Mariners Overcome A Bad Bullpen To Beat The Angels

Just one night after Scott Servais made a mind-bogglingly stupid bullpen decision, he did it again.  Long story short:  Hisashi Iwakuma was rolling through five innings.  With a low pitch count, and no runs allowed, it only made sense for him to go back out for the sixth.  Then, he gave up a double to Calhoun, a homer to Trout, and a single to Pujols, and it only made sense at this point to pull him for a reliever.  In general, I trust Hisashi Iwakuma as far as I can throw him, but I REALLY distrust him the third time through a lineup (where they showed on the broadcast that he’s giving up a batting average well over .400 this season).

With a man on base and nobody out, in a game the Mariners were leading 4-2, Servais apparently thought this would be the perfect spot to introduce Emilio Pagan to his Major League debut.

I should point out that before Tuesday’s game, the Mariners made some more moves.  Casey Fien was once again DFA’d, and he once again passed through to Tacoma, where I feel like it needs to be a good, long while before he’s called back up again, because it’s getting pretty ridiculous at this point.  Also, Dan Vogelbach was optioned back to Tacoma, because he was a disaster in his brief stint in the Majors (only fuelling my fire that he’s another in a long line of first base busts for this team).  When I hear things like he’s getting down on himself for a few botched plays in the field, and that it’s carrying over into his at-bats, it leads me to believe he’s not emotionally stable or mature enough for the Majors, and likely never will be.  It’s not all going to be roses and sunshine; you’re going to have to push through some hardships!  If an error here and there is going to so devastate you, then maybe baseball’s just not your game.  I know!  Let’s have a spelling contest!

In their place, the aforementioned Emilio Pagan was called up, along with another right-handed reliever, veteran Jean Machi (to make room on the roster, Shawn O’Malley was placed on the 60-day DL).  Machi went 2 shutout innings on Tuesday, in between Diaz’s blown save and Pazos’ loss, and put in another shutout inning last night to get the win.  But, before we get to that, let’s go back to Pagan’s eventful debut.

I really want to kill Servais for putting Pagan into a situation like this, like I did yesterday when he went directly to Diaz even though he had a lefty in the ‘pen all warmed up, but I don’t know if it’s as egregious.  I mean, yeah, it’s pretty shitty to put a 26 year old rookie into a game like this, but what else was he supposed to do?  Who else was he supposed to turn to?  Dan Altavilla was sent to Tacoma, Evan Scribner is on the DL, James Pazos and Tony Zych both threw over 30 pitches the night before.  I mean, you could argue that, had Servais handled the bullpen situation correctly on Tuesday, we wouldn’t have been in such a mess on Wednesday.  Pazos likely would’ve faced just the one batter on Tuesday and would’ve had plenty of arm to go again last night.  But, with the batters coming up, I don’t know if you wanted to have a lefty reliever in there.

Still, I might’ve gone straight to Nick Vincent, who only threw two pitches on Tuesday, so you figured he had at least 2 innings in him last night.  As it turns out, that’s pretty much what he had to do anyway (1.2 innings), because Pagan could only get the one out, and that one out was a miraculous catch by Heredia robbing the Angels of a home run in left field.

Pagan gave up Iwakuma’s third run, to really sour his night, and one of his own before being pulled.  Vincent came in and surrendered a double that cost Pagan a couple more runs on the ol’ ERA, but eventually got out of the jam.  However, the damage was done, as a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit.

The bullpen held it down after that, just long enough for the Mariners to put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the eighth inning.  With one out, Seager and Valencia singled.  Heredia’s groundout moved them up 90 feet, and Motter (pinch hitting for Zunino) walked to load the bases.  That led to Dyson’s 2-out double to right field, tying the ballgame, followed by Segura’s bouncing single through the hole between third and short to take a 2-run lead.  Edwin Diaz, this time on for just the 3-out save, gave up another homer to Kole Calhoun (his second against Diaz in as many nights), but other than hitting Trout, he struck out the side to get the save and give the Mariners a much-needed 8-7 victory.

Some people were getting on the Mariners for not doing enough on offense to this point, and in many ways I’m coming around to that thinking.  I mean, let’s face it, the way this pitching staff is going, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Maybe some of the injuries we wouldn’t have foreseen, but we knew coming into this season that this team’s pitching would be the weak link.  We KNEW that the offense was going to have to bring its lunch pail on many occasions like last night.  It seems like the Mariners are doing a good job, when you hear about how they’re near the top in the A.L. in runs scored, but a lot of the reason for that is due to blowouts.  8-0 and 11-1 victories are nice and all, but this team is going to need a hearty collection of 8-7 wins if it’s going to try to stay in contention.

At this point, I’d gladly settle for being a .500 ballclub by the time the month of May comes to a close.  That means going 16-12.  Obviously, playing .500 ball isn’t going to get you in the post-season, but it buys the Mariners some time until guys can start getting healthy again.  If we can scratch and claw our way to .500 by the time Felix and Haniger come back, it would set us up for a nice stretch of games in June and July.  The Mariners are REALLY going to have to get hot in the summer months if they want to crash the playoffs; between May 31 and July 30, the Mariners play 37 of 53 games at home.  It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and if they don’t take advantage, this season could really go sideways, as from July 31 through August 30, the Mariners are on the road for 21 of 28 before September call-ups.  I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, looking at the calendar, but I’m just trying to illustrate how important these next four weeks are.

The Mariners don’t need to destroy the month of May (though, I’d gladly accept it, of course).  They just need to win more series than they lose.  I’m not asking a lot, just a record of 16-12.  Or, rather, going forward, a record of 15-11.  Slow and steady, people!

The Mariners Opted To Shit All Over Opening Day With A 1-6 Road Trip

What’s the perfect capper to the worst opening week in Seattle Mariners history?  How about taking an 8-1 lead – including a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th – and pissing it all away to blow a great Iwakuma start, the first really good offensive effort, and have it happen one day before the Mariners’ home opener?

Robinson Cano was the star of the day, breaking out of his slump with a 2 for 5 effort, including a 3-run homer and a 2-run bases loaded double.  But, he wasn’t the only guy on offense doing good work.  Mitch Haniger hit his third homer of the new season, Segura scored 3 runs and got his third stolen base of the year, and Carlos Ruiz had a couple hits, scoring a run and knocking one in.  The Mariners were a solid 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position and only left 3 runners on base.  I’ve had a lot of shit to say about the offense this first week, but they were absolutely NOT to blame for losing this one.

Hisashi Iwakuma also played a major part, going 6 innings, giving up just a solo homer in 89 pitches.  On the one hand, it’s a tad concerning Kuma has yet to throw more than 90 pitches in a game through two starts, but on the other hand he’s managed to go 6 innings both times while giving up 3 runs total this season.  If he’s going to do that for you on a regular basis, then I don’t think I mind keeping his arm fresh like we’ve been doing.  Of course, we’re going to need more out of our bullpen if that’s the case.

As soon as the Mariners went up 8-1 in the top of the 7th inning, Nick Vincent promptly gave up two runs in the bottom half of the inning to start the collapse.  He looked terrible as usual, and only got out of the inning because the last out got caught in a run-down between first and second after knocking the two runners in.  From there, Scrabble and Altavilla got through a scoreless 8th inning, while the M’s tacked on another run to make it a 6-run game.

No worries, then, right?  6-run lead, 3 outs to go in the game, why not bring Casey Fien in to get us through the garbage time?

Yeah, Casey Fien has to go.  As soon as Tony Zych is ready to return from his rehab assignment, Fien better be DFA’d, and in the meantime he better not show up in another fucking game unless it’s an absolute last resort.  At this point, I’d rather see any position player on the mound than Fien one more time.  Fuck that idiot.

Fien started off the 9th by giving up a solo homer to Albert Pujols.  He then walked a guy, gave up a single, and walked another guy before he was pulled, having gotten exactly zero outs.  Needless to say, all of those guys would go on to score.

With the game still 9-4, with the bases loaded (now technically a save situation), the Mariners had to scramble to get Edwin Diaz in the game.  I don’t know if he would ever give this as an excuse for his own poor outing, but I hardly think he had enough time to sufficiently warm up his arm prior to getting thrown in the fire.  Diaz induced a ground ball out that scored a run, 9-5.  He struck out the next guy, 1 out remaining in the game.  Then, Diaz went completely off the rails.  A double scored two, 9-7.  Two walks loaded the bases.  Then, Albert Pujols returned, this time to slap a game-tying single to right.  The final pitch Diaz threw went off the wall in right center to put everyone out of their misery.

I just don’t know what to say after a game like that.  I don’t even know what to say after a week like that!  Way to suck all the life out of Opening Day – today at 2pm – by starting off the season 1-6!  Even if this was just an ordinary year, we’d be talking about fans jumping into a pit of hot lava just to get the hell off of the bandwagon, but this is the year we’re supposed to be going back to the post-season!  On paper, we’re talking about the best team we’ve had around here since probably 2003, and you go out and shit all over everything by losing 6 of your first 7 games?  How are you going to get asses in the seats this season?  How are you going to keep fan interest alive when you’re COLOSALLY FUCKING THIS UP, DUDE!?

This year’s motto is “Whatever It Takes”.  Apparently, that’s short for, “Whatever It Takes To Make Our Fans Miserable”.

What Are You Supposed To Do With A Mariners Offense Playing Like This?

At some point this week, I decided I’d take it upon myself to post a recap of all the Mariners games, even on *shudder* the weekends.  Someone needs to slap some sense into me, preferably with a couple of perky C’s.

I don’t know what to tell you.  5 hits in a 5-1 defeat to the thoroughly unimpressive Angels.  1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, another 7 left on base.  I mean, what is this?  Is this Spring Training fatigue?  The fact that these guys have been away from home for so long, and now the MLB schedule-makers have tacked on an extra 7 days to this living nightmare?  Will a simple matter of some home cooking turn this thing around?

God, I hope it doesn’t take that long.  Going 1-6 in your first week isn’t an insurmountable mountain to climb, but it sure as shit makes life unnecessarily difficult.

I mean, it’s one thing to see Kyle Seager struggle in the early going; we’ve come to expect that at this point.  And we all knew the outfield would be a bit of a depressing mixed bag at the plate (currently hitting a collective 8 for 59 (.136) with 5 walks, 2 doubles, 1 homer, and 18 strikeouts).  But, I think what’s most alarming is the funk that Cano and Cruz have been in through 5 games.

Those are our rocks!  Our studs!  Our superstars!  6 hits in 39 at-bats (.154) with 2 doubles, 0 homers, 1 RBI, 5 walks, and a whopping 13 strikeouts.  I know 5 games is a small sample size and everything, but come on!

Really, you can go up and down the lineup and pull these lunatic numbers that make you wonder just what sort of fresh hell we’re in for this season, so I won’t bombard you with all the misery.  I will say that I have no problem with Segura so far; I like that Seager has at least taken the most walks on the team to feature the highest OBP (.364), even though he’s only batting .125; and I’m starting to come around to Mitch Haniger (who leads the team in extra-base hits with 2) mostly because he seems to also have a good command of the strike zone with a .333 OBP.

As far as last night’s game is concerned, we got our first look at Yovani Gallardo.  I came away not totally sick to my stomach!  Granted, he went 5 innings and gave up 3 runs (being pulled in the bottom of the 6th with no outs after giving up a solo homer and a hard-hit single) while only throwing 90 pitches, but there were issues outside of his control that severely altered the course of the game for him.

In the bottom of the first, Gallardo gave up a leadoff single, followed by an ever-so-unfortunate double to Kole Calhoun (opposite field, against the outfield shift, just BARELY touching the chalk of the left field foul line before bouncing into the stands).  If that ball lands foul, who knows where the inning takes him?  Even still, with no outs and runners on 2nd & 3rd, he only gave up a sac fly to Mike Trout before getting out of the inning.

Then, in the bottom of the third, disaster.  A couple of singles and a strikeout preceeded Trout coming to bat.  After spotting him a 3-0 count, the Mariners intentionally walked him to get to Albert Pujols with 1 out and the bases loaded.  Pujols obliged about as well as you could ask for with a weak grounder right at Kyle Seager.  It was a tailor-made double play ball to get out of the inning still down 1-0.  Instead, Seager totally biffed it, allowing a run to score with the bases still loaded.  I couldn’t tell you how many pitches that cost Gallardo in his pitch count, but he ended up striking out the very next batter before getting out of the bases loaded jam with a ground ball to third.

And you may say, “Well, his pitch count stalled at 90 anyway, so it’s not like he was THAT over-worked,” but I’ll say this:  pitches in high-pressure situations like that, with the bases loaded and less than 2 outs, count A LOT more than pitches with nobody on base.  Sure, it was mostly his doing that got the bases loaded in the first place, but in the end, he induced a ground ball that should’ve been a double play and instead was a fielder’s choice/error that got no one out.  That’s not on Gallardo.

All in all, I thought Gallardo looked okay.  I saw him touch 94mph on the gun, he was usually in the lower 90s with his fastball, and he was able to work both up and down in the zone to pretty solid effect.  I mean, he’s never going to be anything amazing, but he’s a veteran 5th starter, so a lot of his starts are going to look like this.  He’s going to spread around a bunch of hits, hopefully not walk too many, and usually keep you in enough ballgames to justify his roster spot.  Think of a Kevin Millwood or a Chris Young type moreso than a Wade Miley or a Joe Saunders type.  At least, that’s my hope.

Casey Fien looked pretty good in his first inning of relief, then gave up a 2-run homer in his second inning of relief.  But, he’s not really a guy you’re going to count on in the 8th inning of a game you’re winning; he’s a guy you’re going to see in games like this, where we’re losing but hoping he can keep it close enough for us to come back.  I think the jury is still out on him, but I also don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon, even with Tony Zych set to rejoin the Mariners at some point in the next week or two.

Finally, Dillon Overton got his first inning of relief in the soft landing we unfortunately couldn’t give to Chase De Jong.  Overton gave up a meaningless single and netted 2 strikeouts, but I couldn’t tell you how he looked because I turned off the TV after that 2-run homer Fien gave up.

Felix Day today.  Let’s hope he doesn’t have to cover first base.

The Mariners Are Somehow Still Clinging To Life

On September 1st, I officially wrote off the 2016 Seattle Mariners.  They had started off the month of August on fire, to get back into the playoff hunt, then finished the month in a miserable way.  What with football season kicking off, I figured – barring a no-hitter, or some other noteworthy single-game feat – that I wouldn’t be writing about the Mariners again until season’s end.

And yet here we are.  Why are we talking about the Mariners?  Because after a gruelling stretch of baseball – where the Mariners had to play 33 games in 34 days – they finally reached September, and on the 1st had a welcome day off.  With September rolling around, the organization has been able to call some guys up from Tacoma to help spread out the burden.  With guys getting healthy, getting rested, and most importantly, with the pitching coming back around, the Mariners have started out the month 8-3, on the back of a 6-game winning streak (and counting).

We’re now 76-68, we’ve once again leapfrogged Houston by a game, and we’re now just 2.5 games out of the second wild card.  The A.L. West is a lost cause, but the playoffs are back in play!  18 games to go!  Every little bit helps!

My take on this thing is:  it’s just another hot streak before the inevitable downfall.  You might hang your hat on beating the Rangers 3 of 4 games at home last week, but the bulk of this winning streak has come from sweeping the A’s over the weekend.  We have two more against the Angels the next two nights, and they’ve been a poor matchup for us all year (we’re only 9-8 against them, and they’ve proven to be one of the very worst teams in the league this year).  This could all come to a crashing halt with a few more Trout or Pujols homers the next two days.

Or, we could get cut off at the knees by the Astros, who we play 6 more times between now and the end of the year.  Don’t forget about the Blue Jays; they’re currently the top wild card team, and they always seem to ruin our good times late in seasons.  If we make it through all of that, we’ve still got a 3-game stand in Minnesota; sure, they’re the very worst team in all of baseball, but when has that ever stopped us from sucking before?  Hell, the Twins swept us at Safeco in a 3-game series back in May, when we were playing our very BEST baseball!

An optimist would relish the opportunity before us.  We have 9 of our 18 remaining games against teams with losing records.  We can officially elimiate the Astros, and we can gain a lot of ground in the Wild Card standings by taking out the Blue Jays!  While we don’t control our own destiny, remember that the A.L. East – who currently holds three playoff spots, with the Yankees still ahead of us and in contention – has to play one another quite a bit to end the season.  If we just keep winning, and they bash each other around, it’s the perfect opportunity to sneak in there and steal a spot!

But, of course, we’ve been down this road before.  In mid-August, before it all went to shit, we were pretty much right where we are now.  We’re 8 games over .500, we’ve been as high as 10 games over .500, and we’ve never been able to push through that glass ceiling.  Winning streaks are fun, but with this Mariners team, they’ve always proven to be the calm before the storm.  All this shows is that we’re going to have an easy road to finish with a .500 overall record at 81-81.

Can this team stay hot, not just for a week or two, but for an entire month?  They’ve yet to prove they can.  The best stretch was that month of May.  If we pull that as the best version of the 2016 Mariners, and superimpose it onto the September schedule (meaning, essentially, that the Mariners finish 18-11 in the month), that would mean the Mariners will finish 10-8 in the next 18 games.  Which, for this team, feels right.  10-8 is what I’d expect this team to go in any given 18 games.  If that comes to pass, the Mariners will finish with a record of 86-76.  Considering the Blue Jays and Orioles (the two wild card teams, if the season ended today) have 79 and 78 wins respectively, odds are 86 wins won’t be enough.

In other words, for the Mariners to complete this thing, make the playoffs, and end this horrid streak of worthless seasons, they’d have to play better than they ever have this year, for a longer stretch of games.  Just doesn’t seem likely, does it?  I know, in the midst of a 6-game winning streak, anything seems possible.  It doesn’t really feel like the Mariners are ever going to lose again!  But they will, and then they will again, and then it’ll be infectious.  And we’ll resent them for sucking us back in all over again.

Being a sports fan:  does the fun ever START?

The Mariners Are Really Putting Me Through The Wringer

Tasked with the second inexperienced starter in two days, the Seattle Mariners had to put on their big boy pants to beat the Angels last night.  So, it was really a perfect time for the power in the bats to completely disappear.

After digging a hole early, Cody Martin somewhat settled down to go 4.1 innings while giving up only 2 runs.  Given our placement in the standings and how important all of these games are, combined with the fact that the Mariners just took the lead in the top of the 4th to go up 4-2, Scott Servais wasn’t taking any chances.  It was the prudent play.

The bullpen rebounded in a big way over the previous night.  Storen went 1.1 scoreless, Nuno got the final out of the 6th, Caminero made it through a scoreless 7th, and Wilhelmsen did the same in the 8th.  Perfect.  Bring on the Sugar!

Texas Tea ... Sweetener!

Texas Tea … Sweetener!

Who almost fucking blew it.

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME???

A single and a wild pitch put the leadoff batter in scoring position.  For the most part, like the night prior, the Angels hitters were cheating, going up there looking fastball all the way and swinging accordingly.  That’s what happened with the first batter.  So, Diaz turned to his slider, and almost exclusively his slider, the rest of the way.  I didn’t understand at first, as the next batter whiffed twice at it before laying off the next two balls outside, before putting the final slider into centerfield to make the game 4-3.  After the game, I discovered he’d lost confidence in his fastball command, but either way, it was SCARY for a while there!

Diaz got a strikeout from an overly-aggressive Kole Calhoun, but then Trout singled and advanced to second on the throw as Leonys Martin tried to cut down the runner going to third.  With two runners in scoring position, and only one out in the inning, Diaz intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load ’em up.  From there, he got another strikeout before running into the final batter of the night, who hit a hard ground ball towards the bag that Seager dove on.  He was able to throw out the final runner by a half step to save the game, in what has to be the best defensive play made by a Mariners fielder all year.  Hell, it might be the play of the decade, given the circumstances (but, my memory ain’t what it used to be).

Just an unbelievable sense of relief after that.  We wrap up the 4-game series tonight, with Iwakuma on the mound.  Let’s do this thing!

The Mariners Screwed The Pooch Last Night

Blowers and Goldsmith were having a discussion during the broadcast last night about how great it is to have a lockdown closer like Edwin Diaz.  He helps the rest of the bullpen slot into place, he gives everyone the confidence that by shortening the game – just getting through the 8th inning with the lead – everything will be all right.

But, what happens if you can’t even do that?  Well, you get what we had here last night.

You could only expect them to win one of these two games started by Miranda yesterday and Cody Martin tonight; the Mariners blew a HUGE opportunity to take this series by the balls.  I will say it again:  the Mariners have NO business losing to this team, in any capacity.  The Angels have one and a half hitters who can beat you, and sure as shit, they got the better of us again.  It’s like this pitching staff and this coaching staff simply wipes their asses with the scouting reports they get!

Have you heard of the phrase, “I’m not going to let so-and-so beat us,”?  Well, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols – he of the 92 RBI and the unimpressive batting average – should NOT be beating us like they are!  You’ve got to be more careful with them!  You absolutely can NOT be floating meatballs for them to crush!  And you can’t be fucking walking guys ahead of them!

The bullpen shit the bed, you know?  What can I say?  They had an awesome run, but they really fucked up bad last night.  Nick Vincent was God damn worthless, and Arquimedes Caminero suffered his first blown save in a Mariners uniform.  This isn’t on the hitters (6 runs should be MORE than enough to win every game), this isn’t on the starter (who pitched very well until, again, he faltered in the 6th inning and couldn’t get an out).  This is on those two bullpen guys who fucked it up for everyone.

Now, we have to win the next two games in the series to be where we want to be.  You can’t be losing a series to a team that’s 20 games under .500!  Not if the post-season is on your mind!  So, get your shit together and get this fucking thing done!

Unsustainable Mariners Bullpen Is Unsustainable

Pretty rough and shitty weekend for the Mariners.  Could have – and probably should have – won two out of three of those games.  Instead, they lost all three, to a free-falling Angels team overwhelmed by injuries.  Because of course.  Because Same Old Mariners.

If you were like me, and you were absolutely astonished at how well the bullpen had been performing through the first five weeks – knowing full well that a top tier bullpen is exactly what you need to put up the type of first place numbers the Mariners were throwing out there – you probably had an itch in the back of your mind that you couldn’t quite scratch.  That itch of:  THIS IS UNSUSTAINABLE!  AT SOME POINT, THIS BULLPEN IS GOING TO START BLOWING GAMES, AND WHEN THAT TIME COMES, IT’S GOING TO BE A TIDAL WAVE OF LOSING THE LIKES OF WHICH WE’RE ALL TOO FAMILIAR!  8========D — — —

What we all hoped for was to stave off this regression as long as possible.  Yes, there are injured bullpen guys who are set to return.  Their return should bump some of the dead weight off the roster, and shore up some things in the winnable games we have to come.  But, we’ve got to GET there without throwing away all the good will this team has built up.  Without throwing away all the wins it took to get us into this 2-team race for first in the A.L. West.

What we really DIDN’T need was for the whole thing to come crashing down against the likes of the fucking Angels this weekend.

On Friday, the Mariners’ offense absolutely did enough to win that game.  Could they have done more?  Sure.  1-12 with runners in scoring position is never a number you want to see.  We let their starter repeatedly wiggle off the hook in the early innings, and it ended up coming back to haunt us.  But, we scored SIX runs!  If you can’t win a game where your team scores six runs – I don’t care HOW many runners they leave on base! – then that’s on the pitching 100%.

Karns was rolling along pretty well until the 7th inning, at which point Nuno & Vincent proceeded to let a couple of inherited runners score.  But, going into the 8th inning, the Mariners were still up 6-3, so you figure you have that game in the bag.  Then, in walked Joel Peralta – who absolutely looks like a guy who deserves little more than a minor league deal and a Spring Training invite.  That guy is going to be the death of a great many games before he’s finally, mercifully released.  He gave up a homer and two doubles to make the game 6-5 going into the 9th inning.

But, then Cishek came in – with plenty of rest, after having Wednesday and Thursday off – and loaded the bases before giving up the go-ahead 2-run single that decided the game.  Blown Save & Loss #2 of the season was only the beginning.

Saturday’s game was a thrilling back-and-forth affair.  The Mariners jumped up first thanks to a 2-run home run by Adam Lind of all people.  Things settled into a nice little pitcher’s duel until the 7th inning, where this time it was Iwakuma who faltered.  Kuma gave up a run in the 6th, then two more in the 7th before giving way to Joel Peralta, who not only gave up Kuma’s final run, but also two of his own thanks to the back-to-back homers the Angels hit off of him.  Peralta was unable to get a single out in this game, which is just pathetic, but again probably not surprising when you pitch him on back-to-back days.

All in all, the Mariners gave up five runs in the inning, and were trailing by 6-2 going into the bottom of the 8th, before things miraculously turned around.  Thanks to a smattering of hits and walks (and no homers in the bunch), the Mariners were able to put a 5-spot up of their own to re-take the lead, 7-6.  And, yeah, while there were a good many runners left on base, you gotta think scoring 7 runs in a game is the offense more than doing their job.

But, of course, Cishek let two runners get on and left a meatball for the scuffling Albert Pujols to hit out to left field for a 3-run homer.  Back-to-back losses and blown saves in back-to-back days?  What could be worse?

Well, getting shutout the next day, on a day where Felix looked like his usual, dominant self, is a pretty fitting capper to a crappy weekend.  Felix’s line would’ve actually looked a lot better, but the manager decided to pull him in the top of the 8th with two runners on, and Nick Vincent let both of them score.  That’s one way to look better than you really are.

Now, the Mariners hit the road for three games against first place Baltimore.  Hope everyone enjoys watching Mark Trumbo slamming the ball all around the park!

Jerry Dipoto Is The New Mariners GM

One month to the day that Jackie Z was fired, Twitter started to blow up with word that his replacement had been found.  It was subsequently confirmed by the team, with a press conference taking place yesterday.  Jerry Dipoto – former Angels GM – is your new Mariners GM.

Forgive me if I’m not falling all over myself with joy.  Truth be told, the move that needs to be made – the move that’s needed to be made for well over a decade – is the organization wresting control from one Howard Lincoln.  Preferably, such a move would come via the powers that be unceremoniously firing his sorry, goldbricking ass, followed by locking him in the stocks so every Mariners fan – one by one – can pass by to hurl insults and throw fresh feces in his face.  But, really, I’d even accept his quiet resignation and/or retirement, just so long as he’s out of the way and not running the show anymore.

I don’t know what to make of Dipoto’s background.  He was the GM for the Angels for 3 and a half years.  Last year, the Angels won the division before being swept by the Royals in the ALDS.  But, how much of that was on the dime of his predecessor’s hard work and shrewd personnel choices?

Jerry Dipoto didn’t draft Mike Trout.  He DID bring in Josh Hamilton.  He also signed Albert Pujols (a trainwreck at first, but has somewhat returned to form the last couple years) as well as C.J. Wilson (moderately successful, when healthy).  I have no idea who he drafted, and I really don’t care to know, because they’re Angels and fuck them.  I care about the fact that he has at least led an organization to the post-season, which is really my only concern for the Mariners at this point.

Will he be the guy to get us back to the playoffs?  I tend to have my doubts.  This organization is so fucked from top to bottom, it’s impossible to see a way out of the abyss.  None of our hitters can make contact.  None of them can take a walk.  Our bullpen is a mess, and we’re squandering the best years of Felix’s career.  As usual, there are too many holes on this team to count, and not enough money or available players out there to fill them.

Coming into 2015, the Mariners needed to fill out the DH spot, the corner outfielders, the back-end of the rotation, while hoping that our young infielders took a step forward.  What did the Mariners accomplish in 2015?  Well, we filled the DH spot with Nelson Cruz, and that’s about it.  PLUS, the bullpen fell apart, all the youngsters flopped, and we need to fill all three outfield spots going into 2016.  It’s an impossible task, so I hope everyone is prepared for continued sucking.

Look for this numbnuts organization to retain Lloyd McClendon.  I say that not to bash on the guy – I thought he brought some needed stability at the position of field manager, and I think he gets the most out of his players, even in a lost season like this one – but because he comes with a built-in scapegoat.  The next two years are very likely going to be miserable at the Major League level, as the organization tries – once again – to fill out the farm system.  They might not be in full sell-off mode, but I could definitely see moves being made to look toward the future.  And, therefore, when we punt these next two years, the Mariners can THEN fire Lloyd McClendon and tell the public, “He wasn’t the right man for the job.”  Dipoto will be able to hire His Kinda Guy (because of course it’s not the organization’s fault we will have had losing seasons in 2016 and 2017), and at that point the clock will be ticking.  Dipoto will have a 2-year grace period, followed by a 2-year hot-seat period, followed by him being out on his ass again and this whole process starting all over.

The sport of professional baseball is so boring and predictable, I honestly wonder why I still bother following it.  Welcome to Seattle, Jerry Dipoto.  I hope you like soul-crushing failure, because you’re going to have a front row seat to the worst four years of your life.  At least you don’t have a stupid-as-fuck last name that’s impossible to spell.

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!

How Many All Star Appearances Does Robinson Cano Need To Make His Mariners Contract A Success?

That title is a little unwieldy, but go with me on this.

The objective behind that question isn’t to overly glorify the All Star Game.  As adults, I think most of us give that honor some degree of importance below what we gave as kids.  Yeah, making the All Star Game is nice for the player, but it’s sort of a meaningless honor where players who don’t necessarily deserve it get rubber-stamped into the game beyond their primes (see:  Derek Jeter).

Robbie Cano is an All Star for the sixth time in his career; obviously the first time as a Mariner.  He earned the honor in his second season in the bigs, then missed out for three years, and has been going back ever since.  You could say Cano is in the Rubber Stamp phase of his career, except clearly he is still deserving of the honor.

The thing about All Star Games is, you often don’t get recognized until you’ve put up a second season of greatness.  That’s obviously not true across the board, as you see rookies make it all the time, but it’s more of a general rule of thumb.  You also tend to get recognized at least a year after you should stop going.  Take Ichiro, for instance.  He was an All Star from his rookie year through 2010.  Are you telling me he was one of the three best outfielders in all of the American League in 2010?  I highly doubt it.

Getting back to Cano, you have to figure he’s got a number of All Star-worthy years left in him, followed by probably another Rubber Stamp year that we won’t really count because it’s not important.  What’s important is:  how many elite years will the Mariners get with Cano?

I ask that, because I don’t see a dramatic falling off a cliff in him.  I figure there will be ‘X’ number of All Star-worthy years, then there will be a more gradual decline.  Maybe a couple of just-okay seasons, followed by ‘X’ number of pretty bad years where you’re not getting NEARLY the return on investment as you’d like.  That’s just the way it’s going to be, unless Cano is superhuman (which, for the record, I won’t rule out).

So, I ask again:  how many All Star appearances does Cano need to make his contract a success?

2014 is the first year of 10.  He’s 31 right now.  He will be 40 in 2023.  He’s making $24 million in each year of his deal.  There is no opt-out that I’m aware of.

I like the Ichiro example when it comes to Cano, because I feel like we can see some parallels there.  Ichiro was 27 when he hit the Major Leagues.  That was his rookie season and arguably it was the best season of his career.  I don’t know what he was like in Japan, but let’s just say his year-27 season was the first season of his “Prime”.  I would argue that Ichiro’s prime extended through the 2010 season, when he was 36 years old.  2010 wasn’t on par with 2001 or anything – this was definitely the tail end of his prime – but it was still a very good year with 200 hits and all that.  In 2011 and 2012, while still playing a full slate of games in each year, Ichiro’s hit totals declined to 184 and 178 respectively.  Again, not a dramatic drop-off, but you can see that he’s a shell of his former “Prime” self.

I know Cano’s game and Ichiro’s game are dramatically different – Ichiro’s game was based on speed and infield hits, batting leadoff, and playing a very good defensive right field; Cano’s game involves more power, more RBI production, more walks, and the more-important defensive position of second base – but just go with me on this too.  Cano’s year-36 season will be in 2019.  If he can hang onto his “Primeness” through 2019, that will be 6 of the 10 years.  And, if he declines gradually, as Ichiro did, then years 7 and 8 shouldn’t be too bad either.  It’ll be in the two final years where we probably won’t want to play Cano every day (but might be obligated to, considering the heft of his contract).

So, how does that sound?  Does 6 years of All Star-calibre play, followed by 2 years of just-okay play sound like something you could live with under Cano’s $240 million deal?  Because, I could TOTALLY live with it.  And, obviously, anything beyond that (if, indeed, he is super human).

But, what happens if it’s only 4 or 5 All Star years before he starts his decline?  At what point is the contract a failure?

I know this post probably could’ve been written when we first signed Cano (and, indeed, I’m sure some variation or another is out there in Mariner Blog Land), but I didn’t feel like writing it then.  When someone signs a huge contract with a new team (especially one that plays half its games in Safeco Field), it’s not out of the question to wonder if you’ll get ANY All Star-calibre seasons out of a player.  How have the Angels done with Pujols?  How about the Tigers/Rangers with Fielder?  At least with Cano, we KNOW we’ve got at least one All Star year!  And, you’d think, as long as he stays healthy, we’ll have at least a few more.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I think I need these first six years to be great.  I’d settle for five years of great (as long as the subsequent three years were in the just-okay range, as opposed to two), but I wouldn’t be thrilled.  Four or less?  That’s got disaster written all over it.  Six years or more of Cano struggling might seriously wipe me out.

Of course, the good thing about all of this is that we don’t have to worry about it now.  Because Cano IS good.  He’s great, even!  And, if he helps me win my futures bet against Adrian Beltre at season’s end, he can go on to have nine years of ineptitude for all I care!