Now? Oddly, I’m hopeful … questionmark?
The team went from five games under .500 at the end of April, to seven games under .500 at the end of May, to now TWELVE God-foresaken games under .500. What’s there to be hopeful about? The best player on this team continues to be Raul “I Will Never Die” Ibanez; our outfield is absolutely riddled with old people, injuries, or guys sucking dick at the plate; the back 60% of our rotation has continued to flash JUST enough excellence to not get thrown out on their asses despite some truly terrible pitching …
I could go on and on. The hitting with runners in scoring position is still all out of whack, the team still hits an inordinate amount of solo homers, the bullpen has been a trainwreck ever since Wilhelmsen was demoted to mop-up duty and we’ve gone Closer By Committee, the team now has a losing record at home for the first time in a long time, and the team is three games under .500 in 1-run games.
There, I’ll stop trying to cheer you up now.
So, why am I oddly hopeful? Truth be told, it lies exclusively inside the over-sized batting helmet of Nick Franklin. That kid is a DELIGHT to watch play the game of baseball. Right this moment, 31 games into his Major League career, he’s hitting .295/.363/.482 with 9 doubles, 4 homers, 15 RBI and 5 stolen bases. I know as soon as I say we’ve FINALLY found a prospect worth his weight, he’ll be exposed as a fraud and fall down to the Mendoza part of our lineup with all the other hacks on this team, so I’ll just say that I’m excited.
Nick Franklin and Kyle Seager. That’s two. We just need seven more and we’ve got ourselves a respectable fucking lineup!
Right behind those two on the Hope Bus, we have Mike Zunino and Brad Miller. In the last month, the Mariners decided to say, “Fuck It” and give the keys to the catcher position to our uber-prospect Zunino. Thus far, 13 games in, he’s batting .227/.261/.341. Obviously, it’s way, way, WAY too fucking early to make any logical estimation of his abilities as a Big Leaguer. Nevertheless, he’s got 2 doubles, 1 homer, and a game-winning, walk-off RBI to his credit. I don’t know if he’s comfortable at the plate yet, but I know that I’M comfortable with HIM at the plate (especially over Henry Blanco, who was brought in to replace Kelly Shoppach last month as the veteran mentor du jour).
Miller is our very latest addition to the team. He just finished his third game over the weekend and already he’s got 2 doubles and 2 stolen bases. This kid’s a firecracker. In fact, I’m loving 80% of this infield right now! It’s the Whitest Infield In Baseball, but with Seager, Miller, Franklin, Zunino, and Smoak, I’m not gonna lie to you, I will TAKE that. If the first four guys pan out, and Smoak can maintain a .250-ish batting average with a .350-ish on-base percentage … I’m telling you, it feels so close I can taste it.
Of course, if I start falling in love with this portion of the team, I’m doomed to continue repeating the mistakes of the past. Then again, what other choice do I have? I can always bitch about things later.
The outfield portion of this team, however, scares the bejesus out of me. Guti is Guti, in that he’s nothing but a rotting corpse stuffed behind some attic insulation. Michael Saunders has officially lost whatever magical amulet he held in his possession last season (which wasn’t really all that magical anyway, unless you consider .247 with 19 homers something special), so that sucks. Would’ve been nice to have counted on him, but I guess that’s over. Dustin Ackley, after being sent down to Tacoma to work on his mental deficiencies, was converted to an outfielder. In his second game upon returning to the Mariners, Ackley dove for a ball and sprained his thumb. He’s one of dozens of guys on this team who is injured, unavailable, but whatever we’re going to refrain from putting him on the DL. Michael Morse IS on the DL, because he’s this-generation’s Jay Buhner circa 2000. Jason Bay hasn’t been a complete flop, but he’s also someone I’m not going to miss after this season ends. Endy Chavez almost never walks or hits for extra bases, but has been passable thanks to a batting average over .270.
Which just leaves Ibanez. He of the 41 years of age. He of the 19 home runs in 61 games (which puts him tied for 6th in the AL with Jose Bautista). Not only does he lead the team in homers and RBI, Raul Ibanez leads the team in TRIPLES! That’s a useless fact, but then again, this is a useless team, so what are you gonna do? Raul Ibanez, in spite of the fact that we’re all irritated he’s doing good while so many of our younger kids are doing bad, has been one of the most watchable parts of this team, and I for one am glad he’s here. Just imagine how many more games the Mariners would have lost without him carrying this team.
I feel like a broken record with this pitching staff, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much. Iwakuma and Felix both still have ERA’s under 3. Iwakuma, with the better ERA, has seen the home run bug strike him. He’s also slowed down on the pace of strikeouts. But, look, I’m not going to hate on one of the team’s premier pitchers just because he’s coming back down to Earth a little bit.
The race to see which old fuck of a starting pitcher gets the DFA first is in the home stretch, and I have to imagine Bonderman and Harang are neck and neck. Bonderman has slightly better numbers, but Harang has those two complete-game shutouts to his credit. If I had to guess, I’d say Harang is one more bad start away from being gone. Erasmo Ramirez is torching (for the most part) down in Tacoma since his return from injury, and I have to think this team wants to see as much of him as possible these last three months of the season. There are other young guys in Tacoma seemingly on the cusp, in case the Mariners want to see if there are any takers for Joe Saunders. I mean, shit, this team was able to trade Erik Bedard, I think they can get something for ol’ Safeco Joe.
Blake Beavan has returned to the bullpen and made four appearances in June. Except for one outing against the A’s, Beavan has been a solid mop-up guy in blowouts. In the end, I think that’s the role he’s destined for; but right now he’s frequently out-pitching both Harang and Bonderman, so you have to believe he’s in line to get some starts pretty soon too.
As I said earlier, the bullpen is a mess. Wilhelmsen had his best outing in weeks just yesterday afternoon, so we’ll see if he’s figured out how to locate his pitches again. If this team is going to avoid the absolute bottom of the American League, it’s going to need someone to dependably close out games. I wouldn’t anticipate Wilhemsen getting traded before the deadline (unless this team is just going to clean house as much as possible, or throw him into a more blockbuster-type deal), but if he can regain his confidence in closing games, we might be able to trade him in the offseason.
Welcome to the Dog Days, everyone! 2013 officially sucks for baseball. Start counting down the days to Training Camp, when we will be talking about football and nothing but football, and I’ll essentially be writing the same article day in and day out: Why The Seahawks Will Be Super Bowl Champs.