Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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.


At 5/18/2006 12:29 AM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

If you haven't figured out my subtle hint yet -- once again, I've pilfered some inspiration from a much-more-talented Jeff Shaw. It's an old trick, and another example can be found here

At 5/18/2006 11:16 AM, Blogger marc w. said...


We keep hearing about Grover's short leash, and how close Rohn is to taking over... but I'm getting a bit impatient.

At the same time, I'm not convinced it will do anything earth-shattering, with the possible exception of giving the FO cover to make deals and bring in the kids from the system. They've got to say they're still in contention now, and mathematically that's true, but they look like they're in a different league to Oakland right now.
Sweeping out Hargrove might allow them to say that the way the rebuilt the first time was wrong, and that they need to take a different tack. I'm not convinced that the M's FO could ever utter those words, but I hope we get the chance to find out.

At 5/18/2006 12:04 PM, Blogger Deanna said...

It IS a boring team. I mentioned it a few days ago, but if the Mariners don't put some spice back in our relationship, I'm not even going to bother hanging out with them as "only friends" while I'm seeing the Phillies. Sheesh.

At 5/18/2006 2:49 PM, Blogger marc w. said...

Dang, even the proximity factor isn't enough anymore Deanna?

I understand your predicament - no offense, but I often wondered what I'd do if I lived in Pittsburgh, say, for a long stretch of time - and I'm not going to repeat stale nostrums like 'give it time!' or 'they're not mathematically eliminated.'
But try to imagine the pain we die-hards feel now - we don't have the option to say 'let's just be friends.' It's a loveless, co-dependent, passive-aggressive, alcohol-fueled marriage, but we're sticking together for the sake of the kids (or inertia?).
I know you know - the Phils weren't looking so hot 5 years ago, and it seemed like no one but the braves would ever win the division.

Still, I like to think the M's offer a little something for everyone (despite what I wrote above)... an intriguing mix of personalities that seem more suited to literature or opera than the field (maybe THAT'S our problem). Seriously, there's a novel buried in the struggles of Cirillo and Beltre. There's a very different kind of novel to be written about Moyer, or Sherrill.
Every team has disappointments, and every team has journeyman-makes-good types, but it seems the M's don't go for half-measures: they go for the deluxe model. I used to find the struggles of David Bell (an island of offensive mediocrity in a sea of above-average performance; the one special ed student in all of wobegone) and Jeff Cirillo ('if i can just get a little bit angrier, maybe THEN things will work out) really compelling. I *think*, when I can achieve the necessary distance, I still find Beltre's story fascinating, but maybe it's more like the way I find reports of historical atrocities fascinating.'s not something you derive pleasure from; you just hope to learn from it.
I'm not even going to mention, save this next phrase, the various calamities visited upon our pitching prospects. It's a strange, often cruel thing, fandom. And even though I realize I'm 'trapped' in a sense, I still actually love this team. I know this is a really rambly kind of comment, so I'll just undercut everything I said and say, it'll get better, they've got help coming on the farm and in the position of advance-scout-who-does-stats-things and watches-video, and hey, they're not out of it yet!

At 5/18/2006 5:49 PM, Blogger Deanna said...

Nah, I'm sure I'll still end up at 40 games this year just because I love baseball. But I've noticed that I feel a lot less enthusiastic about it than I did last year, and I'm more looking forward to going to other cities to see teams play -- heck, even the Rainiers and the Aquasox. At least then it'll be cheap.

It might be that I'm in a funk right now due to this entire month being consumed by moving, and thus don't feel like I have the time to care about the Mariners right this second, and maybe things'll snap back in June. I'd like to hope that's the case, that it's not that I don't want to go see the Mariners, just that I can't justify blowing off responsibilities to go see the Mariners.

You know I lived in Pittsburgh for 8 years, right? I still found ways to care about that team. I mean, we had Jason Kendall and Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez and Kris Benson, and later Jumpin Jack Wilson and Jason Bay, and Mullet Craig Wilson and Rob Mack-o-Whack and just lots of random crazy dudes I liked to cheer for. And the beautiful new stadium, of course. Hell, I like the Pirates this year, even if they suck. They have a lot of young guys growing up there, which is kind of fun to see.

I have two games on my Mariners season ticket plan over this coming week, anyway, so we'll see. Maybe something exciting will happen. At the very least, yay, I get to watch Mike Cameron playing again :)

At 5/18/2006 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved here from Minnesota, 20 years ago. That was '86, and I remained a die-hard Twins fan for years - and I'd never once attended a professional baseball game of any kind. (My dad managed an amateur ballclub my whole life so those were the games I was at...raking infields, chalking lines, keeping score, selling concessions).

The Ms were the first pro team I ever watched, and when I got there, there was Jr. With that Kirby Puckett like joy. And so, he facilitated my transfer. But it took YEARS. I don't consider myself one of the '95 bandwagon fans, but it was around the same time that real Mariner fandom kicked in, and they became my team.

Last year and even the end of 2004 were brutal to the fan base. Not only losing, but losing BORINGLY. Losing when we didn't even really give much of a personal damn about any of those players anymore. Buhner went, Edgar went, Dan went. And it's not just that. Cammie went. McLemore went. Guys who connected with the fans, for whatever (varied) reasons. And were replaced by? Nobody.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a hardcore Moyer fan. I love the way he pitches (smart, hardworking, outwitting the batters) and the man himself is an amazing human being who I've been fortunate enough to have several indepth conversations with at spring training charity events. But he's not a personality that the average fan can hook up with. He's too quiet, and besides, he's only out there once every 5 games (not everyday, like Gar was).

It's hard watching the Ms now. But I'm pretty much deliriously happy watching the Rs instead. Except that with the Ms, I feel that ache of lost potential. Like the guy you wanted to date, but who only wanted to be pals. It hurts to hang out with that guy, to listen to him talk about how it didn't work with the woman he DID go out with, cuz you're thinking 'you know, the answer was right in front of you, you moron'. That's how it seems with the Ms. The fans think they see the answers, but the Ms just don't act on that.

At 5/19/2006 10:00 AM, Blogger Snave said...

I wish I lived in the Seattle area... I can honestly say that this season I would go to the ballpark to watch Ichiro, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez hit and field, and to watch Felix Hernandez pitch. I actually have confidence in the relief capabilities of Sherrill, Soriano and Putz... all appear to have good days ahead of them. I like the glovework of Beltre and Reed, even though their bats just aren't there. The ballclub still has some exciting players, and on paper they look like they should be doing a bit better in the standings.

I am not sure those factors outweigh the negatives for me, though... the missing bats of Sexson, Beltre and Reed are frustrating. Most of our hitters are painfully average or worse. I can actually feel my blood starting to boil whenever Willie Bloomquist is utilized over any other player.

Our rotation is really fairly dull, in my opinion. I still think we overpaid for Washburn, but just think... at least we signed him, and not Jeff Weaver. I think Washburn is our best starter. Meche? Pineiro? I'm thinking maybe they need changes of scenery? Moyer? Gotta love the guy, but his style practically lulls me to sleep. I would be willing to keep Washburn and Hernandez, but the other three? Time to move on, I say.

First thing? I think Marc W is on the right track. Let's let Rohn manage the team for the rest of the season. Maybe the organization should stop and admit that the current rebuilding process isn't really doing much but some dull wheel-spinning. There are some good youngsters on the roster, but there really doesn't seem to be much in the way of veteran leadership outside of Raul. Anyone else think Carl Everett will start getting all pissed off, getting on his teammates' collective case, and making wacky statements soon? He has never seemed to be a guy who tolerates stuff like the current M's situation particularly well.

Anyway, why not bring up Rohn, get what we can in trade for Meche and Pineiro and maybe even (gasp) Moyer (he might be the most tradeable of those three, even if he is the oldest... but he probably wouldn't approve a trade anyway), and at least get some good prospects in return. Ichiro? I can imagine he might actually bring some decent major leaguers in trade, and he HAS to be getting tired of losing. I think the only players we really COULDN'T get anything for at this time would be Sexson, Beltre and Bloomquist...

So, in a couple of years, with Sexson batting eighth and Beltre batting ninth, or else with both riding the pines and being inserted in the late innings for defensive purposes...

Sorry. That's just being TOO negative.

But seriously... what can this team do? Fire the manager? Fire the GM? Have a fire sale?

At 5/19/2006 3:40 PM, Blogger marc w. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/19/2006 3:43 PM, Blogger marc w. said...

Oops, sorry about the bad html. Let's try that again...

I think this team needs to make a couple of deals, maybe along the lines that JAC talks about here.

Personally, I'd try harder to keep the top prospects in the system, and not use them as bargaining chips for, er, other prospects. I'd let Pineiro/Meche go for anything remotely shiny, and I'd consider moving Rob Johnson (no, he's not on the same level as Asdrubal or Adam Jones). I'd try and tempt someone with Tui as well, but this may not be the time to sell on that guy.
But I think Cabrera has to stick around (because he's good), and Beltre/Sexson can't be moved (absolute minimum value). No one would move Lopez/Felix, so you really have to deal around the margins.
But that allows you to sort out what you have from Blackley/Nageotte/Livingston, et al, and it's also not quite analogous to jettisoning vets like Olerud, Boone and Wilson - long time fans aren't going to be disappointed that they don't get to watch Meche anymore. They *would* if Moyer was dealt, but he would never agree to it (and I don't think they should - he's another guy who's value is at its lowest ebb, not to mention a guy who's 43).
More importantly, these moves might bring a bit of interest back into this team. I'm really curious to see if Nags can be a legit 4th starter. Same with Doc Livingston. My belief in the guy is documented; he needs to be put in a situation in which he gets to pitch regularly.

I hope the Yankees are still interested in Meche... hey, he can't be worse for them than Wright/Pavano, can he? Flip him for Tyler Clippard or Colter Bean.

At 5/21/2006 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They couldn't trade Moyer if they wanted to. 10/5 and family interests would likely trump any moves.

At 5/22/2006 12:16 PM, Blogger Snave said...

Tyler Clippard or Colter Bean would be great, even if just because they both have cool-sounding names!


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