#7 – Bobby Wagner

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

Just like you hate to see your quarterback get injured, you also hate to see the quarterback of your defense go down.

We’re entering Bobby Wagner’s third season in the league.  If he was a successful sitcom, we’d safely expect his best season ever.  Is it safe to assume that about his football career?  Tough to say, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Wagner is going to take a BIG step forward.

That’s a little hard to define, since he has averaged 130 tackles per season in his first two years.  He also had five picks and two interceptions last year, so really, how much more can you possibly ask of the guy?  He’s been a starter at middle linebacker since he walked into the league, is it really wise to expect a dramatic uptick in productivity in his third year?

I guess when I say “BIG step forward”, I’m thinking more of a dominant presence.  Like Earl and Kam.  Guys who are not only there to make the tackle, but to really lay the lumber.  Maybe a few more of those tackles are forced fumble opportunities.  Maybe a few more of those tackles are tackles for loss.  With his speed and awareness, I’d like to see him shooting through gaps more in passing situations, knocking balls down and knocking quarterbacks on their asses.

I’d like to see Wagner in the right position at the right time, picking off a few more balls.  When you think about it, the middle of the field is all opponents have left.  There’s just no point in throwing Richard Sherman’s direction.  And, after other teams have had a good, long look at him, Byron Maxwell has developed a reputation as a guy who’s essentially Richard Sherman-lite.  You don’t REALLY want to challenge either of those guys.  You also don’t want to challenge us deep-middle, because that’s Earl Thomas Territory.  So, that leaves you with short-middle.  Dinking and dunking and hopefully getting your run game going.  I don’t think teams have necessarily given up on the idea of using crossing patterns to fustigate us.  That’s where Bobby Wagner comes in.

While Malcolm Smith might be the most athletic linebacker, and K.J. Wright might be the most versatile, Bobby Wagner is simply our BEST linebacker.  All that’s left for him is the recognition he deserves.  To get that recognition, he’s going to need to make a bigger impact relative to the rest of our defense.  Our secondary is the bee’s knees.  Our defensive line rotation tends to get the lion’s share of the pub once everyone is sick of talking about the L.O.B.  Our linebackers, as a result, are a bit of an afterthought.  Wagner can change that, just as soon as he becomes that dominant force I know he can be.

Linebackers might not be valued as high in this defense, but I would argue they’ll be more important than ever before under Pete Carroll.  We still need to find a way to stop opposing rushing attacks.  This line lost some major players in Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, our starting defensive ends in the base defense.  Red Bryant was sort of a third tackle in a sense, but he was a force to be reckoned with on that side.  Clemons was our starting rush-end, but he was MUCH better at playing the run than most people give him credit for.  Whereas guys like Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are straight-up pass rushers, Clemons was an all-around end, in the old school mold.  He was getting on in years – along with Red – and that’s why they were let go, but those are two very big holes to fill.

And, from the looks of the off-season, the Seahawks haven’t done much to fill those holes.  Michael Bennett was signed to an extension, and we all love that move.  He will take over as the starting 5-tech defensive end in place of Red on the base defense.  Suffice it to say, Red’s got some major girth over Bennett.  Avril (it appears in the early going of Training Camp) will take over as the starting LEO end for Clemons.  That’s not his natural position, nor his favored side, so we could be in for a bit of a learning curve/struggle with him early in the season.  Regardless, our base defense has taken a major blow when it comes to stopping the run (even though it is probably much improved from a pass rush standpoint), which means that the slack is going to have to be picked up by the rest of the defensive unit.

And that means linebackers.  This is where being a third year pro will be to Wagner’s advantage.  His instincts should be finely tuned.  His ability to read offenses and anticipate where the runner will be should be the best it’s ever been.  The key to this whole thing – if we don’t want to have the ball jammed down our throats every week – will be Wagner’s ability to snuff these runs out and keep offenses in 2nd & Long and 3rd & Long situations.

I think he’s got what it takes.  It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

At This Point, We Have To Ask Ourselves: Are There Too Many Holes To Fill On The Mariners?

At this point, about three weeks ago, I was really gung-ho about the Mariners’ chances.  It was at about this time where I had a very simple request:  get a top-notch starter and two decent-to-good hitters and let’s go win this thing!  Specifically:  Price, Zobrist, and whoever else that could DH/play first base.  The last piece of that puzzle could be almost anyone – as long as he’s an improvement in some way over Hart – which is why Kendrys Morales fits the bill.  But, with the Rays just destroying teams left and right, and with not only their division but the second Wild Card perfectly in sight, they no longer have any incentive to give away their two best players for prospects.  They can utilize the window they’ve got open right now and try to win with Price before he becomes too expensive to keep.

With that season-saving move off the table (what I wouldn’t give to be able to pool all of our resources with that of the Rays to make a super team; only in my dreams, I guess), and with the majority of Mariners hitters completely falling off the fucking table, it’s time for some hard truths:  there is too much to fix on this team to make 2014 a realistic option.

As per usual, we’ve got the two locks:  Cano & Seager.  Obviously, they can’t do everything, but they do just enough to avoid our scorn.  After that, when it comes to simply batting, we’ve got a sea of duds.  Zunino is a lock, but that’s primarily for what he brings to the table defensively.  We could withstand his lack of getting on base if the rest of the lineup was solid, because he has just enough power to be a solid #8 or #9 hitter in the order.  Everyone else, you’d like to see replaced.

A few weeks ago, I had James Jones down as a lock, but that was before it was made aware to me that he’s actually not that great defensively.  Just because he’s the fastest guy on the team, doesn’t mean he’s a good defensive center fielder.  He takes poor routes on balls and seems tentative on those iffy plays where he can’t decide whether to dive for the catch or pull up to keep the play a single.  He has a strong arm, but nasty accuracy issues.  So, without any discernable defensive advantage, what have we got?  A guy who absolutely refuses to work a count and take a walk, and a guy whose only power derives from slapping a ball to the opposite field and legging out a hustle double.  If his defense was Guti-like, we could all forgive the lack of power and on-base-ness (because of that and his contributions on the basepaths, stealing and whatnot).  But, without that defensive advantage, he’s just a faster version of Endy Chavez.

Who, I might remind you, is getting the bulk of the playing time with Michael Saunders on the DL!  Yes, we like Saunders, and when he’s healthy he’s a remarkable contributor to this lineup.  But, we simply can’t count on him being healthy, which means he probably HAS to be a part-time player going forward, whether we want him to be or not.

When you tack on Ackley, you’ve got all three outfield spots that need to be improved upon.  Yes, I know Ackley has been on a tear in the month of July, but it won’t last.  It never lasts.  This is Ackley flashing his awesome potential – the reason why he was a #2 overall pick – which ultimately leaves us wondering “What If”, which leads to more playing time, which leads to him stinking for the vast majority of the year.  To count on Ackley keeping up this hot July through the rest of the season is absolutely asinine.  You can do it if you want to, but I’ll have to see it to believe it.

Then, there’s short stop.  Brad Miller is a fucking mess at the plate, so the Mariners brought up Chris Taylor.  Taylor is supposedly the best defensive short stop we’ve got in the organization, so that’s neat.  He was never projected to be much with the bat, yet he’s done nothing but tear new assholes in the minor leagues.  Even if he struggles somewhat at the plate, his defensive contributions should be enough to warrant his roster spot.  In that regard, he’s a lot like Zunino, in that on a good team – WITHOUT seven holes in the lineup – you could bury him in the 8- or 9-hole and be okay.  Not so much here.

And, of course, who can leave out 1B/DH?  Kendrys Morales is back, locking down that DH spot, so we’ll see how that goes.  If he returns to last year’s form, we should be okay.  If he continues to struggle, as he did for much of his time in Minnesota, then I guess he’s one more flop to throw on the pile.

Morales’ return means we’ve got LoMo and Hart at first base.  I feel like, even if we don’t make a move at the trade deadline, this team is pretty close to DFA’ing Hart.  He’s done.  To be frank, I’ve been calling for his head for weeks, but I’m not even mad at him anymore.  THAT’S how certain I am that his impending removal is imminent.  Then, there’s LoMo, who was on a nice little Ackley-esque tear when he came back from the DL, but has once again reverted to his inconsistent, Ackley-esque form.

When Saunders was healthy, and LoMo was roping the ball, and James Jones was slapping singles the opposite way and stealing bases left and right, and Brad Miller was on the mend at the plate after a disasterous first couple months, and Seager was ascending to All Star status, and Cano was Cano, and Zunino’s contact rate was up, it was easy to see how a hitter here and a starting pitcher there could turn this already-good team into a real, legitimate contender.  But now?  I don’t think there’s any saving this season.

Oh, we’ll continue to hang around, “in the hunt” as they say.  We’ll be .500 or a little bit better, within shouting distance of that elusive second Wild Card spot.  We can do nothing else - leaving it at that when it comes to trades - and offensive regression alone will pick up to the point where we’ll look good at times.  Great, even!  And, if our pitching somehow holds, we MIGHT even win that second Wild Card spot.  It’s not impossible; nothing’s impossible when it comes to the second Wild Card.

But, it’s not bloody likely.  And, my attitude might change, but right now I’m weirdly okay with that.  This season was certainly interesting, but without major upgrades, it’s not meant to be.  Major David Price & Ben Zobrist upgrades, which – as I stated above – aren’t going to happen.  At this point, it’s probably better to NOT sell the farm.  Not for the lesser return we’d likely see.  I still think we should ship off Nick Franklin for a warm body who can play outfield and replace Endy Chavez/Stefen Romero.  But, no longer do I think we should throw everything at winning now.  It’s a lost cause.  The last couple of months can still be entertaining, but they’ll just be baseball.  A higher-quality of baseball than we’ve been used to this last decade, but just baseball, not Playoff Baseball.

There’s still a lot to like.  The rotation is rock solid with Felix and Iwakuma at the top.  Roenis Elias will have survived his first full season in the Majors.  While he will be shut down in the coming weeks, it’s still quite the accomplishment, and something to look forward to for next year.  And, there’s still a chance for Taijuan Walker & James Paxton to make an impact in August or September.  If we can get them back, at full health, it’ll be a nice little momentum-builder going into next year.  Granted, this is what we were talking about at the end of 2013, but they can’t lose ALL their seasons to injury, can they?  Hell, maybe Chris Young keeps up this insane run of pitching he’s been on and we bring him back to a modest salary in 2015.

At this point, we know what’s necessary next year.  A lot of it is the same problems we’ve had for years:  first base, DH, outfield.  We’ve got a foundation in place with Cano, Seager, and Zunino.  I figure Zunino’s production at the plate is bound to improve year by year until he’s eventually an All Star, so we should get a boost there.  There are ALWAYS outfielders to be had in free agency, as long as we know where to look.  No more reclamation projects.  Now, we need to go out and build on this talent we’ve already got.  It’s okay to over-pay for free agents if you’re over-paying for quality.  And, when Ackley proves he’s not the guy we thought we were getting when we drafted him, flip him for someone better.

We need to be gunning for 2015 now; that’s where our big hope lies.  2015 and beyond, when D.J. Peterson and some of our other highly-touted prospects are ready to be thrown into the fire.

#8 – Doug Baldwin

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

Spoiler Alert:  Doug Baldwin is one of my very favorite Seahawks playing for this team right now.  You gotta like the underdogs, am I right?

We all know about Doug Baldwin, superficially.  Undrafted free agent out of Stanford in 2011, he earned a roster spot right out of the gate.  To be fair, the Seahawks had a real dearth of talent at the time.  Yes, they’d made the playoffs in 2010, but it was as a 7-9 squad with tons of turnover at the back-end.  It was a good time to be an undrafted guy, or a lowly-drafted guy, because there were tons of spots up for grabs.  I know Pete Carroll always says that everyone needs to compete for their spots at all times, but let’s be realistic:  if you’re good enough and talented enough, you’re not losing your spot.  Richard Sherman doesn’t have to worry about his job, no matter HOW talented Tharold Simon is.

In 2011, though, it was wide open.  And, to his credit, not only did Doug Baldwin take advantage of his opportunity, he thrived, leading the team in yards as a rookie.  His numbers hit a dip in 2012 due to injuries, but he returned in 2013 as good as ever.  And, in 2014, another opportunity has opened for him.  It’ll be interesting to see him once again seize this opportunity and surpass expectations beyond our wildest dreams.

Doug Baldwin has always had a heavy role in the offense, but this year he’s going to be a starter on the outside – rather than the slot – for the first time in his career.  Sure, he’s had some experience out there, but now that’s his primary position.  Instead of going up against a lot of nickel corners, he’ll be going up against the best of what other teams have to offer on the outside.  Will he be able to hold his own, the way Golden Tate was able to?  I think so, without a doubt.

Doug Baldwin can do anything he sets his mind to; you can’t say that about everyone.  I mean, think about it, we’re over here wondering if Cliff Avril can rush the passer from the LEO position – because he’s been so comfortable rushing the passer from the other side – and there’s a legitimate concern that Avril will struggle now that he has to go up against a left tackle on most plays.  To be honest, I DON’T think Avril can do anything he puts his mind to (don’t mean to pick on him, but that’s just the example that came immediately to mind).  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, could probably figure out how to play quarterback if you gave him enough time!

Doug Baldwin has always been critical in making this offense go.  He’s got the most reliable hands, he runs the most precise routes, and he’s got the best body control on the team, which is how he’s able to make all those circus catches on the sideline.  He’s always there when we need to convert and Russell Wilson is running for his life.  The rapport those two share is unlike any we’ve seen between quarterback and wide receiver since Dave Krieg and Steve Largent (with an honorable mention going to Hasselbeck & Engram).

This year, though, Baldwin’s importance goes through the roof.  Most people talk about Percy Harvin replacing Golden Tate, but that’s not really accurate.  Percy Harvin’s role in this offense is going to look nothing like Tate’s.  In reality, Harvin is replacing Baldwin, because it’s Baldwin who is replacing Tate!

This offense is always going to have the threat of the deep pass at its disposal, because it’s always going to have the great running game.  With the great running game, you’ve got defenses who will want to crowd the line of scrimmage.  With Harvin also doing the bulk of his damage around the line, you’ve got to figure defenses will be more keyed in than ever before on what’s going on in the short field.  Which means that Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse on the outside will be the beneficiaries of a lot of our deep balls on play-action.  Can Baldwin do what Tate did?  Can he win more often than not on those jump balls?  Can he shed tackles and break plays for long runs?  Most of America doubts that he can, but not me.  I think he’ll be on-par with what Tate was able to bring.  And, at a fraction of the cost, it was why I wanted so desperately for this team to choose Baldwin over Tate in this past offseason.  I think Tate will be great in Detroit, opposite Calvin Johnson.  But, I think Baldwin will be the more important and more efficient player in Seattle.

Speaking of contract, Doug Baldwin is locked in for the next three years.  He was a restricted free agent, meaning he was going to get something around $2.4 million for this year.  Instead, we were able to lock him in at 3 years, $13 million – a VERY reasonable deal.  This bought us a few more years at a good cap number, while it gave Baldwin a little security and a nice payday.  After the 2016 season, Baldwin will be 28 years old, which is RIGHT in the sweet spot in his career.  If he’s able to continue his upward trajectory, it’ll be interesting to see the decision the Seahawks make on who to keep or not.  I know this is three years away, but if Baldwin does well, and continues to improve, he could be looking at a HUGE deal.  It would be nice to see Baldwin end up a lifelong Seahawk.  That Wilson to Baldwin connection needs to be something we see through to the bitter end.

Random Mariners Thoughts Of Week 17

The Mariners just went 2-5 in the last week.  Home games, all.  Losing two of three to the Mets, followed by three of four to the Orioles.  The Mariners are now 54-51, 11.5 games back in the AL West, and 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays for the second Wild Card (and also a half game behind the Yankees, but that’s neither here nor there).

The big news of the week was the trade for Kendrys Morales.  He played in the last three games and already has a couple RBI.  Too early to say for certain whether or not this was a good deal for the Mariners, but I’m struggling to find anything wrong with it.

The Mariners are 9-13 on the month, with three games to go, meaning they’re guaranteed to have just their second losing month of the season.

As usual, it’s the hitting that has gone to shit this month.  The Mariners have scored 62 runs in 22 games, for an average of 2.82 runs per game.  Obviously, that’s not going to get the job done.  No matter HOW good the pitching has been.  Indeed, the Mariners have only given up 67 runs this month, which makes for just a hair over 3 runs per game.

Since July 4th – which is when everything started to go to shit – the Mariners have scored three runs or less in 16 of 20 games (going 4-12 in those games).  Nobody’s perfect, not even Felix.  You can’t keep wasting these great pitching performances!  Because, there’s nothing that says these great pitching performances have to continue.

Take this Baltimore series, for instance.  You saw them score on our bullpen in each of the final three games.  Granted, some of it wasn’t their fault – there were three unearned runs thanks to a Kyle Seager error in the win on Saturday – but it proves they’re mortal.  Things could go haywire at anytime.

Today is July 28th.  Thursday is July 31st.  Three days and a few hours from now, we’ll run into the trade deadline.  Or, I guess the “non-waiver trade deadline”.  Because even though no trade of significance has ever been made in the month of August, we could still THEORETICALLY make a trade for someone who has passed through waivers.  Meaning, we could make a trade for someone literally no one else wants.

Yeah, that’s bullshit.  If you’re writing about the Mariners, and you’re trying to peddle this insane notion that the Mariners could get a real upgrade after July 31st, I’m going to call bullshit on you and dismiss your whole fucking operation.

The Mariners have three days to make the improvements needed to turn this into a playoff ballclub.  Or, they have three days to punt the season away.  Either way, they kept me interested in talking about sports through the start of training camp.  If we’re looking forward to two more months of this bullshit, then I’ll gladly check out and focus all my time and energy on the upcoming football season.

#9 – Russell Okung

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

In this offense, and with this quarterback, the necessity of a lock-down left tackle isn’t nearly as dire as, say, back when Holmgren coached the team and Hasselbeck needed blind-side protection.  In many ways, though, the offensive line as a whole is even MORE important than it was even ten years ago.

The Seahawks, by and large, had probably one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year.  A lot of that had to do with injury:  the three best linemen we have – Okung, Unger, Giacomini – missed huge chunks of season, often simultaneously.  Even when everyone was healthy – or “healthy” in the sense that they were able to put on pads and give it a go at some figure less than 100% – they were often ineffective.  Guys frequently blew past a missed assignment, getting free runs at Russell Wilson, who would in turn have to flee for his life.  Since our quarterback is so dynamic, he’s able to make chicken salad out of this type of blocking.  But, there’s a very noticeable difference between a healthy offensive line, and a “healthy” offensive line.

Russell Okung is the most talented member of this offensive line, which is why he’s ranked so high on my countdown.  The drop-off from Okung to the next left tackle on the depth chart is pretty staggering compared to the rest of the O-Line.  Last year, we had Paul McQuistan going much of the time Okung was out.  If you don’t remember this dark period of our 2013 season, you can at least imagine how horrible he was anchoring the left side of this line.  He’s a solid depth guy, and he was pretty valuable as a versatile interior lineman, but Paul McQuistan is the beans when it comes to playing tackle.

This year, I would imagine we’re taking a step up with Alvin Bailey as the #2 behind Okung.  He’s had some experience in the regular season last year – and as a sixth lineman in jumbo packages in the playoffs – so it’s not like we’d have a total greenhorn in there should Okung get injured.  But, ideally, it wouldn’t come to that.

We’re entering an interesting time in Okung’s career.  He’s signed through 2015.  This is the first year where – if we waived him – we wouldn’t be penalized by dead money.  We could SAVE money.  Now, obviously, I’m not advocating that, but it’s just interesting.  He’s been in the league since 2010, a starter the whole way as a high first round draft pick (and replacement of Walter Jones).  Something else that’s interesting:  he actually makes LESS money next year than he does this year.  His cap hit in 2014 is a little over $11 million; his cap hit in 2015 is a little over $7 million.  This is actually to his advantage – if he wants to spend the vast majority of his career in Seattle – because in his four years in the League, he has never played a full 16-game season.  Indeed, he’s averaged only 11.25 games per year in the regular season.

A lot of people believe this team is in for another huge contract with Okung pretty soon.  You’d have to think, if he puts in a full year, and his level of play doesn’t start to decline, he’ll be looking for an extension of some sort at season’s end.  After all, $7 million is a pretty paltry sum for a first round left tackle who should still be in his prime.

However, if he comes out and plays in 11 games this year, then you have to wonder if the Seahawks will look to be moving on after the 2015 season.  It’s pretty hard to justify a lengthy, expensive contract extension for a guy who can’t stop injuring his feet.

Either way, we’re talking about 2014, and Russell Okung is important to making this offense go.  Let’s face it, Russell Wilson was sacked WAY too many times last year.  44, to be exact.  And this year, we have the Defensive Lines Of Death to worry about.  The Rams are a fucking bonanza of pass-rushing talent.  The 49ers are always stout (and, by the time we play them, you’d think they will have brought back Aldon Smith).  The Cardinals overall are tenacious and relentless.  Tack on the Packers (with a healthy Matthews for game 1), the Panthers, the revamped Broncos with DeMarcus Ware … the list goes on and on.

We need more than just healthy bodies on the offensive line.  We need TALENT.  It would be nice if that talent could stay healthy for a long period of time.  Russell Okung has the type of talent where you don’t have to worry about him.  He HAS an All Pro level of skill!  With him at 100%, you don’t even have to think about him.  Save your worries for the other four guys on the line.

Contrary to 2013′s level of line play, the 2014 O-Line actually has the potential to be great.  It would require health out of Okung and Unger, and big steps forward out of our guards, and hopefully a diamond in the rough at right tackle.  I’m not saying it’s a guarantee, but the potential is there!  And, frankly, it all starts with Okung.

Mariners Trade Stephen Pryor For Kendrys Morales

You know, I really don’t understand these fucking people who don’t like the trade for Kendrys Morales.  Let’s look at the deal in a vacuum:  who did we give up and who did we get?

Well, we gave up a relief pitcher.  A relief pitcher coming off of lat surgery.  A relief pitcher whose fastball has lost anywhere from 6-8 miles per hour.  A relief pitcher who wasn’t even in the big leagues!

If you look at the hierarchy of young relievers on rookie deals in the Mariners organization, I think you’d start with the guys currently in the Majors.  Brandon Maurer, right now, has the highest upside – though he’s been a reliever for a very short time.  Dom Leone has a lot of upside as well.  You’ve got Farquhar, who could be closing games right this second, if Fernando Rodney wasn’t here.  Wilhelmsen and Medina sort of round things out.  All have been very good in their relief roles, which is why all of them are with the Mariners right now.

AND WE DIDN’T HAVE TO GIVE UP ANY OF THEM!

I’ve kind of had this feeling for a while – and I think many others have as well – that Brandon Maurer could be a really solid trade chip.  A throw-in to sweeten a deal to bring back a hitter.  Right now, of all the players I worry about the Mariners trading (of all the players the Mariners would conceivably trade, so in other words, excluding Felix and anyone else who’s currently All Star calibre), Maurer is probably number 2 on that list behind D.J. Peterson.  I legit think Maurer can be a closer in this league.  Not only that, I think he can be one of the BEST closers.  With that live fastball, and with his command of the slider and changeup, the sky is the limit.  And, after next year, when Rodney’s contract expires, look who we’ll have to slide right in there, into that closer role!

We didn’t have to give up Maurer or anyone else on our big league club to bring in Morales.  We gave up a guy coming back from a pretty serious surgery, who may never again regain his fastball.  Without that fastball, Stephen Pryor is about as valuable as I would be to your pitching staff, and I’m barely scraping 60mph on the gun at Safeco!

Any reasonable person couldn’t POSSIBLY be mad with what we gave up.  Yes, there’s a CHANCE that Pryor regains his form, but there’s also a chance they name me the next Queen of fucking England.  Anything can happen, quit letting your opinion be swayed by fucking hypotheticals!

What we got in return is a guy we’re all pretty familiar with.  Maybe that’s the issue.  Maybe people are more turned on by the unknown.  Like Josh Willingham, for instance.  Some dude who sucks in the outfield, who strikes out a lot, and who’s barely over .200.  Forgive me if I don’t share your enthusiasm for yet another aging, lanky white power bat whose best days are CLEARLY behind him.

FUCK JOSH WILLINGHAM!  I’ll take Kendrys Morales any fucking day over Josh Willingham!

And you want to know why?  It’s not because Morales provides any value defensively or on the basepaths (he doesn’t).  He’s a DH, plain and simple; it’s criminal to play him in the field, because you’d risk re-injuring him again.  No, I want Kendrys Morales here for one simple reason:  he can hit at Safeco Field.

Shove your small sample sizes RIGHT UP YOUR ASS!  I don’t want to hear it!  Last year, he batted .277/.336/.449.  I know those aren’t the best numbers ever, but for this team, they’re pretty fucking good.  They’re a SHITLOAD better than Corey Hart, for what it’s worth.  Corey Hart who’s currently batting .214/.295/.332.  Fuck Hart’s prior production, because this is what he’s doing now, and there’s no guarantee that his numbers are going to regress back up to where he’s been in his career.  Sometimes, people are just done, and there’s nothing to regress back to.  Corey Hart is done and that’s that.

And, I know what you’re thinking:  look at Morales’ numbers this year.  Fine.  They’re not good.  But, don’t forget that tonight’s game will be only his 40th of the season (and don’t be so selective; if you want to look at Hart’s prior production at the plate, you MUST look at Morales, who actually PLAYED THE GAME OF BASEBALL IN 2013).  Don’t forget that Morales is just coming off of a 12-game hitting streak, featuring six doubles in the last two weeks.  Corey Hart has exactly 2 doubles since his return from the DL.  HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR YOU TO GET YOUR TIMING BACK?  You’re a fucking baseball player!  Most good players come back from the DL and hit the ground running.  Corey Hart is a wheezing fucking gasbag.

I fully expect Kendrys Morales’ numbers to improve dramatically.  Getting back to my point before, you want to see his numbers in Safeco Field?

In 117 games, across 473 plate appearances, he’s got:  .287/.340/.498 with 35 doubles, 19 homers, with only 79 strikeouts.

All too often, the Mariners bring guys in and they immediately become terrible.  Prospects who tear shit up at every level suddenly enter Safeco Field and they’re the worst.  Free agent signings who would probably be GREAT somewhere else - like Baltimore - find that Seattle is their last Major League stop.

Make no mistake, it’s all in their heads.  Only the truly great, and the strong of will, are able to conquer the mythical beast that is the spooky Marine Layer of Safeco Field.  And Kendrys Morales is one of those heroes.

Look, assholes who don’t like this trade, we were getting zilch from our DH position.  Now, we’re probably going to get SOMETHING.  No, it’s not an outfielder.  No, he’s not John Jaso.  Sorry.  John Jaso is gone and he’s never coming back; get over it.  Morales doesn’t walk, doesn’t play defense, doesn’t run well.  But, he hits a fucking baseball!  At this point, I will settle for that.

Make no mistake, we can’t stop here.  Remember in the offseason, when the Mariners signed Robbie Cano and everyone was like, “I love it!  Now, don’t stop here; keep filling holes!”  And then remember how the Mariners pretty much stopped there?  Remember how the Mariners half-assed the rest of their off-season duties by bringing in LoMo and the aforementioned Corey Hart?  Yeah, we can’t repeat that mistake again.

Kendrys Morales is a nice START.  But, we need more.  Anything from one to three outfielders, as well as a starting pitcher.  By this time next week, I better be looking at a totally different lineup!

For shits and giggles, though, here’s an ideal look at what the Mariners look like with Morales:

  1. Jones (CF)
  2. Seager (3B)
  3. Cano (2B)
  4. Morales (DH)
  5. LoMo (1B)
  6. Zunino (C)
  7. Ackley (LF)
  8. Chavez (RF)
  9. Miller/Taylor (SS)

For what it’s worth, I know the Mariners won’t bat Seager in the 2-hole.  Lloyd is hell-bent on Morales as our cleanup hitter, which pushes Seager back to the 5-spot.  Which means lots more Chavez/Jones as the 1/2 hitters.  If you LITERALLY set a table the way Chavez & Jones set a table in a baseball lineup, all the plates and glasses would be broken, and there would be a big, steaming turd pile for a centerpiece.

The Mariners Are Letting This Season Slip Through Their Grasp

It’s that sense of panic and dread.  Like, you can read the writing on the wall and you know something intensely bad is going to go down, it’s just a matter of when.

Right now, things are fine.  We’re happy, we’re in the playoffs (if the season ended today), we’ve got a small lead for that second Wild Card.  Yes, the teams ahead of us in the division have made moves to better themselves, but our other Wild Card rivals haven’t really done much.  If the status remains quo, it’s not hard to see this team making the playoffs and finally giving Felix a taste of that post-season he’s craved for so long.

Today is July 24th.  Next Thursday is July 31st.  At around 1pm on the 31st, the trade deadline is going to arrive.  We’ve got a week.  We have holes on this team that need to be filled.  Failure to do so effectively flushes this season down the toilet.

The Mariners enjoyed a great month of June.  18-10, beating up on most of the small fries, everything was all right.  In July, there was REALLY more of the same.  Outside of six games against the A’s & Angels, we’ve continued to face the dregs.  Houston, Chicago, Minnesota, and most recently the Mets.  We should have won each of those series handily!  Instead, we got cut down by the starting pitching buzzsaw of the White Sox, we punted away 3 of 4 against the Twins, and by all rights we should have SWEPT the fucking Mets (but instead we lost two of three, because of course we did).

We’re five games over .500.  We need to end up around 18 games over .500 to have a realistic guarantee of making the playoffs.  We have two months and one week in which to do this.  We’re going to need some help.

At this point, just forget about going for the World Series.  That isn’t likely anymore.  Not without a David Price & Ben Zobrist combo.  Right now, it’s about keeping this season a success by making the playoffs.  Which means, we have to shift our priorities.  The Rays have gone on a crazy run and are now 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card.  They may indeed opt to trade Price & Zobrist, but it would take one whale of a deal.  Because, they have the talent to kick it into a higher gear; they’re essentially the same team that made the playoffs last year, after all.  For Price & Zobrist, I would have traded away the farm.  With that currently off the table, I’m less inclined to trade anyone of importance.

But, that doesn’t mean I don’t expect a move to be made.  Nick Franklin has to go.  There is zero point in keeping him around; he’s never going to make it as a Seattle Mariner.  He won’t fetch the biggest prize on the market, but as I’ve said all along, this team doesn’t need the best bat out there.  It just needs an excuse to DFA the fuck out of Corey Hart, because he’s a worthless waste of space.

If they can just do that one thing, I won’t completely abandon the bandwagon.  But, really, they need to replace their DH as well as their entire outfield.  The more pieces of that outfield they can improve, the better their chances of making the playoffs.  But, SOMETHING has to happen.

Really, something needed to happen about a month ago.  Since the start of that White Sox series on the 4th, the Mariners have gone 6-10.  With any kind of consistent hitting out of the black holes in our lineup, we easily could’ve gone 10-6.  EASILY.  Go 10-6 instead of 6-10 and we’ve got a 4.5 game lead in the Wild Card and things are a little more comfortable.  Instead, we’ve got a half-game lead and our castle is crumbling down around us.

There may still be time to salvage a playoff run, but the last three weeks have done A LOT of damage.  I know this is a lot of doom and gloom about a team that’s currently in the lead for the second Wild Card, but the writing is on the wall.  Hart and Ackley and Chavez all have to go.  This is no small task, but if the Mariners do nothing (or believe that Jesus Montero is the answer), you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Believe you me, no one is going to flip out more than me if the Mariners let next week go by without a move being made.  I don’t care what bullshit excuses Jackie Z comes up with; I’ll be calling for his head immediately.

Part 2, Offense – Which Seahawks Players Can Get Even Better?

You can catch Part 1 HERE.  It’s about the defense.  In case you couldn’t tell …

To make a long story short:  I’m taking a look at which Seahawks can stand to up their games.  Here’s a hint:  most of them can, because they’re such a young team.

Offensive Line

Look, what you see out of Okung and Unger is what you’re going to get.  I would venture to say they’re both smack dab in the middle of their primes.  In other words, they’re as good as they’re ever going to be; I wouldn’t expect either to get much better.  The only question about these two – as there is with any player on this team – is:  can they stay healthy?

A big question is James Carpenter.  He’s in the last year of his rookie deal.  As a first rounder, the Seahawks had an opportunity to lock him up for next year – at an inflated salary – but they chose to waive that right.  So, here’s another CONTRACT SEASON ALERT.  Love it when we get these!  Especially when they’ve had somewhat disappointing careers, yet have flashed the occasional brilliance.  In the case of Pancakes Carpenter, his run-blocking ability is unmatched on this roster.  He’s a mountain of a man who will flatten you ten times before he hits the ground!  But, he tends to whiff on pass blocking, and that’s kind of a problem.  Not a HUGE problem, mind you, as Russell Wilson has escapability.  But, it’s still something you’d like to see him fix.  He’s also had his fair share of injuries, which is never good.  Word on the street is, Carpenter is in the “best shape of his life”, so take that with the requisite grain of salt.  The coaches seem to like his potential; well, it’s now his fourth year, so it’s time to either see him reach that potential, or see him walk to another team at season’s end.  We do have plenty of depth behind him, so it’s not like we NEED him to produce.  It would just be nice, because he’s definitely a boost to our rushing attack.

J.R. Sweezy is another guy who the fans seem to have on the hot-seat, while the coaches seem to love his grit and whatnot.  I’ve heard plenty of positive remarks from Tom Cable about Sweezy taking a big step forward this year (his third season), so let’s hope that’s the case.  He’s another guy who tends to whiff on pass protection.  If we can keep our interior line from being a fucking sieve, maybe we can keep Russell Wilson upright for another season.

The biggest battle in Training Camp and the pre-season is at right tackle.  We’ve got one-year veteran Michael Bowie going up against rookie Justin Britt.  I would expect Bowie to improve leaps and bounds over his rookie season, now that he’s had the experience of real game play, topped with the comfort level of this being his second camp in the NFL.  If Britt wins the job, you can chalk that up to him having a higher pedigree.  Either way, I would expect the position of “Right Tackle” to have the potential for improvement over last year’s starter, Breno Giacomini (who was good, to be fair, but far from great).

There’s also a number of younger guys who are battling for those all-important backup spots.  Guards include:  Jared Smith, Greg Van Roten, and Stephen Schilling (among others).  Tackles include:  Caylin Hauptmann, Alvin Bailey, and Garry Gilliam (among others).  All of those listed I’ve seen on various mock-ups of possible 53-man rosters going into the regular season.  All of those listed will be fighting for, like, 3-4 spots, so figure it will be a tough battle.

Wide Receiver & Tight End

Percy Harvin is Percy Harvin.  When healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the NFL.  No reason to expect improved play out of him; but there IS reason to expect improved performance out of our offense with him on the field.

Doug Baldwin & Jermaine Kearse are a couple of holdovers who are still young.  It’s hard for me to expect Baldwin to get any better than he already is, but it looks like he’s entering an era where his role expands beyond simply being the team’s slot receiver.  With Golden Tate’s departure, it looks like Baldwin is the next man up to be the guy on the outside.  His improvement will be dictated on how much better he gets at going after the deep ball in tight coverage.  He’s been pretty good at that thus far, but that’s certainly one aspect that could stand to get better.  Kearse, on the other hand, has a chance to really break out.  He’s steadily improved year by year:  first, as a special teams guy, and last year as sort of a third or fourth receiver option.  After Sidney Rice went down with injury, Kearse saw much more playing time, and continued to get better (culminating with his 4th & 7 TD catch against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, and his monster touchdown catch & run against the Broncos in the Super Bowl where he broke about a million tackles).  With Rice continuing to come back from his injury, Kearse figures to be the other receiver on the outside, opposite Baldwin.  If he can become a dependable receiver on that side, it would really help open things up for this passing game.

The Seahawks have a couple highly-touted rookies in Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood who figure to make the team if healthy.  Richardson’s small frame scares me, as he strikes me as a guy who is going to be in and out of the doctor’s office quite frequently.  Norwood looks to be a dependable guy as far as catching the ball and being a last-ditch outlet for the quarterback, but it’s hard to expect either of these guys to do all that much as rookies.  It’s just difficult for rookie wide receivers to grasp the NFL game right off the bat.

Ricardo Lockette returns for another chance.  He’s great on special teams, which will help his cause, but he’s been less dynamic on offense as a receiver.  It’ll be interesting to see if he has what it takes to crack the roster in this, his fourth season.  Lots of younger guys behind him who are hungry to catch on with a team.

As for the tight ends, I’d say Zach Miller is probably entering his decline phase.  With his contract set to expire after this season, I’d say that’s not the worst thing in the world.  Expect Luke Willson – last year’s most impactful rookie – to improve leaps and bounds, as he heads into 2015 as the likely #1 tight end on this roster.  Anthony McCoy is returning from a season-ending injury and is as good as he’ll ever be:  a blocking tight end with surprisingly good hands.

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch is nearing the end of his prime.  Running backs tend to fall off a cliff pretty quickly, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen this season.  Robert Turbin is entering his third season as the team’s backup, so he’s young and theoretically has room to grow.  But, I just don’t see it.  I think he’s a career backup, albeit a pretty good one.

The only running back I really expect to see a large amount of improvement in is Christine Michael.  That is, if the team gives him a chance to show what he’s got.  I get the feeling that Michael either isn’t that hard of a worker, or he isn’t really a team player.  What that comes down to, in my mind, is that he doesn’t handle the blitz pickup very well.  His natural talents should supercede all of that, but how do you get him on the field when Beastmode is still the heart & soul of the team, and when Turbin is more willing and able to do the dirty work in pass protection?  I don’t want to diminish the running back’s role in pass protection, but it seems to me Michael brings another dynamic element to this offense (a la Harvin and potentially Richardson) that you shouldn’t simply bury on the inactive list every week (like we did most of last year).  I guess we’ll see.

Quarterback

And it all comes down to this.  Russell Wilson, in his third year in the NFL.  In his first two years, Wilson has broken nearly every record for quarterbacks in their second year (passing yards, touchdowns, passer rating, wins, wins at home, wins in the playoffs), he’s started every game, and he’s brought us a championship.  He’s passed every test, overcome every obstacle, and seemingly gotten better with every game.  He’s the hardest worker on the team, and probably ranks pretty high on the “hardest worker in the NFL” list.

And yet, the same old arguments against him dog his career.  He’s still too short.  He gives up on plays in order to scramble too often.  He has trouble finding the open receiver.  He’s not elite.  He doesn’t rank in the top ten of quarterbacks in the NFL today.

To that, I would say:  what would his game look like if his offensive line wasn’t always injured, forcing him to run for his life more often than not?

I would also say:  what if he played in a division and a conference that didn’t have so many fucking amazing defenses?  It’s pretty easy for someone like Tom Brady to look good when he’s going up against the pigeons of the AFC and AFC East in particular.  Ditto Aaron Rodgers, as he plays the Bears, Lions, and Vikings six times a year.

Can Russell Wilson get better?  Absolutely.  It’s hard to peg a quarterback’s prime until he’s been in the league four or five years.  Considering Wilson’s numbers and all that he’s done to help turn this team into a bona fide wrecking machine, that has to be pretty scary for the rest of the NFL.

In fact, I’ll venture a prediction that Russell Wilson takes the biggest step forward of anyone on this team in 2014.  Look for him to shake off the doubters once again, as he leads this team back to a division title and, ultimately, a repeat championship.  Can this team – with all the pressure, with the talent level of their divisional opponents, with all the media attention and hype, with all the non-stop talking they’ve done – repeat as champions?  Of fucking course they can!  Because, 2014 is the year Russell Wilson vaults himself permanently into the Top 7 or 8 quarterbacks in the game today.

I’d say Top 5, but I’m no dummy.  I know this team is still a run-first enterprise.  But, given the weapons around Wilson in the passing game (in spite of Tate now playing for the Lions), I would expect even better numbers with a similar number of pass attempts.

Get excited, Seahawks fans.  You root on the best team in the NFL and one of the youngest.  They’re already great, and most of them can only get better from here.

Part 1, Defense – Which Seahawks Players Can Get Even Better?

Coming into a season, analysts look at a variety of factors to determine whether a team is going to be good or not (or improved or not).  They look at which players leave for other teams (or retirement), they look at which players are brought in (either via trade, free agency, or draft), they look at the strength of schedule and that of the teams in their division, they look at the injury situation and the potential injury situation based on player histories, and they look at which players are over the hill and due to start their slide into mediocrity.

There’s one aspect that’s often overlooked:  which players are still at the point in their careers where they’re getting better?

All too often, we look at rookies – whether good or bad – and think we’re looking at those players as they’ll be for the rest of their careers.  But, no one enters the league as a finished product.  Yes, some flame out, but even the really good ones still have room for improvement.

Take Golden Tate, for instance.  He didn’t really get a handle on all the intricacies of the wide receiver position until his third year in the league.  On the downside, that meant we only had two good years with Golden Tate before he left for richer pastures.  But, on the upside, it means there’s still hope for players who haven’t done a whole lot yet in their careers.

Secondary

How long did it take Byron Maxwell before he was able to make an impact on the Seahawks outside of special teams?  Try a little over 2.5 years.  He was one of our most important players when he was thrust into the starting cornerback spot across from Richard Sherman; now he’s entering a contract year where he could get even BETTER.  You have to think Maxwell has dollar signs in his eyes after seeing the deals Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman got this past offseason.  Granted, it probably won’t be with the Seahawks – as who can afford to pay four studs in one secondary? – but at least we’ll have this last year of greatness before he moves on.

In keeping with this section of the team, what about Jeremy Lane?  He was taken late in the 2012 draft, so we’ve got two more years of his services.  He’s always been a special teams standout, but this year he’s going to get his first real shot at the nickel cornerback spot.  He had some time in that position late last season and seemed to do all right.  If he manages to take a step forward and help us all forget about Walter Thurmond, it could be a boon for an already-outstanding secondary.

I’d also like to shine some light on Tharold Simon.  He spent the entirety of his rookie season injured last year.  In the spring camps, he apparently looked really good.  No one is expecting him to start, or take over anyone else’s job in 2014, but it’s nice knowing we’ve got some quality depth.  As mentioned before, we lost Thurmond.  We also lost Browner.  Maxwell took over that job, but he’ll be gone after this year.  If Simon can keep our momentum going in the secondary, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the best secondary in the league for many years to come.

Now, before I move on, I’ll talk briefly about the rest of the L.O.B.  Normally, when people write about the Legion, these are the first names they talk about.  But, when you’re talking about players improving, it’s hard to see a lot of room for improvement in guys like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman.  Nevertheless, I think all three of these players have another gear in them.  This is the fun part about having such a young team – even the All Pros have room to grow!  Earl Thomas, before all is said and done, will win a Defensive MVP award.  Chancellor – already an enforcer – can still be a better all-around safety.  And, at this point, I have to imagine the only way Richard Sherman can get better is to completely eliminate the number of attempts to his side of the field.  I didn’t say there was a TON of improvement in these guys, but what if they’re able to squeeze just a little bit more?

Linebackers

I’ve heard people talking about K.J. Wright taking it up another notch, but I have my doubts.  I’ll be the first one to admit, however, that I know very little about the linebacking position outside of:  tackle the guy with the football.  I think Malcolm Smith is probably at the height of his powers.  I still like him as our weakside linebacker, and think he’s a quality playmaker on the outside, but I don’t see a lot of room for growth.  He’ll probably parlay his Super Bowl MVP (and whatever he does for us in 2014) into a nice little long-term deal with another team.  Like I’ve said many times:  you can’t keep everyone.

Bobby Wagner looks like he’s got another level in him, however.  I expect GREAT things in his third year as a starting middle linebacker.  I think 2014 is the year he finally gets his due as a Pro Bowler in a very tough conference for linebackers.  Also, keep an eye on Korey Toomer.  Along with Simon, Toomer was singled out as having an amazing spring camp.  He’s always had the athleticism and the speed, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  This year, he could be a real terror on special teams (perhaps helping us ease the blow of inevitably waiving Heath Farwell to save some money on our cap).

Bruce Irvin is one of the biggest question marks on the team.  Yes, he certainly has ROOM to improve, but is it safe to EXPECT improvement?  If he does reach his full potential, he could be a wrecking ball on opposing quarterbacks.  Suffice it to say, I’ll be watching him closely in pre-season games, to see how he’s used, and to see how he bounces back from his hip surgery.  Obviously, if that hip is giving him problems, I won’t be watching him at all in pre-season games, so let’s hope that’s not the case.

Finally, a couple more under-the-radar fellas.  Mike Morgan will be entering his fourth season with the Seahawks.  He has primarily been a little-used depth guy and a full-time special teamer.  I never really had a lot of expectations out of him – especially when Malcolm Smith passed him on the depth chart – so it’ll be interesting if he’s even able to hold down a spot on this team in 2014.  The Seahawks just drafted Kevin Pierre-Louis, who looks like an absolute freak of nature.  The safe bets on this team are:  Wagner, Wright, Smith, and Irvin.  The bubble guys are:  Toomer, Morgan, Farwell, and KPL (among lesser-known guys).  You can forget about stashing KPL on the practice squad, as that’s just a non-starter.  Not only will he get snapped up by another team immediately, but putting him on there would actively reduce the talent level of this team’s special teams.  Morgan is in the fight of his life right now with those other bubble guys.  I’ve heard good things about his spring as well, so it’ll be interesting to see who shakes out.  Obviously, injuries would settle this thing real quick, but that’s neither here nor there.

Defensive Line

Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are veterans.  They’re as good as they’re going to be.  You could see incremental improvements (particularly with Avril, who is going into a contract season), but I wouldn’t expect huge steps forward.  Same goes for Mebane, McDaniel, and recently-acquired Kevin Williams.  You’d be safer in assuming that these three tackles are closer to getting worse than they are getting better.  You just hope they have another year in the tank.

The room for improvement is ALL dedicated to the very young and unproven.  Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, Benson Mayowa - none of whom played all that much at all in their rookie years.  Greg Scruggs, who was okay in his rookie year, but was injured all of last year.  He has apparently been spending all of his free time bulking up and becoming more beastly, so I’ll be VERY interested to see how he looks, and if he’s ready for a tough rotation.  Then, we’ve got the rookies:  Jackson Jeffcoat, Cassius Marsh, and Jimmy Staten (among others, presumably).  Hard to expect much out of any of these three, unless we’re decimated by injuries and they’re thrust into more minutes.

Very volatile group, this defensive line.  We’ve got enough sure things (so long as they stay healthy) to be able to maintain at least a high percentage of our effectiveness of last year, and a good number of wild cards who will duke it out in Training Camp and the pre-season, to see if we can somehow BEST last year.

In any given year, THAT’S what I’m most looking forward to when it comes to this time of the football season.  Tomorrow, I’ll look at the offense.

Week 16 Random Mariners Thoughts (Post All Star Game Edition)

Three games were played in the past week (not counting the All Star Game, obvs).  While Felix did very well in his one inning of All Star Game work as the starter, while Rodney did okay in his 1/3 of an inning as an All Star Game set-up man, and while Kyle Seager and Robbie Cano did pretty much nothing in their All Star Game roles as backup DH and starting second baseman (respectively), I’m not here to rehash the fucking All Star Game, so let’s go ahead and move on.

We played the Angels this weekend.  In Anaheim.  (They’re the Anaheim Angels, I don’t care what anyone tells me).  The Angels came into this series as the leading Wild Card team.  The Mariners came into this series as the second Wild Card team.  The Angels are MUCH closer to the A’s than they are the Mariners, and that hasn’t changed in the subsequent three days.

Three days, three 1-run games.  ALMOST three extra innings games, but alas it wasn’t to be.

On Friday, Hisashi Iwakuma almost got the hard-luck loss, as Jered Weaver was rolling and Kuma gave up two runs in the bottom of the fifth.  Somehow, the Mariners scratched across two runs in the seventh, and that’s the way it was for a while.  Kuma was done after seven innings, and seven relievers followed him.  Until the bottom of the 16th inning, with two runners on, some dude scored some other dude with a double and that was that.

On Saturday, Felix started and got a no decision.  What else is new?  He continued his historic streak of going 7 or more innings and giving up 2 runs or less (in this case, 7 innings, 1 unearned run, with 9 strikeouts and 6 combined walks & hits), but of course the offense couldn’t do much.  This game went into the 12th before the Mariners manufactured two runs.  They gave one right back in the bottom half, but Charlie Furbush of all people locked down the save (as Fernando Rodney was used earlier in the evening).  On this day, the Mariners would use another six relievers.  Keep that in mind.

Because on Sunday, the Mariners blew a save for the first time in a while.  The bullpen has been lights out over the last couple months (and really, on the whole of the season), but they were just fucking gassed yesterday afternoon.  Tom Wilhelmsen was out, because he pitched 4 innings in that Friday game (and probably because they’re saving him for the start on Tuesday).  Danny Farquhar was out because he had arm stiffness or whatever after throwing for two straight days.  Dom Leone had pitched two days in a row and sort of struggled (he gave up the game-losing hit on Friday).  So, there weren’t really a lot of options you’d feel confident in.  Chris Young cobbled together 6 innings and after he had left, the Mariners had a 5-3 lead.  With his pitch count right at 99, and with the Angels’ lineup getting ready to see him for a fourth time, I have no problem whatsoever with LMC going to the bullpen.

Yoervis Medina gave up a run in the bottom of the seventh to pull it to a 1-run game, but he got all three outs, putting us six outs from victory.  Joe Beimel was put into an impossible situation and sort of failed miserably.  He got one out in the 8th, but put a man on.  With the Angels soon to be turning the lineup over to the likes of Trout, Pujols, and other big scary bats, Lloyd pretty much had two options:  see if Beimel could work his way out of a jam (and, for him, one runner on IS a jam), or see if Rodney could come in and get the 5-out save.

For the record, I don’t hate the move to bring in Rodney.  He got us into the 9th inning without incident (unless you count him shooting one of his imaginary arrows towards the Angels dugout – but supposedly at the Angels fans who booed him, if you believe Rodney’s post-game comments – after he got the last out of the 8th inning), but from there he pretty much fell apart.  Trout walked.  Pujols doubled him home to tie the game and blow the save.  Josh Hamilton singled.  Howie Kendrick (who has turned into QUITE the Mariner Killer) was intentionally walked to load the bases.  David Freese hit into a double play to give us some hope.  Efren Navarro was also intentionally walked (he hit the game-winner on Friday, and has looked very good in his short stint in the Majors) to re-load the bases.  And, finally, some guy named Grant Green hit the game-winner for the Angels.

We now have less than two weeks before the trade deadline.  If this series illustrates one thing, it’s that the Mariners are NOT far away from the best teams in baseball.  If you look at the two series that bookended the All Star Game, you’ll see that the Mariners beat the A’s 2 of 3 and lost to the Angels 2 of 3.  All the games were close, and if there’s one thing you can point to as the difference, it would be the Mariners’ lack of hitting.

Let’s face it, the Mariners have made their season so far on timely hitting with runners in scoring position.  There are a couple articles out there about how the Mariners are one of the more fortunate teams when it comes to clustering their hits.  It’s one thing to have 9 hits in a game, but if they’re sprinkled out one per inning, odds are you’re not going to score much (if any) runs in that game.  But, if all 9 hits come in the same inning, you’ve got yourself a good chance of winning.

That’s all well and good, and the Mariners are six games over .500 as a result, but what happens when that luck runs out?

Dustin Ackley had a pretty good series, but seriously, he’s the worst.  Stefen Romero is back up with the team for some reason, and he looks just as lost as ever (both at the plate AND in the field).  I would almost rather see Justin Smoak spend the rest of his Mariners career in Tacoma at this point.  We’re lucky if we can get a bloop single out of Corey Hart anymore; he’s BEYOND done.  Brad Miller is almost a lost cause.  And, I know that LoMo has been hitting the ball hard since his playing time increased, but he’s falling back to Earth and earning his reputation as the Marlins’ version of Justin Smoak (that is, before he was traded here).  Yeah, that’s all we need, TWO Justin Smoaks.

This team could use pretty much ANYONE at this point, including the highly disappointing Billy Butler from Kansas City.  You know what a “disappointing” season out of Billy Butler is?  .269/.320/.348.  Yeah, I’ll bite, that’s not so hot, especially for a DH who brings nothing defensively to the table.  You PROBABLY want more than 3 home runs at this point in the season.  But, I mean, have you seen these numbers out of Hart, Smoak, and LoMo – the three guys currently rotating between first base and DH right now?

  • Hart – .211/.287/.331
  • Smoak – .210/.279/.356
  • LoMo – .222/.280/.368

Right now, if you gave us Butler and nobody else, I guarantee this offense would be VASTLY improved.  That’s just one example, but I think you see what I’m getting at.

We’re NOT that far away from being really, really good!  Two hitters, that’s it!  Two run of the mill, league-average hitters.  Obviously, anything above league average would be a huge bonus, but right now I’m not asking for a whole lot.  Not greedy; Dude just wants his rug back!  The less we have to play Hart and Ackley and Smoak, the better.  For all of us.

And, of course, if we want to be World Series contenders, we’d need David Price, but I’ve already belabored that point ad nauseam.  Nevertheless, my plan is simple:  David Price, Ben Zobrist, and another solid right-handed bat a la Billy Butler or someone slightly better.  Get me those three guys and I’ll guarantee you a World Series appearance for the Seattle Mariners.  SPARE NO EXPENSE!