The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

As we dip our toes into August, things are starting to come into focus.  Whereas a month ago, you could argue each and every team in the A.L. had a chance at the Wild Card, now you can start to write some teams off.  The White Sox, the Tigers, the A’s, and I daresay even the Blue Jays and the Rangers, particularly with their trading of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.  And, not far behind them, you’ve got teams like the Angels, Twins, and maybe even the Orioles, who just need another mediocre couple of weeks before you figure they throw in the towel and start playing their younger guys.

At that point, it’s almost easier to count the teams in the race.  The Astros, obviously.  With the Yankees winning the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, you have to like their chances.  The Red Sox will give them a run, of course.  In the Central, you’ve got the surging Royals and the steady Indians.  And, right there, tied with the Mariners, you’ve got the Rays at 54-53 with two full months to go.  We’re both of us 2.5 games behind the Royals for that second Wild Card spot; with the July 31st Trade Deadline come and gone, now it’s time to get to work.

As you know, I’m not very bullish on the Mariners’ chances.  Obviously, Paxton is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but after that it’s a wasteland.  Felix is on the decline (5.1 innings of 4-run ball last night; he was fortunate the offense and bullpen bailed him out — how many times could we have said THAT over the course of his career?), Erasmo Ramirez of all people is slated to take the hill tonight.  Then, we’ve got the poo-poo platter of Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo who will REALLY have to start picking up the slack the rest of the way if this team wants a shot at the post-season.

I dunno, I just can’t see it.  It would be a miracle of miracles.  The writing is already on the wall:  we’re going to look back on this season and realize we were out of it the day Drew Smyly injured his throwing arm.  Could we have withstood the decline of Felix, the injury of Iwakuma, and the disaster that’s been Gallardo?  Yes, yes, and yes; but it all hinged on getting a big bounceback season out of Smyly, and that absolutely did not happen.  If Smyly could’ve been 80% of what Paxton has been, combined with a fine season from Miranda, a bulldog season out of Felix, and whatever you could get out of the fifth starter carousel, MAYBE you could talk me into being confident in this team as it’s currently constructed.  But, the day they let the deadline pass without going out and getting a top shelf starter is the day they gave up on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what David Phelps brings to this bullpen.  But, what use does this team have for an Erasmo Ramirez when it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  What use does this team have for a Marco Gonzales when, again, it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  These are half measures.  It’s making it look like you’ve done something when you’ve really done nothing at all.  These guys could’ve been gotten in the offseason just as easily, but instead they were acquired now; why?  To give the illusion that the team is trying to Win Now, when in reality this team – at the Major League level – is no better than it was before, and it could be argued they’re actually worse.  The lynchpin, of course, is Gonzales.  He’s “Major League Ready” and figures to be called up anytime now; if he comes up and does what he’s never done before (pitches well at the highest level), then I’ll happily eat all the crow you can shovel onto my plate.  But, it strikes me that we’ve heard this tune before.

Andrew Moore was Major League Ready.  Sam Gaviglio was Major League Ready.  Christian Bergman was Major League Ready.  Chris Heston was Major League Ready.  Chase De Jong was Major League Ready.  Dillon Overton was Major League Ready.  Rob Whalen was Major League Ready.  Where are they right now?

Like I said, it’s going to take some kind of miracle.  A big part of that would involve the Mariners winning more close games than they lose.  Like, A LOT more.  Like, an unsustainable amount of close games!  So far, they’re 16-10 in 1-run games, and 5-5 in extra innings games.  That needs to improve, bigly.  Especially against the teams ahead of us in the standings.

Last night wasn’t a 1-run game, but the Mariners still found a way to notch a save and come from behind.  Down 4-0 after two innings, it looked bleak.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to take advantage of a whopping 4 errors and 2 balks, as the Rangers look like one of the sloppiest teams I’ve ever seen.  By the time Cole Hamels finished his six innings, the game was tied, and for a while there it looked like this game was destined for extras.

Scrabble was able to get out of a Felix jam in the sixth inning.  All five of Phelps’ outs were via the strikeout.  And meanwhile, this side-arming lefty reliever for the Rangers, Alex Claudio, was wiggling his way off the hook for over 2 innings of work, on a remarkably low number of pitches.

Scott Servais did something interesting in the last few days with the lineup; he’s finally gotten comfortable with Ben Gamel as an everyday hitter, even against left-handed starters.  So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen Gamel lead off the last few days, with Jean Segura batting second.  They’re both having phenomenal offensive seasons from a batting average standpoint, so they’re really pretty interchangeable at the top of the order.  But, it’s a dynamic shift where the Mariners are L-R-L-R-L-R through the first six hitters in the order.  Against teams with good lefty bullpen arms, this presents a conundrum:  do you swap your relievers out after each at-bat, or do you trust your lefty arm to pitch against, say, Jean Segura or Nelson Cruz?

Well, as we found out last night, with Claudio on the mound, the Rangers opted to pitch around those guys, intentionally walking Cruz twice and Segura once.  That put the onus on our left-handed hitters to get the job done.

It looked like it was going to work, too!  Claudio got out of a jam in the seventh when Seager hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice with runners on the corners.  He worked a very quick and efficient eighth inning to keep his pitch count low.  And, he ALMOST got through the ninth by using similar tactics as he did in the seventh.  Had he succeeded, the Rangers would’ve been in good shape heading into extras, while the Mariners would’ve used a couple of their best bullets in all likelihood just to get there.

The top of the ninth kicked off with a Chooch Ruiz single to right.  He was lifted for a pinch runner in Jarrod Dyson, who was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Gamel hit what looked to be a rally-killing double play.  However, the throw to first got past the bag and Gamel was able to reach second base with one out.  Segura drew the intentional walk, and both runners were balked over thanks to Claudio’s funky pre-pitch arm waggling.  Against lefty Cano, Claudio had been successful two innings prior, inducing a ground ball.  He busted him inside again, but Cano was able to stay on it and lined it over the right fielder’s head.  A perfect bounce to Shin Soo Choo allowed him to throw Cano out at second, but the damage was done.  The Mariners had a 6-4 lead and Edwin Diaz threw fire in the bottom half to close it out in regulation.

I’ll admit, it was an encouraging end to the month of July.  The Mariners went 14-12 to secure their second consecutive winning month.  Now it’s time to really turn it up a notch.

Of Course The Mariners Were Swept By The Phillies

And Yep, Drew Smyly Needs Tommy John Surgery, Will Be Out 12-15 Months.

I’m in the middle of a big move, I’ve got a fuck-ton of shit to do, so I’m not going to sweat this one too hard.  Felix started, pitched okay, got the Quality Start, and left the game with a 4-3 lead.  Then, Pazos and Vincent carried the game to the ninth inning for Edwin Diaz to blow it.  That’s two crap performances in back-to-back days, but again, whatever.

Remember when the Mariners used to hit dingers?  It was only a year ago, they hit about a million of ’em, it was a lot of fun.  Well, yesterday they tried to do their best impression of that – with Seager, Valencia, and Cano all going deep – but they were each solo jobs.  With RISP, they were 1 for 5, with an RBI single by Cruz.  Remember when Nelson Cruz used to hit dingers?  He’s had 40 or more the last three years!  Remember when I almost made that futures bet on Cruz leading the league in dingers in 2017?  Boy, was I WAY OFF!  I mean, 14 is okay and everything, but he is LONG overdue for one of his torrid homer streaks.

And, yeah, getting back to the lede, Drew Smyly is officially done for the season.  And, in all likelihood, done with the Seattle Mariners.  He’s making nearly $7 million this season and has yet to throw a single meaningful pitch (fuck the WBC).  He has one more Arb year left where he would surely make at or over $7 million if the Mariners decided to retain him, but why would they?  If, indeed, it’s 12-15 months before he’s pitching again, what, we get MAYBE half a season out of him next year?  For upwards of $14 million in total?

In reality, I don’t see how he comes back next year.  The Mariners would be idiots to do so, unless they bought out his Arb year and loaded his contract with incentives.  But, he might be better off rehabbing on his own, working his arm back into shape, and signing a Prove It deal before the 2019 season (which will still be insanely high, because this is baseball).

I just can’t fucking believe how hard this backfired.  If any of the three guys we sent to the Rays to bring Smyly in here turn out to be anything, this will be one of the bigger busts in franchise history (which is really saying something).

The M’s get another off-day to sleep in the shit bed they’ve made, then they go to Anaheim for a 3-game road trip over the weekend.  It’s literally the cutest little thing.

The 2017 Mariners Have Still Never Been Over .500

That was as unlucky of a 2-1 defeat as you’ll ever see.  Down 1-0 on a solo homer in the fourth, Christian Bergman was working around a moderate jam in the fifth.  With two outs, he got Joe Mauer to bounce one to second base.  At the time, you could’ve made an argument that they would’ve given Bergman a shot at going six innings in this one.  But, not so fast, because the ball booted off the heel of Robinson Cano’s glove to put runners at the corners.  The lead runner was past third base enough for the M’s to potentially have a shot at picking him off, but Cano couldn’t get a clean grip on the ball.  By the time he did, it was too late and he should’ve eaten it.  Instead, he tried to rush the ball to third, saw it skip past Kyle Seager, allowing the runner to turn around and score.

Two errors, one play, by a guy who had one error all season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Dyson led off with a triple.  One out and a Boog Powell walk later, Ben Gamel hit a sac fly to score Dyson.  Guillermo Heredia hit a single to right to put runners on the corners, which brought up Robbie with a chance to atone for his sins in the top half of the inning.  He hit a screaming liner to center that looked like it was going to score the go-ahead runs for the Mariners, but Byron Buxton made a crazy leaping catch to end the inning.

There’s probably only a small handful of guys who are able to track that ball and make that catch.

The bullpens kept the game the same on into the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order coming up.  Cano and Seager singled to put runners at first and second; with one out, the hero of the previous night – Mike Zunino – stepped to the plate.  He didn’t have a particularly good game in this one heading into the at bat, but all of that would’ve changed had he gotten ahold of one.  On a 1-0 pitch, Zunino smashed a liner right at the pitcher that almost certainly would’ve scored the tying run.  But, he hit it right into the pitcher’s glove, who was able to easily double off Cano at second to end the threat.

There would be no blown save for Minnesota’s closer on this night, as he came into the ninth and went 1-2-3.

What can you do, you know?  The confluence of events to get that game to go in Minnesota’s favor was pretty astounding.  Bergman once again pitched good enough to keep the Mariners in the ballgame (funny how he rarely seems to have Gallardo’s problem of The Big Inning, but that’s neither here nor there) and the bullpen pitched good enough to give the Mariners the win.  Four shutout innings by Pazos, Cishek, Scrabble, and Altavilla.

Offensively, we’re talking about 0 for 7 with RISP, which obviously won’t get the job done on many nights.  The Mariners will try again to get back to .500 (and maybe over .500) against the Blue Jays this weekend.  Sam Gaviglio goes tonight, which is cause for concern.  The fact that the Blue Jays have practically everyone back and healthy is another cause for concern, considering they were pretty beaten down by injuries the last time we played them last month, and they still managed to sweep the M’s in a 4-game series.  On top of all of that, we have to deal with a park full of insufferable Blue Jays fans.  Part of me wants to go to Safeco this weekend and mix it up, but the rest of me knows the Mariners are just going to lose anyway, because we always fucking lose to Toronto.

On a minor positive note, both Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma threw off of a mound yesterday.  It’s not much, but it’s an important next step.  Also, Mitch Haniger had a good game down in Tacoma, drawing the game-winning walk.  And, word around the team is that Nelson Cruz should be back tonight, but we’ll see.

Valencia & Motter Bombed The Rays Into Oblivion

While I was at Clusterfest, watching comedians ranging from Kevin Hart to Sarah Silverman to Chris Hardwick to Natasha Leggero to Moshe Kasher to T.J. Miller (while still being able to catch a hip hop set from Ice Cube), the Mariners back in Seattle played a baseball game.

Taylor Motter hit a grand slam in the first, Danny Valencia had 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer in the third), and the Mariners ran away with it against the Rays, 12-4.

Funny coincidence alert:  Motter came from the Rays organization; he was beyond pleased with how this game went.

Also:  Danny Farquhar now pitches for the Rays’ bullpen, and gave up 4 runs.

Also:  Brad Miller had an error while playing second base, in the first inning, that led to 5 of those runs being unearned.

In Neverending Mariners Injury News:  Nelson Cruz was back and IN the lineup, with just a bruised hand, in spite of some dude on Twitter trying to tell me he broke his hamate bone and would be out 4-6 weeks.  Weird that a guy with 17 Tweets since December of 2016 and 9 total followers wouldn’t have the pulse of the Mariners clubhouse!

In Real Neverending Mariners Injury News:  Jean Segura is on the DL with a high ankle sprain.  It’s just the 10-day variety, but Dipoto is saying this could go as long as 2 months.  Meaning Segura likely won’t be back until August.  Which, if you’re keeping score, means AFTER the Trade Deadline.  Of course, miracles do happen from time to time, so maybe he comes back early.  Either way, I highly doubt Segura gets traded this season.

So, in a flurry of moves made yesterday, Casey Lawrence was rewarded for his masterful 5-inning relief performance of Yovani Gallardo by being sent back to Tacoma.  What a dick move!  First with Emilio Pagan (after his 4-inning relief performance a little while back) and now this!  Lawrence, to his credit (because he didn’t look like much of anything of value when we brought him in), has been a fabulous innings-eating long reliever this season, and I hope he gets a chance to come back up.

To make up for the losses, the Mariners called up a couple of Tylers.  Tyler Cloyd (a relief pitcher who is the epitome of a 30 year old journeyman, having bounced around 4 different organizations, as well as a brief stint in Korea) and Tyler Smith (an infielder who made his Major League debut last night, subbing in for Cano when the game was out of reach; he hit a double in his only at bat).

To make room on the 40-man, the Mariners moved Ryan Weber to the 60-day DL, and DFA’d someone named Andrew Alpin.

Getting back to that Casey Lawrence thing, and how much of a drag it is, because it’s all Gallardo’s fault that he was needed to go five innings in that game and save the rest of the bullpen in the first place, Christian Bergman went 6 innings last night, giving up just 2 runs.  He’s looking more and more like a guy we can keep around in this rotation if/when everyone else gets healthy.  And, you know Miranda and Paxton aren’t going anywhere.  Felix is set to do a rehab assignment on June 6th, so he’s close to being back; that’s four pitchers.  If we can get Kuma or Smyly going, I think it’s adios to Gallardo!  Unfortunately, we’re at least another month away from that, so don’t get too excited.

Gaviglio goes tonight.  He can make the Gallardo situation go away even sooner with some more quality outings.  Pray for Gaviglio.  Pray for us all!

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense To Blow Up The Mariners

It’s always alarming when people start talking about tearing a team down and doing a full-on rebuild, particularly when it’s a team like the Mariners, who had the hype and expectations they had coming into the season.  Indeed, it’s more than just alarming; it’s discouraging, frustrating, enraging, you name it.  It also makes sense in a lot of ways.  The Mariners have an aging roster with guys like Cano and Cruz on offense, and guys like Felix and Iwakuma on the pitching staff, on top of various role players and guys on 1-year deals.  When you factor that in with how this team has underperformed, is staring down the barrel of last place, with a few guys making a lot of money, and then take a look at how barren the farm system is, and yeah, I can see why people might be clamoring for a tear down.  Get the nasty taste of Jackie Z and Howard Lincoln out of our mouths once and for all, start fresh with the new ownership group and the new GM.

Now, normally, when you do this, you have someone on your roster who you choose to build around, but I’m hearing people talking about trading Cruz, Cano, Felix, (obvs) and Kyle Seager?  Not that Seager is some stud superstar or anything, but he’s not old, he’s not particularly overpaid, and you figure he’s got a lot of years left of being a productive player at this level.

But, here, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument that the Mariners continue to be terrible on into July and anyone and everyone is on the table for trade.  I want to go through the roster line by line, so to speak, and tell you why it doesn’t make a ton of sense to blow the whole thing up.

Any conversation in this area is going to start with Robinson Cano.  We’re currently in the fourth year of a 10-year deal, where he’s making $24 million per season.  He’s 34 years old and still putting up All Star numbers.  He has that DL stint under his belt already this year, which is an obvious concern (given his age), and that contract is pretty prohibitive for a lot of teams.  Smaller market cities just flat out won’t be able to afford him; teams at the top of the league in payroll are going to be VERY wary of bringing on such a huge deal.  So, right there, you’re chopping off maybe half the league, not even factoring in the teams who have a need for a second baseman, who are also in contention and willing to be buyers at the deadline.  Oh, and by the way, Cano has a full no-trade clause, so he’d have to agree to any deal.  The bottom line is, there’s no way the Mariners are trading Cano without opting to eat a significant portion of his salary, in which case why even bother?  We’re not at a point where he’s a cancer in the organization.  And, even if we did trade him while eating a bunch of money, we STILL probably won’t get anyone of value in return.  That’s, like, a million whammies against this ever happening.  Next.

Nelson Cruz.  He’s even older than Cano, at 36 years of age, but he’s in the third year of a 4-year deal.  He’s still playing at an All Star level, but he’s also just a DH.  He can only play the outfield in National League games, and I’m not totally sure he can even play on back-to-back days.  That SEVERELY limits his value.  It takes out the entire National League, for starters, as he can’t play any other defensive position than right field.  So, he’s a DH.  I’m sure an American League team would welcome him with open arms, but he immediately limits a team’s flexibility to give guys DH “rest” days late in the season.  His contract isn’t too terrible, at $14 million next year (and whatever pro-rated portion of that for the rest of this season), but again, you’re not talking about a guy who is going to bring back a lot of value.  Maybe a couple Quad-A guys, and some salary relief and that’s about it.  Next.

Felix Hernandez, of course.  He’s 31 years old, but he’s been in the Major Leagues since 2005 and has a lot of miles on his arm.  He spent significant time on the DL last year and again this year.  He’s making $26 million this year and next, and $27 million in 2019.  There’s a $1 million option for 2020 if he spends significant time on the DL with an elbow injury, otherwise he’ll be a free agent in 2020.  His performance has declined since 2014 (the last year he was really at an All Star level) with no reason to expect him to return to a consistent All Star level.  In short, trading Felix would be a straight-up salary dump for very low-level prospects.  And, on top of it, he too has a full no-trade clause.  Seems highly unlikely any team would take on the risk of a Felix Hernandez for that type of money, so this is another scenario where the Mariners would almost certainly have to eat some of that money.  He doesn’t have the type of emotional value anywhere else besides Seattle, so what would be his motivation to want to go elsewhere (aside from being a broken-down starter trying to back-door into a playoff appearance)?  Seems like a longshot at best that the Mariners are able to deal him at all.  Next.

Hisashi Iwakuma.  Will he even be healthy by July?  Let’s assume he is, for the sake of argument.  Well, he’s 36 years old right now.  He’s earning $14 million this year, so he’ll cost his new ballclub whatever the pro-rated amount of that is.  He’s 94 innings-pitched away from earning a guaranteed $15 million in 2018, which he could very well reach if he’s able to return by July (otherwise, it looks like 2018 is a $10 million club option year, and he could be released if he doesn’t reach the innings threshold).  Also, Kuma has a full no-trade clause.  His velocity has gone down significantly this season, he’s not making great progress in his rehab at the moment, and aside from 2016, he hasn’t proven to be very durable.  Throw him on the pile of guys I’ve already mentioned who won’t bring back much of anything in trade, aside from salary relief.

Boring and repetitive, no?  Let’s return to Kyle Seager then.  Here’s a guy with some real, actual value.  He’s 29 years old.  He’s on a contract for up to five more seasons after this year (2022 is a club option year with a buy-out).  He has yet to be prohibitively expensive, though his salary spikes starting in 2018 (between $18-$19 million per season over the next four years, while his 2022 season value could climb as high as $20 million if he reaches certain performance markers).  Again, though, that’s not an unreasonable number for a guy like Seager, who plays a solid third base, who is as durable as they get, who is consistent offensively (and has improved little by little every year).  This is a guy any team would love to have!  So, we get back to the usual questions:  which teams in contention also need a third baseman?  You could talk about moving him to second base in a pinch, but moving him to first base seems like a waste of his talents, and reduces much of his value.  I could see the Mariners getting a really valuable piece in return for Kyle Seager, but once you trade him, you’ve got an immediate hole at third base.  Who fills that void?  The Mariners don’t have anyone in the minors right now ready to step in there on an everyday basis.  If you trade Seager for a third base prospect, you still don’t know if that guy will pan out.  You’re essentially trading a sure thing for a lottery ticket, and you haven’t really helped your team out in any other areas.  Plus, Seager is a homegrown talent, and if you’re looking to unload salary elsewhere, you’re going to want to keep a guy like Seager around to help lessen the blow of the fact that the Mariners would (in this scenario) be getting rid of a lot of familiar faces.  However, if the Mariners are forced to keep guys like Cano, Felix, and Cruz (due to age and salary issues), then by all means, try to get as much as you can for Seager.  I just hope the backup plan at third base is a true asset and this won’t be a Robbing Peter to Pay Paul situation.

Jean Segura is under club control through 2018, so here’s another valuable piece.  Who wouldn’t want a guy like Segura?  You could stick him at short stop or second base, you can put him at the top of your lineup as he’s a hitting machine, he’s got plenty of pop in his bat to boot, and he’s cost-friendly from a contract perspective (his final Arb year is next year, but he’s a steal at $6.2 million this year, and should still be a bargain next year with whatever raise he gets).  You can unload Seager and Segura and get some high-level prospects back, but again those are a couple of really big holes to fill on the left side of your infield.

After that, I don’t know that you have a ton of value left to trade.  Smyly’s hurt, Gallardo is bad, Valencia is just okay, ditto Dyson and some of the veteran bullpen guys.  You’re not going to get much back in return, is my point.  The only other guys with value on the Mariners are younger guys:  Paxton, Haniger, Heredia, Gamel, Diaz, Altavilla, Pazos, but isn’t the whole point of a total roster rebuild to build AROUND that young core?  Wouldn’t you want to KEEP guys like Paxton, Haniger, Heredia, Gamel, Diaz, and the like?  Sure, you could get some decent prospects back, but at that point you’re REALLY trying to bottom out if you’re going to trade talent like this.  That’s more of a long-con like the Astros did, where they went after the #1 overall draft pick year after year after year.  Can the Mariners afford to wait that long, when they’re already the team with the longest playoff drought in the entirety of Major League Baseball?

I’ll talk a little more about Paxton here, since I’m thinking he’s a name people might want to trade.  Like Kuma, Paxton is a guy who has never proven he can stay healthy for a full season.  He hasn’t really had any significant arm trouble, but it’s been a lot of other things, and you have to think the significant arm trouble is on the horizon.  I just don’t know if you’re going to get the type of value for a guy like Paxton that you’d be happy with.  It makes more sense to hang onto him for the pennies he’s making now, let him build up value over the next few seasons (if he can), and reap the rewards of his ace-like performances while we can.

I dunno.  A total rebuild is a nice idea, particularly in a season like this where everything is going to shit, but I just can’t see it.  At best, the Mariners can unload salary, while getting some good prospects back for Seager and Segura, but it comes at a price:  knowing the Mariners won’t contend for anything for another 3-5 years or more.  Maybe you’re okay with that, but there’s another problem with “building for the future”:  even if you run into a Best Case Scenario, like with the Royals a few years ago, these things are short lived!  Guys get injured, guys underperform at random, guys become free agents and command huge deals on the open market.

Going back to the Royals, they were a bottom-feeder for almost 30 years!  They won the World Series in 1985, then didn’t make the playoffs again until 2014.  They made the World Series in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 (winning it all the second time around), then fell to .500 in 2016 and now, in 2017, they’re last in the American League.  THAT’S HOW FAST IT CAN ALL FALL APART!

Now, come back to the Mariners.  Again, I reiterate, the Mariners have the longest playoff drought in the entire Major Leagues.  They’re one of two teams who have never reached the World Series (with the Nationals/Expos), and one of 8 teams who have never won it all.  Only the Buffalo Bills have a longer playoff drought in all of the four major American professional sports.  You could make an argument that the Mariners, as presently constructed, are just a couple players away from being serious playoff contenders (particularly on the pitching side of things).  Are you willing to throw that all away, to start over fresh, without any guarantee whatsoever that tanking these next 3-5 years will bring about any sort of turnaround?  Just because it looks like it’s worked for the Astros doesn’t mean it will work for the Mariners.  And, even with the Astros on the rise, how long will it last?  Will they be the new Royals in three years?

TL;DR:  why do we even follow the sport of baseball?  ALL OF LIFE IS A MEANINGLESS FARCE!

The Mariners Might Actually Salvage A .500 Road Trip Later Today

After losing 2 of 3 in Washington, and then 2 of 3 in Boston, you start to wonder, “What’s the point?”  Yet, here we are, one win away from a 2-game sweep of the Rockies, thanks to a hard-fought 6-5 victory yesterday.

The Mariners had hits up and down the lineup, even Sam Gaviglio with a single that would come around to score.  Ben Gamel had a couple hits and a couple runs scored, Danny Valencia had 3 hits and an RBI, Mike Zunino had a couple hits and a walk, Kyle Seager had a double and 2 RBI.  And, once again, the Mariners left a bunch of runs out on the table, going 2 for 13 with RISP.  I would anticipate a huge breakout any day now.

Gaviglio was more or less rolling, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings, with a very low pitch count, before coming back out for the 6th.  He gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before being pulled; both would come around to score.  Nevertheless, the Mariners had already scored their 6 runs by this point, and the bullpen would prove masterful in locking down the victory.

Pazos went 1.1 innings, Zych went 0.2; Vincent, Scrabble, and Altavilla mixed and matched and each got an out in the 8th inning, and Edwin Diaz looked downright dominant in closing things out in the 9th.

After a promising start to the month, where the Mariners went 6-2, they’ve been in a nosedive, winning only 4 of their next 16 games.  The Mariners have won 2 in a row here and time will tell if it’s just a blip in a much longer, more painful losing stretch, or if this is the beginning of the Great Turnaround.

On the plus side, James Paxton returns tomorrow.  The rotation for the next five days looks like this:  Miranda, Paxton, Gallardo, Bergman, and Gaviglio.  That’s obviously far from ideal, but Miranda has made great strides this year, as has Paxton before he got hurt (and Paxton was starting much further ahead than Miranda to boot, so it’s really saying something to say that Paxton has made a lot of strides); and Bergman and Gaviglio have looked semi-competent at times this season.  It’s encouraging to see Felix start to throw the ball pain-free (it’s less encouraging to see Iwakuma not-so-pain-free; and I’ll believe it when I see it for Smyly).  I don’t want it to sound like I’m getting my hopes up here or anything.  The REAL Great Turnaround for this season might not hit its stride until July or August, at which point it might be too late to mean anything as far as the playoffs are concerned.  I’m just looking for baby steps right now.  I’m looking for this team to not have to make daily roster moves between Seattle and Tacoma.  Then, I’ll be happy if Scott Servais can simply settle on a back-end of the bullpen that’s based on merit, and not based on whose arm is the freshest.  It’s got to be discouraging for someone like Jean Machi – who was solid for Seattle before he had to be sent back down, only to never get a repeat opportunity – or someone like Pagan, who had a wonderful 4-inning scoreless outing before going back to Tacoma.

Then, once we’re able to lock down the bullpen, wouldn’t it be nice to start getting guys back from injury without immediately seeing other guys have to go on the DL?  The Mariners will never be at 100% full strength, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them at 90 or 95% full strength, for like a full month or more?  I KNOW, look at the big dreamer over here; next thing I’ll be asking for is fresh air and clean drinking water!

This is why I don’t feel even remotely sorry for Angels fans for Mike Trout going on the DL for 6-8 weeks.  Talk to me when you’ve had to start Chase De Jong FOUR TIMES.

Seattle “One Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” Mariners Avoid Boston Sweep

Considering the Mariners are winning road games at a 31% clip, one out of three is actually an improvement!

Christian Bergman – with his 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, with 2 strikeouts – goes right to the top of my list of most baffling Mariners currently on the 25-man roster.  He had a very similar outing two starts ago, when he got one out into the eighth inning of a shutout victory.  These two starts, of course, are the slices of bread in the shit sandwhich that was his game in Washington, where he gave up 10 runs in 4 innings, in what has to be one of the worst starts of the year across Major League Baseball.

So, what’s the deal?  Is this guy a fantastic, double-play-inducing machine?  Or is he the guy who got pounded like a nerd on the playground?  He’s not just putting up zeroes against the dregs of the league; the Red Sox are a fantastic hitting bunch.  I guess, for now, we shrug our shoulders and exclaim Small Sample Size!  I have a hard time imagining a truly great pitcher would ever succumb to giving up 10 runs in 4 innings, but maybe it was just a fluke.  As always, we’ll need to see more starts out of him before we can make an informed decision.

Still, it’s nice to think that maybe he could be some semblance of the real deal with Bill McNeal.  Considering it’s highly in doubt that we ever get Drew Smyly back; Bergman may indeed be our only ticket to getting rid of Yovani Gallardo, if/when we get the rest of our rotation back and healthy.

The Mariners were finally worth a damn offensively, generating five runs on 16 hits.  We made reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello work for his 6.1 innings, getting just two runs out of him.  And, we kept the string going through Boston’s bullpen.  Everyone in the Mariners lineup had at least one hit, with Cano, Cruz, Heredia, and Segura doing the bulk of the damage; not to mention the three hits from Chooch.

It was a sight for sore eyes, for sure.  Lots of hits, lots of runs, and the Mariners actually left a lot on the table.  Let’s hope they can parlay that into being relevant against the Rockies.  Four games, with 2 in Colorado (starting today) and 2 in Seattle (starting Wednesday).

Also, in You Guessed It, More Mariners Roster Moves news, Ryne Harper was called up as another reliever, taking the spot of Rob Whalen.  Harper has yet to make a Major League appearance, but his numbers in the minors look VERY encouraging.  Harper was acquired in an under-the-radar trade with the Braves for Jose Ramirez, another relief pitcher who was out of options and was apparently not in our future plans (in spite of him putting up some really solid seasons with the Braves last year and this).  Here’s to hoping Harper has the higher upside.

Mariners Bullpen Blows It, Offense Walks It Off In The Ninth

Yeah, I don’t care, I’m bringing back the phrase Walk Off, even if the winning team doesn’t walk in the winning run!  COME AT ME BRO!

Sam Gaviglio got the start yesterday, and like Christian Bergman the day before, he was greatly effective.  Five shutout innings, on 3 hits and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts.  Considering it sounds like he wasn’t TOTALLY stretched out – I kept hearing about how the Mariners were only expecting to get four innings out of him – that was quite the amazing performance.  Once again, someone else who has leapfrogged Chase De Jong on my Chase De Jong scale.

The Mariners’ offense did some work early, with Dyson pulling a solo homer in the third, and with Segura jacking a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.  They turned things over to the bullpen with a 4-0 lead, and I dunno, maybe I’m shortsighted.  I figured a day after Bergman spun his magic, and Pazos cleaned up after him, we’d have a more available bullpen with which to work.  But, apparently the plan was to get whatever they could out of Gaviglio, and then immediately turn the ball over to Casey Lawrence for something resembling long relief.

I would argue, once you get five innings out of the 10th starter you’ve used this season, and once your offense gives you a 4-0 lead, you don’t mess around.  By all means!  Use Casey Lawrence!  You brought him into the organization, you called him up, it’s the least you can do.  When you’ve got four full innings of relief to spread around, the bottom man in the bullpen is good enough to throw in there in the sixth inning.  And, to his credit, Casey Lawrence did a fine job.  Other than an infield single, he got the White Sox out in order.  Bingo bango bongo.

So, WHY would you bring him back out for the seventh???

Double to left, homer to left, 4-2 Mariners.  I don’t get it.  Everybody should’ve been fresh-enough!  You go one inning per reliever, use up four relievers, and you worry about Friday on FRIDAY!

Thankfully, Lawrence was able to settle down and finish out the seventh, but it could’ve gotten REALLY hairy there if he didn’t.  At that point, still with the 2-run lead going into the eighth, I was at least moderately confident we could get this thing to the ninth with a lead.

WRONG.

I don’t really blame Servais for using Altavilla in this spot, though I understand if you do.  He was coming off of a real bonzer outing two days earlier, but before that he’s been inconsistent as the day is long.  In gratitude for Servais’ confidence in him, Altavilla got the first two outs of the inning, then gave up back-to-back solo homers to tie the game.  Just brutal.

But, you know, what can you do?  Edwin Diaz was just demoted and is working on his mechanics; I think they’re looking for a softer landing for him than eighth inning set up man.  Steve Cishek just came off the DL and he too just blew a game recently.  Tony Zych is apparently also being handled with kid gloves.  Even though he was used three straight days from May 13th through the 15th, I guess he needs three full days off to recover?  I dunno.

What I do know is that it was pretty clear they were saving Nick Vincent for the ninth.  With Overton being saved for Sunday in all likelihood, that only left Scrabble as a possible eighth inning guy, but there were a bunch of right-handed bats coming up that inning, so Altavilla was the guy.  Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling you my theory on this whole thing.

Still doesn’t totally forgive putting Lawrence out there for a second inning, because that guy was already terrible when we got him, and it’s not like joining the Mariners is going to magically fix all his issues.

Anyway, Vincent got through the ninth inning without incident, and there we were, the bottom of the ninth.  I was tired, hoping to get to sleep in the near future; I’m sure the Mariners were tired; it was a long, cold night.  The bottom of the order got things going.

Taylor Motter’s leadoff single was erased by a subpar sac bunt by Dyson, but in a way if you had to choose who you want standing on first, you certainly would rather have Dyson there via the fielder’s choice.  Obviously, in an ideal world, the bunt would’ve worked and they both would’ve been safe, but that’s neither here nor there.  Unfortunately, with a lefty on the mound, Dyson couldn’t steal second.  He did run on a 3-2 count to Ruiz, who grounded out, thus allowing Dyson to advance to second.  With two outs, they walked Jean Segura, because that guy is a machine; plus I’m sure they liked the lefty/lefty matchup with Gamel coming to the plate.

Except, Guillermo Heredia was still on the bench (getting a rest day, with Boog Powell getting the start), so he came out to pinch hit.  Blowers noted that the White Sox had a righty warming up in the bullpen, so I figured it was academic:  they’d bring him in to face Heredia, and we’d go from there.

Instead, they left the lefty in there, Heredia knocked a single to right-center, and Dyson came flying around to score the WALK OFF run.  Just like Servais drew it up, right?

All in all, a nice little win for a desperate team.

In Injuries Rule Our Lives news, Paxton, Felix, Kuma, and Smyly all threw baseballs this week.  Paxton actually threw a legit bullpen, and is looking to do a rehab start in the near future.  Mitch Haniger is setting out for a rehab assignment of his own this weekend, with the hope that maybe he’ll be able to return during the next road trip.  As always, I’ll believe it when I see it.

This Mariners Season Suddenly Feels Pointless

I know, I know, what’s with this “suddenly” business?  Hasn’t it felt pointless all along?  Hasn’t this entire 21st century felt pretty pointless, from a Mariners fan perspective?

You can certainly make that argument.  But, I’ve just had this wide range of emotions this year, far surpassing any other season that I can remember.  Excitement, disappointment, elation, dread, anger, boiling anger, uncontrollable rage, sadness, on into lethargy.  Being a lethargic Mariners fan is nothing new; we tend to hit that point every year around this time, if not sooner.  When you realize contention is a pipe dream, and even if by some miracle they did make the playoffs, knowing they don’t have the horses to do anything about it once they get there.

But, this is a totally different sense of lethargy.  This is knowing the Mariners COULD be a good team, but they never will, because of the stacks on stacks on stacks of injuries that are relentless, debilitating, and come from out of nowhere.

2017 Mariners Misery Tracker

  • Drew Smyly – 60 day DL
  • Steve Cishek – started season on DL, just returned
  • Tony Zych – started season on DL, since returned
  • Shawn O’Malley – 60 day DL
  • Jean Segura – On DL for 2 weeks in April
  • Mitch Haniger – On DL for at least 1 month
  • Felix Hernandez – On DL, just had setback
  • James Paxton – On DL for at least 1 month
  • Evan Scribner – 60 day DL
  • Evan Marshall – 60 day DL
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – On DL for 4-6 weeks
  • Ryan Weber – On DL after very first start was cut short due to injury
  • Robinson Cano – On DL with quad injury

This was something we all saw coming.  Robbie had missed 5 games going into yesterday, and was no closer to returning, so might as well shut him down.  It’s bullshit that you can only make it retroactive to 3 days prior, but this is baseball, and baseball MUST have dumb rules that make no sense.

This has thrust Taylor Motter back into an everyday role – almost immediately after I complained about his lack of playing time – and while I wouldn’t say he’s been bad (he’s still getting hits here and there), he hasn’t had an extra base hit since taking over for Cano, and his strikeouts are way up.  While guys like Seager, Cruz, Segura, and Valencia to a lesser extent are trying to keep this offense afloat, our younger players have cratered a little bit of late.  I’m looking at Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Jarrod Dyson, and the aforementioned Motter.  Which is understandable, because none of those guys have been everyday players until this season; you had to expect some rough patches.  Which makes losing Cano at this critical juncture all the more debilitating.

But, this is still an offense that COULD withstand the loss of someone like Cano for a short period, IF they had the pitching to pick up the slack.  Which gets back to my original point about this whole thing being fucking pointless, because they DON’T have the pitching.  I will regret to my dying day writing this post, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Mariners are no closer to solidifying that bullpen, not one little bit.  In fact, you could say they’ve gotten REMARKABLY worse since I published that God-foresaken ode to the bullpen.  Partially, of course, you have to blame the starters for being inept, but blaming the starting pitching of the Seattle Mariners is starting to feel like blaming the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks; at some point, you’ve beaten that dead horse so much it’s starting to turn into a warm, rancid paste.

Edwin Diaz just lost his closer’s job because he has no control of where his pitches go.  He has to totally rework his wind up to find his release point.  On the one hand, he should theoretically be able to control his pitches better, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked if he loses some MPH on his fastball.  At which point, are we trading one ineffective reliever for another?  Time will tell, I suppose.

The Mariners were going to go to a Bullpen By Committee, but since half the guys have been worked to death this week, we were left with the just-called-up Steve Cishek, making his second appearance in as many days, and his second appearance since being called up from the DL.  In other words:  his second appearance of the SEASON, for a guy who never really had a proper Spring Training, unless you count bouncing around between Arkansas, Tacoma, and some off-day bullpens in Seattle.

So, yeah, Cishek blew it.  The Mariners were down 4-1 for practically the entire game, managed to cobble together 3 runs in the seventh to tie it, and took the lead on a Seager solo blast in the eighth to give the team an opportunity for an unlikely win; all tossed aside as Cishek got clobbered by left handed hitting Matt Joyce.  He was eventually pulled for Scrabble, who got clobbered by right handed hitting Blah Blah Blah.  If there are two pitchers on this team who SHOULDN’T be facing opposite-handed hitters, it’s Cishek and Scrabble.  I’m sure there was a more appropriate way to handle that ninth inning last night, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give any more thought to it.  The bottom line is, Nick Vincent and Tony Zych were both unavailable due to recent over-use.  And, is James Pazos really a better option?  I doubt it.

Regardless, Steve Cishek should be able to get three fucking outs without giving away a billion runs.  Marc Rzkciaydadsofnpzki should be able to get three fucking outs without giving away a billion runs.  Steve Cishek is making $6 million this season, the most money of any relief pitcher on the team, and fourth-most among all pitchers on this team behind Felix, Kuma, and Gallardo (for some reason making $11 million).  Marc Rzoiadnoiasdfnikai is making $5.5 million, or second-most of any relief pitcher on the team.  For your reference, the third highest paid reliever is Nick Vincent at $1.325 million (no one else is over a million), meaning the duo of Cishek and Rzadfoinoaidsfnki each make respectively over 4 times more than the third highest paid reliever on the team.

And they couldn’t get three fucking outs without giving up five fucking runs to close out the game.

That’s why this season suddenly feels so pointless.  Because you can do everything right; you can scrap and fight to get back into a game you’ve been dominated in for 2/3 of the time, you can even take the lead in regulation to steal a game you had no business winning, but you’ll still get fucked over trying to get those final three outs.

Where is the help?  Where’s assistance coming from?  I guess Edwin Diaz figuring it the fuck out will be a plus, but how long is that going to take?  And, like I asked before, will he even be the same guy?

And, from a starting pitching perspective, where do you look?  Sure, it appears as if James Paxton will be back soon, maybe even by the end of the month!  But, Iwakuma sure as shit won’t see the mound in Safeco until July at the earliest.  And who the fuck knows when Felix’s arm will allow him to pitch again.  I’m betting on both of those guys needing season-ending surgery at some point.  And don’t even get me started on Drew Smyly; I’m not even convinced that guy is a real person!

Everyone keeps saying Doug Fister isn’t really an option, because if he was good, he’d be signed by now.  And, even when he does sign, he’ll need time to build his arm back up.  But, you know what?  If we’d gone and signed Fister when this first became an issue, his ass would be plenty warmed up by now!  Is he an ideal option?  Of course not.  But, is he better than Chase De Jong (10 runs in 11 innings over his last two starts), Christian Bergman (3 runs in 5 innings in his only start), Dillon Overton (2 runs in 3.1 innings in his only start), or Whoever The Fuck (TBD runs in TBD innings)?  I’d have to think so.

Then again, what’s the point, right?  Fister, no Fister; returning starters, Tacoma guys, it’s all the same.  If they don’t reinjure themselves, someone else will fall in his place, and we’ll continue scrambling to fill the void.

God I hate baseball.

The Mariners Were Swept In Toronto

I mean, you knew the good times weren’t going to last, right?  Not with this rotation in the shambles it’s in.  All four starters in that series were destined to start out in Tacoma or worse before injuries set in, and while they’d all done pretty well in the previous turn through the rotation, odds were heavily against them replicating that sort of success a second time in a row.

What we probably didn’t see coming was the Mariners’ offense only scoring 6 runs in 4 games, particularly after how they mashed in Philly.  But, they too had been on a nice little roll recently, and were destined to come back to Earth at some point.

People are going to look back at the 2017 Mariners as the Great Lost Season.  This team had all the potential in the world to gel into something fantastic, but an absurd number of pitching injuries will ultimately torpedo all this promise.  We’ll have to look back and wonder what could have been, if all our key guys stayed healthy.

Or, if they’d stayed out of the WBC?

There have been a number of key injuries around Major League Baseball this year.  To be fair, there are a number of key injuries around Major League Baseball EVERY year, and they don’t do the WBC on an annual basis.  But, someone mentioned the WBC recently when talking about a lot of the players who are missing time, and I think it’s definitely worth exploring.

I’m not an anti-WBC zealot, by any means, but I think it’s misplaced on the schedule.  MLB players already play upwards of 162 games a year, plus playoffs if they’re so lucky, plus a bunch of Spring Training games to ramp up for the regular season.  That’s already TOO MUCH baseball; now you’re throwing in this meaningless tournament at the start of the season?  Forcing everyone to start getting in baseball shape sooner – and thereby reducing their recovery period in the offseason by however many weeks – just so they can, what, play for their countries?  Didn’t we have baseball in the Olympics for that?

I think the only way to have a viable WBC tournament is to have it during the middle of the MLB season.  The players will leave and go play for their national teams after they’re already sufficiently warmed up, and their MLB teams will just have to get by until they return.

Because this Doing It During Spring Training bullshit, I believe, is having an adverse effect on these players.

Drew Smyly was the obvious early example, as he didn’t look the same after his one start in the WBC.  But, there’s also Jean Segura – who was on the DL for two weeks – as well as Robbie Cano and Nelson Cruz, who have yet to hit the DL, but who have both had nagging leg injuries that have cost them a few games of late.  Then, of course, we have Felix Hernandez, who ALREADY had a billion miles on his throwing arm, and apparently thought it would be a good idea to throw a few more on there in a meaningless WBC tournament.

If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before Yovani Gallardo and Edwin Diaz see time on the shelf, at which point that’ll account for just about everyone of import in the Mariners organization who played in the WBC.

I could be totally off base, and all these injuries could just be coincidences.  After all, Iwakuma didn’t play in the WBC.  Mitch Haniger didn’t play in the WBC.  A bunch of these other guys on the DL didn’t participate in the WBC either.  I dunno.  I’m just angry and sad and frustrated.  I always want the Mariners to do well, but I REALLY wanted this year to be the year we returned to the playoffs.  Mostly because it just made the most sense.  This is the most talented team we’ve had since 2003, and it’s just getting harder and harder to swallow.

I just can’t remember the last time I felt this beaten down.  It feels like, for the Mariners to win on a consistent basis, they have to average 8+ runs per game.  We’re never going to get those 2-1 or 1-0 wins.  Although, you could argue, yesterday’s game came the closest.

Ariel Miranda threw five scoreless innings of relatively impressive baseball.  The Mariners were finally able to scratch across a run in the top of the fifth to take a 1-0 lead.  Then, Miranda walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the sixth and was pulled for James Pazos.  Of course, that run ended up coming around to score, along with one more, thanks to Justin Smoak jacking a 2-run bomb to center.  Because, yeah, fuck that guy.  That cunt couldn’t do shit when he was with the Mariners, but he’s sure as shit going to have his bloody revenge whenever he plays AGAINST the Mariners.  Go fuck yourself, Justin Smoak, you worthless knob.

Jarrod Dyson was able to tie the game with his first homer of the season, and that took us to the bottom of the ninth, where Edwin Diaz gave up the walk-off homer to Toronto’s punchless centerfielder.  I guess turnabout is fair play or whatever.

In the series, Mariners hitters were 4 for 35 with runners in scoring position, harkening back to the first week of this God-foresaken season.  The sweep dropped the Mariners’ road record to 7-16 and dropped our run differential to an even 0.  So, at least we’re no longer one of those shameful teams who have a losing record and a positive run differential, in defiance of all that is holy and right in the game of baseball.

No days off this week, but the Mariners are back home for seven games.  At least that’s something.  Nothing to get too excited about though.  You’re probably better off trying to binge-watch the first two seasons of Twin Peaks before its revival kicks off Sunday night.