Anybody else glad it’s Friday? This road trip this week has just been the WORST.
As our batting average with runners in scoring position slogs back down toward its .215 norm, I’m constantly reminded that this is a team in flux. It seems like a million years ago that Jack Wilson was our starting, everyday 2nd baseman. Now he’s lucky to get 2 games a week. The breath of fresh air that has been every other incoming outfielder has really done wonders for making me forget that Milton Bradley ever existed. And wasn’t it cute back when Chone Figgins batted second in our lineup and was an everyday player? Awww.
It’s been a slow, gradual churn, but here we are. The Youth Movement in full effect. Mike Carp is DHing, Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero are running down balls in the outfield, Justin Smoak has seemingly locked down first base for a while, Dustin Ackley is something like a week or two (tops) from being in the Majors, Michael Pineda is working miracles with a 100-pitch-count-limit.
The ranks of the Triple-A are infiltrating our big ballclub! That’s a good thing, obviously, for two reasons. First, you always want to see what you have in your farm system. Generating Major League ball players from within is the primary objective for any organization that wants to be a winner. Especially for a team that’s been as bad as the Mariners in the last decade. You NEED guys to fill your holes (huh huh), and by season’s end, if a few holes still remain: well, now you know what to go after in free agency.
Incidentally, the second reason why the Youth Movement is a good thing is more for the fans: we get sick and tired of watching the same overpaid veterans suck dick night in and night out. If we’re going to lose anyway, we’d rather lose with the young’uns with the hope that over time they’ll get better and replace the veteran losers we loathe so much.
The Youth Movement is also a bad thing, though. VERY bad. Guys just starting out, trying to make it in the Major Leagues … they’re not Major Leaguers! They’re Triple-A guys getting a shot. It takes time and success to prove you belong in the Major Leagues. The kids will get time, sure. No one was banking on contending in 2011 anyway. But the longer they fail, the likelier it’ll prove they really don’t belong.
Let’s face it, unless your name is Ichiro, you’re not going to make the jump to the Major Leagues and hit .300. It’s just not gonna happen. You’re GOING to struggle, you’re GOING to bat around Mendoza, you’re GOING to strike out with men on base and the pitch in the dirt. It’s just going to happen. The same qualities that got you INTO the Majors – usually “hitting the fastball real hard” – are the same qualities that will make you look foolish when you run into pitcher after pitcher with quality curveballs.
This Youth Movement makes me yearn now more than ever for quality baseball veterans to hit like the back of their baseball cards. We’re going to be playing anywhere from 3-5 kids a night who are all going to have a few good days mixed in with a lot more bad days. We NEED guys like Ichiro, Figgins, Ryan, Olivo, and Gutierrez to pick up the slack. And, not that it matters much beyond this year, but it would be nice if Kennedy kept his hot streak going (and, for that matter, it would be nice if Cust didn’t totally blow ass all the time).
Once the second half of this season starts, I fully expect the notion of “contending” to be a thing of the recent past. At that point, it’ll be a full-blown Youth Explosion. Be that as it may, I’m still not ready to watch the kind of crappy baseball I had to endure last year. To avoid this, one of two things needs to happen: either the kids all come together and start blowing everyone away, or the veterans get their shit together and start carrying this team like veterans are supposed to do.
If we get neither, then look out. It could get real ugly real quick in Marinerland. The Youth Movement is sexy and new, but it’s also unreliable and inconsistent.