there’s nothing shaking come this here July
I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die, my, my.”
So the Mariners, to avoid dying this month, should shake things up with a big trade, bring in a bat or pitcher. Because “that’s baseball” too.
Read more: Frank Sinatra – That’s Life Lyrics | MetroLyrics