That's all I had to read from David Locke's column in Wednesday's P-I entitled "Playing .500 ball is Mariners' quest." At a high level, sure, I agree. The M's goal should not be to win the division this season. That's an unrealistic goal, and this team was not built to win the division. It's slightly more well-built than last year's team, but the problems of last year (especially relying on players on the obvious downslide of their careers to put up numbers like they're in their peaks) continue to plague this team. Those problems were going to plague this team from day one. A more realistic goal, however challenging it may very well be, should be to get the M's back to .500 and reestablish the Mariners as a team that does and can win. I agree with Locke in that it's first and foremostly important to regain a swagger and a winning attitude.
Bill Bavasi, don't do it. Resist the urge.
Fans, stop clamoring for it. Don't fall for the myth.
The gut-wrenching, three-game sweep by the Washington Nationals has started the call for the Mariners to throw in the towel on the season and start the Sounder train shuffle with the Tacoma Rainiers.
That would be a mistake.
I agree with the principle that it's not quite time to give the youth a shot, merely to sift through the wheat and the chaff. We need to give them a shot because they'd be better than what we have now! Locke completely misses the boat by assuming that the players in the minors that we'd call up for a "look-see" would not:
a) have a winning attitude already; and
b) perform better than the guys they'd be replacing.
Did Locke forget what he wrote a few weeks ago on team chemistry? If there's anything that would help this chemistry problem, it would most certainly be an injection of youthful fervor. Who will take over second base for Boone, then, if he's the one messing with the chemistry. Bloomquist? Wrong. If there's anyone who'd perform worse than Boone at second, it'd be good ol' Willie. There is this guy down in Tacoma, then, who'd probably be no worse than Boone, and could even potentially be better. But, no, we shouldn't "throw in the towel" and call up the youngsters.
I talked about the chemistry problem several times last year (about this time even) when Bucky Jacobsen was absolutely destroying AAA pitching. The Rainiers were at the top of their division, and the players on that club knew what it was like to win. They were hungry to play baseball in the big leagues. After watching post-game show after post-game show and seeing the frustration and disappointment in the players around the Mariners' clubhouse, I repeatedly mentioned that the M's needed some guys to come up and remind the veterans how fun the game is, and what an honor and complete burst of luck it was to be in the big leagues. Sure, they would be awe-struck at the transition into the luxuries of MLB at first, but it's that humble attitude, full of appreciation, that the players on the big-league squad needed to be infected with. The fans needed it, too. They needed new guys to latch on to in the middle of the season -- new stories to read, and new accomplishments to watch.
I'm sure the fans were not the only ones infused with a bit of excitement when Bucky was at the dish. It was the first time in a long, long time that I -- heck, even my wife -- stopped in our tracks and dropped everything when a player came to the plate. I'm sure my house wasn't the only house in the neighborhood where nothing got done during Bucky's at-bats. As I recall -- there were more players from both teams leaning on the railings in the dugout, too, for his at-bats.
Of course one could argue that we don't really have a player like that in the minors. Hello. Have you heard of a kid name Felix? I'm not sure, though, that Felix is ready. I guarantee, though, that he would be a much, much better pitcher than Ryan Franklin. Plus his justifiable swagger again would add an element to the clubhouse chemistry that Locke so pompously preached two weeks ago is needed. Felix is a winner, and knows how to win. You think that he'd hurt the club's chances of improving their record to .500, whatever shortcomings might crop up from his youthful inexperience?
An interesting thing to note -- The M's winning percentage on July 15th (the day Bucky and George were called up and Olerud was DFA'd): .379 (33-54). The M's winning percentage from then on: .400 (30-45). I could, I suppose, take the time to compare stats between the players that were DFA'd and the youngsters who took their place, but I don't have the time (Corco -- you feel up to the task?). I do remember the M's winning a little bit more, and (in spite of being somewhat masked by 'Gar's retirement announcement and Ichiro's chase of Sisler), the overall winning aura and clubhouse chemistry being much, much different. It still had tons of room for improvement, but how can Locke say that the M's had nothing to show for the likes of guys like Bucky and Bobby? Aside from Ichiro and 'Gar, those two altered the atomosphere of Safeco, and brought a new excitement to the team. Did Locke miss out on the excitement of seeing Bucky and Bobby?
Last June 27, the Mariners gave the season and Freddy Garcia away. They then worked the transaction wire harder than Billy Martin worked a starting rotation.
Safeco Field became Triple-A tryouts at major league prices. Hiram Bocachica, Matt Thornton, Justin Leone, Travis Blackley, Clint Nageotte, George Sherrill, Bucky Jacobsen, Ramon Santiago, Cha Seung Baek and Jose Lopez all arrived at Safeco Field to showcase how they represented the future.
One year later, the Mariners have nothing to show for it.
And, dare I mention it, the excitement of Greg Dobbs becoming the first Mariner in history to hit a homer in his first major-league at-bat?