If It's Broke...
Finally, the Mariners come back down to earth. We've shown that we can handle bottom feeders somewhat decently, after taking two series from the Angels and the D-Rays. But when the opponent is a little more formidable, well, that's when the problems appear.
Really, we all have come to expect the Mariners to be a bit streaky. That's what average, non-contending clubs do. They'll rattle off some nice wins, keeping the fan interest somewhat warm. But then, before you know it, that same ol' sucktitude rears its ugly head. Pitching will fall apart, defense will implode, or hitting will just vanish. Things just never seem to synch up.
Eventually Hendu's law of averages works its way back to average. Unfortunately, though, the Mariners aren't quite there yet. I'm becoming more and more convinced that this is still a below-average team that doesn't seem to a) have an identity and b) know in which direction it's heading. In order to be an average team, a team will have to find SOME consistency. To be a near-contender, a team has to find even more. It needs to have leadership.
Excitement comes from leadership. Whether it's from the manager, the veterans or an energized youth corps, there's GOT to be some leadership. I don't see any at all. This is a BOOOOOoooooorrrrrrrrrriiiinnnnnngggggg team. With Felix's royal colors fading, and his crown tarnishing, there's really not much exciting to watch. To start the year off, it appeared the team had a slightly different "never say die!" attitude -- they always seemed to be able to have SOME battle in them. They were somehow able to peck away at leads, and stay in the game long enough to instill hope that they just might pull things off.
Do they still have that attitude? I don't see it. Sure, we've got a few guys that are mostly consistent -- Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez. Ichiro's picking it back up a bit, too. But while Pezzer's bat is the best on the team right now, it isn't exactly overwhelming. Yes, he's hitting very well in the clutch. His two hits tonight bumped him over the .300 mark. But there are several bats I'd trade his for right this very minute. The fact that the M's management can't seem to shake things up with the batting order -- save, of course, for platooning Reed with a backup middle infielder and a bench hitter who probably shouldn't be playing CF -- shows that they really like playing a piano that's out of tune.
Actually, not only is that piano out of tune. It's missing several keys. Try playing "Axel F" without a Bb key or "Jump" without an F chord. It's like playing "Air on a G String" while wearing boxer shorts. It ain't pretty. Willie Bleepin' Bloomquist STILL has a higher OPS than Richie Sexson. That's a problem. The $100 million investment in our corner power company has faded away almost as quickly as Enron's 401K plan. When these MOTO dynamite sticks do less damage than a soggy ladyfinger, the M's aren't going to win games.
Now what? What can the Mariners do now that they've reached the 1/4 mark? Knowing that the M's MOTO hitters are under-performing even relatively pessimistic expectations, and it's not exactly the time of year where blockbuster trades go down (as if either of these guys had any significant value right now anyway), can we do something to remedy this?
Roberto Petagine, a lefty hitter with some decent pop (and a former Japanese league MVP) sits on the bench and rots. A total of 16 AB's this season. Is he the answer? Perhaps, perhaps not. Some M's bloggers have said that Richie needs to stay in the lineup to work things out. But does he need to continue to be occupying the luxury penthouse right in the heart of the order? When we've got a consistent clutch-hitting junior apprentice that could probably take the reins for a little bit? Move Richie down a few spots, and let Lopez take over the 4th spot for a bit. If Richie in fact needs to stay in the lineup to work the kinks out. Give Richie another day off and let Petagine get some usage. They're starting Willie, who would get Rico and Val's nomination for MVP -- why not let a former Japanese-league MVP face some pitching?
On the other hand, the stagnancy of the lineup (again, save for the consistent "non-platoon" of CF, which, because of its platooned nature, I suppose, COULD be considered stagnant itself) is not the players' fault. If things are broken, someone needs to fix 'em. Even if that bowl of Jelly Bellys is spiked with a few of the Bertie Bott's, an experienced Jelly Belly eater can pick out ones to help absorb the jolt of the booger bean (by chasing it with a ton of cinnamon. You can really stave off a lot with cinnamon).
Have you figured out what I'm hinting at by now? If not, you've got one more paragraph.
No, I'm not saying you should abandon all hope as a Mariners fan. There's still 3/4 of the season to be played yet. A .300 hitter can pretty much go O-fer April and 2-fer May, yet tear it up the rest of the season and still make it back to .300. It's happened before. It's entirely possible that the M's could finally jel as a team, and find their identity. If the Sonics can make a change early in the season when the chemistry clearly wasn't there (and arguably getting worse) and guys weren't performing anywhere close to their expected levels, why can't the Mariners? Exactly.