That 17-Game Losing Streak Was A Thing of Beauty

It’s been a long, crazy week of Seahawks madness, but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the 17-game losing streak before the week ends.

Of course, every fucking person with an Internet connection and some tie to Seattle has written about this thing, so I’m gonna do something a little different.  I hereby present 17 mini recaps of 17 historical losses.  And I do mean historical.  I don’t know what you want to consider official (I choose to go by Geoff Baker’s list because it’s right there), but by Baker’s count, there were 16 teams with streaks longer than 17 games.  The top of the shitpile was the Cleveland Spiders with a whopping 24 losses in a row.  Almost made it.

Game 1 – @ Oakland, 2-0:  We came into this game 43-43, having already won the series with the A’s right after taking the series against the Padres.  We were 2.5 games behind Anaheim & Texas and all anyone could talk about was:  will the Mariners ACTUALLY be buyers at the Trade Deadline?  Then, some guy named Guillermo Moscoso made us look absolutely ridiculous as he combined with two other guys to 2-hit us and start the streak that would officially end our season.  Vargas was your hard-luck loser going the full 8 and striking out 6 while only giving up 5 hits.

Game 2 – @ Anaheim, 5-1:  This was Doug Fister vs. Jered Weaver, so what did you expect?  Run support?  Ha!  Yeah, Weaver went the full 9, striking out 6.  Our lone run started off the scoring, but ultimately the Angels were too much for Fister as they came right back in the bottom half of the third to take the lead for good.

Game 3 – @ Anaheim, 4-3:  A Blake Beavan Special!  My man actually did enough to win this, giving up 2 runs over 6.1 innings (while Ervin Santana gave up 3 runs in 7), but then Jamey Wright came in and gave up a homer to light-hitting catcher Hank Conger.  David Pauley would go on to give up the game-winning homer to Mark Trumbo in the 9th, hanging the most miserable changeup you’ve ever seen.

Game 4 – @ Anaheim, 9-3:  If you want an MVP for this losing streak, look no further than Michael Pineda who looked particularly bad in at least two all of these games.  Here, he got knocked around for 7 runs in 5 innings (including two homers to Torii Hunter).  Meanwhile, Joel Pineiro slopped his way through 7 innings  (giving up 10 hits but only 3 runs, thanks to 7 strikeouts).  We were 4 for 12 with runners in scoring position, yet only scored the 3 runs.  Sad.

Game 5 – @ Anaheim, 4-2:  Getaway day.  Last game before the All Star Break.  Felix vs. Haren.  The King did his part, holding them to 2 runs over 7 innings, but Haren also held serve, giving up 2 runs over 8.2 innings.  Co-MVP of the streak David Pauley gave up yet ANOTHER game-losing homer, this time to Alberto Callaspo in the 8th.  Again in this game the Mariners had an early lead, our 2 runs coming in the first inning.  Unfortunately, Felix isn’t always perfect, and Pauley rarely is.

Game 6 – vs. Texas, 5-0:  Vargas gave up 12 hits in 6 innings, giving up all the runs.  Derek Holland continued the mastery left-handed starters have over our hitters (to be fair, right-handed starters are also very damn good against us), going the full 9, striking out 8.  Also, count this as the start of the Jeff Gray Showcase.

Game 7 – vs. Texas, 4-0:  After this game, we were at a streak of 26 consecutive scoreless innings.  Righty Colby Lewis did most of the damage in this one, going 8.2 and striking out 8.  Fister, shockingly, got no run support again.  Of course, he did himself no favors by giving up 4 runs in 7.2.

Game 8 – vs. Texas, 5-1:  The scoreless streak went a full 30 innings.  Not nearly as impressive as 17 straight losses, but I’d say we were about 15 innings away from giving 17 losses a run for its money.  The hero here?  Ichiro singling home Guti.  Meanwhile, Wedge left Felix in the game too long, turning a 2-1 deficit into an out-of-reach 5-1 drubbing in the 8th inning.  The King’s Court, unfortunately, could not carry our ace to the finish line.  Brandon League followed up his so-so All Star appearance with a scoreless 9th to get in some work.

Game 9 – vs. Texas, 3-1:  Beavan!  Mitch Moreland jacked a 3-run homer in the second inning and this one was done.  Nevertheless, my boy had a quality start, going 6.2 innings.  Meanwhile, Matt Harrison dominated.  We scored 2 runs in this 4-game series; just in time to hit the road for a 9-game East Coast swing.

Game 10 – @ Toronto, 6-5 (14 innings):  Another poor Pineda performance.  5 runs in 6.1 innings.  The Mariners had a lead in this one too:  1-0 in the first, 5-2 after the 2nd inning.  5-2 into the 7th inning, actually, then Pineda couldn’t get anyone out.  Technically, Jeff Gray got the blown save, giving up Pineda’s 5th run on a Jose Bautista single, but he went on to go 2.1 scoreless.  David Pauley came in to go another 3 scoreless.  Jamey Wright had AH scoreless inning, then we tried to push him for two and that was that.  Meanwhile, the Mariners missed a ton of scoring opportunities in extras, and the whole thing got blown up when Rajai Davis single-handedly socked us all in the gut by stealing 2 bases and scoring on a sac fly (even though Wright did all he could do to keep him close to the bags).

Game 11 – @ Toronto, 11-6:  Can’t say the bats didn’t come out to play in this Blue Jays series.  Unfortunately, our arms were sleeping on the job.  Vargas completely fell apart, giving up 5 runs in 3 innings.  Jamey Wright and Aaron Laffey combined to give up 6 runs in 4 innings, and there you have it.  Meanwhile, Dustin Ackley is still the man.

Game 12 – @ Toronto, 7-5:  This game was depressing as shit until the top of the 8th inning.  Once again, Fister had to go up against an ace in Ricky Romero; once again, Fister got zero run support while he was standing on the mound.  Then, all of a sudden, POW, Miguel Olivo jacks a Grand Slam to tie the game at 5.  Of course, David Pauley came in and promptly hung another changeup, allowing Rajai Davis to double in 2 runs in the bottom of the inning.  In related news:  I hate Rajai Davis.  A Lot.

Game 13 – @ Boston, 7-4:  So, of course, we have Felix vs. Lackey, and of course Lackey holds us to 1 run over 7 while Felix gets battered to the tune of 6 runs in 6.1 innings (11 hits, 4 walks, 2 K’s).  Mike Carp hit a 3-run homer in the 8th after we were down 7-1, so there’s that.

Game 14 – @ Boston, 3-1:  For a while there, Blake Beavan was dealin’.  He matched Josh Beckett 0 for 0 through 6 innings, then found himself with a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th.  Mike Carp (AGAIN!) with a homer, this time when it mattered.  Of course, hindsight being what it is, we probably should’ve went straight to the bullpen.  Instead, Wedge left Beavan in and the Sox scored 3 in the bottom frame.  It was over after that.

Game 15 – @ Boston, 12-8:  How about three terrible starts for Pineda; is something wrong with him?  This time:  7 runs in 4.1 innings.  Tim Wakefield also gave up 7 runs over 6.1 innings, but it didn’t matter because our bullpen again fell apart when given a chance to hold things close.  This was another game that wasn’t nearly as close as its score.  It was 11-3 before Brendan Ryan of all people hit the second Mariners Grand Slam of the season (and, ironically, of the streak) to pull us to within 4.  After Wakefield left to a rousing ovation, that was that.

Game 16 – @ New York, 10-3:  Vargas – shitty.  Defense – shitty.  Hitting – shitty.  Freddy Garcia – shitty yet effective.  No one wants to re-live this game, so let’s just move on.

Game 17 – @ New York, 4-1:  You could play this game 1,000,000 times and the Mariners’ record would be 0-1,000,000.  AGAIN with Fister going against an ace!  That guy needs to face some team’s fifth starter like you would NOT believe.  He was game for the challenge though, giving up only 3 runs in 7 innings.  Unfortunately, the offense had to go up against C.C. Sabathia.  We got the bases loaded in the 8th with no outs and could only muster a run when Figgins grounded into a fielder’s choice that should’ve been a double play to end it.  Thanks to Eric Chavez, we got the run.  Oh, and let us not forget, Sabathia was perfect through 6.1 innings.  Brendan Ryan got a clean single to the outfield.  Sabathia ended up striking out 14 over 7 innings (including 2 short rain delays) and as a team the Yankees struck out 18 Mariners.  Like I said, we could’ve played this game a million times and we would’ve lost each and every time.  I would refute any simulation of this matchup by simply showing you the Mariners’ lineup card.

So, there you have it. 17 games.  From 43-43 to 43-60; from 2.5 back in sole possession of 3rd place in the AL West (5.5 games up on Oakland) to 15.5 games back and in dead last (3 games behind Oakland).  From quasi-contenders to written-in-stone pretenders.  From potential buyers to certain sellers at the Trade Deadline.  From feel-good story to national laughingstock.

From Wednesday, July 6, 2011 through Tuesday, July 26, 2011, the Seattle Mariners were the worst team in baseball; and one of the worst baseball teams of all time.

Seattle Mariners All Stars

First of all, let’s just get the obvious out of the way:  there isn’t a single Mariners hitter worthy of going to the All Star Game this year.  The last time I checked – which was, admittedly, some time ago – Ichiro was in 4th place for the outfield.  A small part of me would like to see the streak continue, but the bigger part of me hopes he doesn’t make it.

I mean, how could I?  He’s batting .252, his defense hasn’t been up to his usual standards, he’s still not walking.  In other words:  for the past month and change he’s been hurting his team WAY more than helping it.  It would be an embarrassment if he was voted in.  Everyone would blame the International Voting (instead of rightly crediting it in past seasons when Ichiro was good), and frankly I don’t want that.  I’d like to think the International Japanese voters are smarter than that.  I know they love their idol, but at some point you have to vote your conscience.

Of course, as I write this, I realize just how trivial the whole All Star Game really is.  Nobody REALLY cares about the All Star Game; hell, I don’t give two shits and haven’t given two shits since I was a teenager!  It’s nice for the players, it’s nice to see first-timers who’ve earned their way aboard by having breakout seasons; it’s annoying that players are voted in because of their names and not their numbers.  But, it’s not something to get bent out of shape about.

With that having been said:  do the right thing, Japan.  Leave Ichiro at home.  And, for the love of Christ, don’t just vote for whoever the Red Sox and Yankees are throwing out there.  Do the research!

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the pitchers.

The Mariners have a team ERA of 3.35 – at the time of this posting that’s tied for first in the American League with Oakland (and tied for fifth behind the Padres, Phillies, Giants, and Braves).  With the amount of studs we have on this team, it would be a crime not to have at least two or three guys show up for the big game.

Michael Pineda needs to be on this team.  You’re talking about the guy who’s a frontrunner for Rookie Of The Year.  He’s 4th in AL ERA and 9th in AL strikeouts (this in spite of the fact that he’s tied for 37th in Innings Pitched).  His K’s per 9 innings pitched is Number 2 in the AL.  He’s been so very impressive, especially with what he’s been working with.  He’s a two-pitch starter with a firm 100 pitch-count limit every game.  If Michael Pineda isn’t on that team, then he will have been robbed.  It’ll just be another case of a player’s reputation being accepted over a new, fresh, exciting young stud who hasn’t “paid his dues” yet.  Bullshit.

By the by, you know who’s Number 1 in K’s per 9 innings?  Well, that would be Mr. Felix Hernandez.  Felix is leading the AL in strikeouts (4 more than Justin Verlander with 4 fewer innings pitched), he’s only 18th in ERA (with a still-amazing – and better than last year’s – 3.29) and he’s the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.  I don’t think there’s anyway King Felix ISN’T on this team, but if that ERA was holding some people back, then I hypocritically applaud the people who vote him in on name-recognition alone.

Another should-be lock is, surprisingly enough, Brandon League.  At the moment, he’s leading the AL in saves with 18 (2 more than the next closest).  I don’t think I remember there EVER being a year where the saves-leader going into the All Star Game wasn’t actually ON the All Star team.  I will grant you, that week in May was one of the ugliest weeks I’ve ever witnessed for a single player (4 losses with 3 blown saves in five days).  But, he’s yet to give up a single RUN in his last 11 appearances (with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts).  If League can keep it up (which, I would define as blowing no more than a single save between now and when they choose teams), he’s as big a lock as there is.

There has been talk bandied about that perhaps another reliever is deserving to go from the Mariners.  Well, you can cross off Jamey Wright from that list right now.  His ERA is almost at three; set-up men will never get in with numbers like his.  Aaron Laffey, I would argue, hasn’t been in enough games or pressure situations, though his ERA is sub-2.  Besides, he’s handcuffed because we have an even BETTER reliever than him who’s currently hogging all the focus.

David Pauley.  Who in Christ’s name would’ve thunk it?  But, you can’t deny the man’s been nails with the ball in his hand.  He gave up 2 runs in April (in 16.1 innings, mostly as a long-guy in losing situations), 1 run in May (when he was essentially promoted as our 7th/8th inning guy, over the course of another 16 innings), and so far 1 run in June over 5 innings.  His ERA stands right now at 0.96.  He’s got 23 strikeouts against 8 walks, and his WHIP is 0.78.  The guy is a fire-breathing dragon (who induces a helluva lot of ground balls).  And, I don’t remember him giving up too many runs from inherited baserunners either.

With those numbers, I don’t see how you could keep the guy off the team.  If he manages to keep it up (meaning, that ERA stays BELOW 1.00), David Pauley definitely belongs.  That being said, it’s damn near impossible for a reliever who’s not a closer to make the All Star Team.  I only remember a couple of Mariners (Jeff Nelson and maybe Shigetoshi Hasegawa) ever managing that feat.  Of course, when they made it, they had the peripheral numbers on their side.

The powers that be who pick these teams pretty much just look at two things with relievers:  Saves and ERA.  If you’ve got zero saves, you’re at a HUGE disadvantage.  So, your ERA better be fucking sparkling.  I’d feel more confident in Pauley’s chances if he was perfect for the rest of this month.  I’d also feel more confident in Pauley’s chances if some of these other closers ahead of him started throwing out their shoulders.

My guess?  I’m going with Felix and League as a lock.  I think Ichiro misses his first-ever All Star Game since joining the Mariners.  I think Pineda and Pauley are the last two pitchers left off the team.  Let’s face it, we’ve got the Texas Rangers picking the team’s pitching; are they REALLY going to take four Mariners from a team that’s in 2nd or 3rd place at the time of the game?  Highly unlikely, if you ask me.

Which, to be honest, wouldn’t piss me off in the least (well, that’s not true, I’m sure I’d be on here with venom spewing from my fingers if Pineda’s left off).  Michael Pineda, by getting the shaft, would have that much more to prove the rest of this season.  Hell, it could be a rallying cry for this entire team as it heads toward the second half of the season.

**UPDATE**

Of course, in today’s game, Michael Pineda goes 5.1 and gives up 5 earned runs.  Next up:  Felix tanks tomorrow’s game and David Pauley gives up four runs in an inning.

M’s Lose; Top Of The Order Keeps Sucking

C.C. Sabathia.  What did I tell you?  This one had Loss written all over it.

Instead of focusing on the negatives twice in one day (Ichiro, Figgins, Vargas, Saunders), I’m going to pull some positives!  Probably could’ve done that after yesterday’s game – when we were ACTUALLY one game over .500 this late in May – but that’s how I roll.  Zagging when you think I’ll zig, bitches!

First of all, the bullpen was fantastic again.  6 innings, only 1 run given up after the Vargas 3-inning prostate exam.  It’s a little lot early to proclaim Jeff Gray a Jackie Z success story, but he WAS able to eat up 4 innings today after two hard-fought ballgames out of the better half of our bullpen the last two nights.  You can’t say enough about a guy who comes in and limits the carnage; sure we were down 6-0 when he came in – a comeback was slim-to-none.  Nevertheless, that’s something we can look at down the road.  You know, mabye pull Vargas after he’s given up FOUR runs in 3 innings; I dunno.

Also, don’t look now, but Chris Ray has only given up 1 earned run in his last six appearances, lowering his ERA from 16.88 to a paltry 8.03!  Granted, those six appearances were spread out well over a month’s time – and mostly in lost causes or desperate, bullpen-overused situations.  NEVERTHELESS, this could be his road back to being a somewhat reasonable human being.  It would be nice to have a dealin’ Chris Ray for when Jamey Wright inevitably collapses (and, for that matter, Laffey and Pauley).

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Justin Smoak’s solo homer in the sixth inning.  Prevented the shutout, and hey, a homer!  Finally the unstoppable downward slide of Smoak’s slugging percentage has ceased!

And, in conclusion, Brendan Ryan had two more hits (including a double) to raise his average to .277.  For some of these guys (Ichiro, Figgins, Smoak), the end of the month of May can’t come soon enough.  For Brendan Ryan, it’s going to be a sad sight to see the month of June this week.  On the one hand, I hope he keeps it up.  On the other, I don’t want to live in a world where Brendan Ryan has a higher batting average than Ichiro.  Or, you know, a whole fucking batting line right down to the OPS!

MAKE THE MADNESS END!

Incoming, we have the Baltimore Orioles.  They just got swept by the A’s.  Take that how you will, I’m just glad I don’t have to see Chris Tillman rub our noses in it.  Maybe this time Bedard can make Orioles fans wish they’d never made that trade!

Yeah, unlikely, I know.

Is It Crazy To Think The Mariners Can Contend?

Short answer:  fuck yes!

Long answer:  still yes, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

I’m not saying the Mariners are going to contend.  I’m generally in the market of making outrageous statements, but I gotta draw the line somewhere.  This is still a team that’s 29th out of 30 teams in runs scored.  This is a team that regularly trots out either Jack Cust or Miguel Olivo on an everyday basis as its Cleanup Hitter (in spite of the fact that they’re only even remotely capable of “Cleaning Up” my vomit after I watch them try to hit with runners in scoring position).  This is a team with more black holes at the bottom of its lineup than a (edited for inappropriate, mildly racial, and overt sexual content).

But, you know what?  Call me crazy, but I really like this team right now!

What’s wrong with me?  Have I been slipped some narcotic that’s giving me such a rosy outlook in times of … well, “despair” is too strong a word, so I’ll just say “inconsistency”.

Anyway, you can’t argue with the Scoreboard.  And right now, the “Scoreboard” is saying that we’re only 3.5 games out of first place, and here we are on the 20th of May.  That’s something!  Do you know where we were as of May 20, 2010?  We were 15-26 (as opposed to today’s record of 19-24), and still in last place in the division, except that meant we were 8.5 games behind Texas.

After our initial swoon where we started out 4-11, we’re 15-13 (thanks in large part to two rainouts in Cleveland last weekend).  Nevertheless, over the last month’s worth of games, we’re a team that’s over .500.  Heckuva deal.

So, the team as a whole is playing better; obviously, that’s always going to be a source of optimism.  But, what about the individual players?

Well, first and foremost, the dark cloud of angst and failure that was Milton Bradley is officially gone.  Not having to watch him struggle mightily 8 out of every 10 at bats is pretty satisfying.  Likewise, not having to watch him have some small modicum of success (or, even a large, game-winning amount of success) followed by seeing the sourpuss to end all sourpusses on his face is quite the relief.  There’s nothing more aggravating than watching an athlete get paid millions of dollars to play a game NOT enjoying himself when he does something good.  For Christ’s sake, crack a smile when you hit an RBI double, you miserable fuck!

Anyway, THAT’S gone.  And, in his place, we have two young kids doing fairly well.  Mike Wilson and Carlos Peguero are mixing it up, batting in runs, looking nothing less than overjoyed to be on a Major League ballclub.  Refreshing!  So very refreshing.

We got Guti back as of Wednesday, and he’s one of my favorite players on the team!  So, that’s two bits of goodness for the price of one, because I was getting sick and tired of watching Michael Saunders suck dick at the plate night in and night out.  Yes, Saunders was a wonderful centerfield defender while he got the chance, but if I had to watch him fall behind in the count thanks to him taking strikes right down the middle ONE MORE TIME …

Whoa, easy tiger.  This is supposed to be a Positivity Post.

Speaking of our middle of the order (OK, so I wasn’t speaking of them per se, but a guy’s gotta transition anyway he can), while Miguel Olivo has been pretty much the waste of fucking life we’ve all expected, at least Eric Wedge isn’t INSISTING that he stick as our Number 4 hitter just because.  And, even though Cust has yet to homer, as I mentioned earlier this week, his hitting has come alive.  If I can’t have a homer-slugging DH, I guess I’ll take a doubles-slugging DH.  It’s better than what we were getting in the month of April.

And, to wrap things up, Smoak has been better than expected, Ichiro has been as expected, and Figgins has been worse than expected, but not a total waste.  No, he’s not worth the $9 million he’s making this year (and probably never will be worth it for the duration of his contract), but he’s raised his batting average about 80 points in the last month.  It’s not incredible (considering how poorly he started), but it’s something at least.

When you account for all the hitting I’ve outlined above, yes, it’s insane to think about contention.  But, then again, what is “contending”?  Is it a reasonable, rational run at a division title?  Or, is it just hanging around, 3-5 games back for most of the year?  When you look at it like that, it’s not BATSHIT crazy.

Our starting pitching is among the best in the American League.  From 1 to 5, we’re solid every step of the way.  Our bullpen has settled into a nice little rotation of Pauley, Laffey, and Wright (who all have amazing ERAs).  And, aside from the nuclear holocaust that was last week (which, mind you, happened to him a couple times last year), Brandon League has been pretty kickass.  Rare is the closer who’s perfect for a whole season.  Rare is the reliever period who’s rock solid for six straight months.  I would look for League to come back strong for a solid run through the summer.

With those arms, if they’re able to keep it up, I argue that we’re closer than we think.

I’m not saying we should sell the farm to trade for some hired guns for a pennant run (too many holes to fill along our offense; besides, we’re not at a point where we can take on a bunch of contracts), but I do think if some of our younger guys continue to develop (Smoak, Guti, Ackley, Wilson, Peguero) and gain some quality big league experience – all the while playing for a team that’s hovering right around .500 and right around the AL West leader – maybe we’re not that far off.  Maybe, instead of 2013 or 2014, we can seriously contend in 2012!

Of course, 2011 is out of the question.  One of these teams – likely Texas – will figure it out.  One of them – again, likely Texas – will make a blockbuster trade at the deadline for a big piece that helps them make a huge run in the last two months.  A baseball season is too long for a team like the Mariners to hang around forever.

Still, a girl CAN dream, can’t she?

Double The Blown Saves, Double Your Agony

Of course, as soon as I start singing the guy’s praises, he goes out and gags one away in the bottom of the 13th inning – in a game we SO should have won!

These are always the games that leave you shaking your head as a Mariners fan, muttering to yourself at the same time, “I can’t believe we just lost,” and “I very much CAN believe we just lost!”  It’s just such a Mariners way to lose a ballgame.  Let’s see, how about we have a starter give us a quality start that’s later turned into a No Decision – check.  Let’s take a 1-run lead into the 8th inning and give it to our most consistent set-up reliever, only to see him give up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk – check.  Let’s then get some runners on, start a rally, SCORE … but not take the lead so we have to go to extras – check.

Then, let’s hand the game over to a soft-tossing left-handed long reliever and watch him get out of jams like he’s Houdini for three innings – check.  Let’s watch our offense continue to stink in those same three innings – check.  Let’s let that same soft-tossing left-handed long reliever who’s been turning water into wine for the past three innings go one more, only to give up a double and an intentional walk without generating an out – check.  And, let’s bring in our least-consistent reliever to get us out of the jam … and actually SUCCEED  – check.

Finally, let’s push across a run, give it to our closer who’s thus far in the season been perfect, and watch him get beaten to a pulp as the other team runs onto their field to celebrate.  Check, check, check, check, check.

What an unsatisfying end to a pretty exciting and worthwhile baseball game.  I don’t know if there’s anything in sports I hate more than the Blown Save.  Last night, we had two of them, by our two best relievers.  On the same day, I might add, that we discovered David Aardsma will likely need surgery and be out for the entire season.  How about THAT for an ominous sign of things to come!

Also, don’t look now, but the Mariners have lost three consecutive games.  I’m not ready to lose the good feelings of the last two weeks!  Mariners, win tonight!

More Reasons To Love Cliff Lee

**Note to Readers:  I’m scheduling this for Saturday morning because I’ll be busy all day golfing, gambling, and having titties rubbed in my face.  A.K.A. just your average, run-of-the-mill Saturday, bitchez.

**Also, Note to Readers:  I went to the Friday Mariners game/Ichiro Hit-Counter Bobblehead Doll Night.  I’ll have a full report for you on Sunday.  And since I’ll be hungover as all Hell, I’m sure it’ll be a Pulitzer Prize worthy screed.

On with the show.

On back-to-back days from the Seattle Times Baseball Duo – Larry Stone & Geoff Baker – we got blog posts talking about where we are with the Cliff Lee Trade today in relation to other teams who traded Cliff Lee.  Apparently, the Mariners are capable of being Number 1 at SOMETHING besides breaking my heart.  We are the best at trading Cliff Lee (which, fun fact, ALSO breaks my heart!).

So, being the Creature of Original Thinking that I am, I thought I’d chime in on the matter (or, you know, gush about my most favorite man-crush of all time).

The Cleveland Indians were the first to trade Cliff Lee, back in July of 2009.  At this point, whoever traded for Mr. Lee would be getting 1 year and 2 months of his services.  Or, to put it another way, they would be getting Mr. Lee for up to 2 full pennant chases.  One might think, considering they’d have over a full year of his services, that this would be the deal with the best batch of prospects.

But Lo! This is the rough and treacherous road of trading sure things for prospects.  According to Stone, Cleveland has thus far received a big bag of crab-apples for their Ace.  They got a back-end starter (who may or may not improve to be a front-end starter), a backup catcher, a AAA third baseman who couldn’t beat out Jack Hannahan of all people, and a reliever still stuck in A-ball.

That’s rough.  But maybe not quite as rough as the next team.

Philly got doubley screwed with their Cliff Lee dealings.  They went to the World Series, but eventually lost.  THEN, they traded him to the Mariners before the 2010 season for a AA starter, a AA reliever, and a AA outfielder with off-field drug and on-field injury issues.  Probably ONE of those guys will pan out, and wouldn’t you know it:  odds are that guy will be the reliever.

In short, the Phillies lost the World Series and traded an Ace starter for a potential Ace reliever (in a few years).  THEN, they failed to make the World Series without Cliff Lee, only to re-sign him in free agency anyway.  Fans over there have to be pulling their hair out on that one.  What’s more important, having a dominant starting rotation in 2010 (and potentially winning it all), or giving away 2010 and getting a relief pitcher in return?

Pretty brutal.  The baseball gods apparently don’t like it when you trade guys like Cliff Lee.  Guys like Cliff Lee should be appreciated!  Treasured!  Not tossed aside for the potential Next Big Thing!

Well, if the gods are planning on smiting the Mariners, it’ll most certainly be the most cruel smiting of the three.

We picked up Mr. Lee with a full-fledged contingency plan in place:  stay in contention and ride the Cliff Lee Train into the playoffs, or fall hopelessly out of contention and trade him away to a team IN contention for a buttload of Major League-ready prospects.  Smart move, especially considering the paltry package we gave up.

Well, we danced with the Yankees, but we went home and fucked the Rangers last July.  And so far … so good.

Justin Smoak is, as I’ve said before, Awesome.  Aaron Laffey (a guy we got from Cleveland for some future has-been named Matt Lawson, who we got from Texas in this Cliff Lee trade), is currently tearing it up in our bullpen as a long-relief lefty.  Josh Lueke started in our bullpen only to have meltdown-after-meltdown (on the plus side, he’s looking like his old self with the Rainiers since he went down, so maybe this was only a temporary blip).  And Blake Beavan is currently starting for Tacoma and could be a future back-end of the rotation starter for the Mariners (or some other team if we decide to flip him).  You can find all their stats in Baker’s post, if you’re feeling frisky.

In short, we win.  And, if Smoak continues to do what he’s doing for the duration of his many years with the Mariners, not only will we have won the Cliff Lee Trade Sweepstakes, but we also won’t have to worry about whatever Jesus Montero does in HIS Major League career (who, I’ll remind you, is the Yankee prospect we turned down in favor of Smoak).

God, isn’t Cliff Lee great, you guys?  Just that many more reasons to love this man!

Mariners Keep Winning, Now 2 Games from .500

I don’t want to alarm anybody here, but the Mariners are now 14-16.  To put that in perspective, we’re still in last place, but in the AL West that means we’re 2 games behind both Texas and Anaheim (and 1 game behind Oakland).

I swear to Christ, if the Mariners do one of the following – sweep this series and get to .500, move completely out of last place, or eventually just get to .500 – I am putting a God damned standings widget over there on the right side of the page and keeping it there all year!

This is the type of AL West everyone expected LAST year.  Instead, we got Texas running away with it, only to choke when it mattered most, but I digress.

The star of last night’s game is the rejuvenated Erik Bedard!  After throwing 33 pitches in the first inning, he settled down to go 7 strong (and, oddly enough, not giving up his first hit until the 6th inning).  That’s two games in a row where he’s gone 7; dare I say we’ve got the pitcher we were expecting in 2008?  If so, don’t look now, but that’s three high-quality starting pitchers to throw at the league …

Let’s breeze through the rest of the kudos:

Justin Smoak is a GOD right now.  3 for 4 last night with a double and 2 RBI.  This just continues to shine a light on my man crush that is Cliff Lee.  Without him, none of this would’ve been possible!

Don’t look now, but Jack Cust has his average up to .205 … I’m not saying that’s acceptable, but he’s no longer the worst guy on team.  For the record, it’s your turn to make the leap into the .200’s Brendan Ryan.

Unrelated to yesterday’s game:  Happy Rookie Of The Month, Michael Pineda!  Five more of those and you’ve got yourself a ROY.

Brandon League is 8 for 8 in save opportunities.  I don’t know what’s more surprising through May 3rd:  Brandon League is perfect, or Brandon League has actually had 8 save opportunities.

I haven’t seen Chris Ray in practically forever.  Whenever I’m able to write that sentence, you know it’s been a good day.  In fact, we haven’t seen ANY of the dregs of our bullpen lately!  No Ray, no Lueke (who’s now in Tacoma anyway), no Cortes (who was called up for Lueke), no Wilhelmsen.  Just a steady diet of Jamey Wright, Aaron Laffey, and David Pauley (who got the win last night).  FINALLY, a manager who’s not afraid to sit the struggling pitchers we all hate!  I think I’m falling in love with you, Eric Wedge.

The 10-Loss Club

We’re in exclusive company!  I know Jack Zduriencik promised to build up our farm system when he was hired, what I DIDN’T know was that he’d be doing that with #2 draft picks every year!

Ten losses isn’t really much of a milestone; everyone is going to get there eventually.  You’ll know you’re in the Playoff Chase when you hit your 10th loss in May.  But, when you get your 10th loss on April 15th … gird your loins, because it’s going to be a LONG season.

We’re currently tied for 2nd worst with the Houston Astros.  Laughably enough, BOSTON of all teams is dead last with a 2-10 record.  Of course, anyone who believes the Red Sox will continue to stay in last place is about as stupid as they get (though, a girl can dream, can’t she …); my money is on Boston getting super hot in the summer months and overtaking whoever’s on top in the East.  Mark my words.

The Mariners?  Not so much.  Though it’s nice to see they’re fighting for every inch like last night when they came back with four runs in the 8th and 9th innings to lose by 1.

You know who I LIKE on this team?  David Pauley and Aaron Laffey.  Two guys in our bullpen who come in when it’s out of hand, and DON’T give up any more runs!  How about that?  Yeah, I know Pauley gave up a run yesterday, but he went 2.1, and for the season his ERA is 2.57.  Glad SOMEONE in this bullpen can be counted on.  It’s nice to know two of the weaker-throwing bullpen guys are tons more effective than the Chris Rays, Josh Luekes and Tom Wilhelmsens of the world.

Also, Justin Smoak.  MAN, I don’t want to jinx nothin’, but he could be REAL good … RBI bases loaded walk last night in the 9th inning.  How about THAT for ballsy?

To Those I Just Helped Make Instant Millionaires: You’re Welcome

That’s right, you can ALL thank me and my Gut for your newfound gains.

Sure as shit didn’t happen like I THOUGHT it would happen, though.  Man, Felix just wasn’t doing it last night.  7 runs in 6 innings.  Of course, I never saw any of this happen; I went to bed after the bottom of the third inning when we had the bases loaded with 1 out and couldn’t score.  Seen that story told too many times to sit through it another 6 innings.

Of course, had I stayed up, I would’ve witnessed probably the greatest comeback in the last two years.  Down 7-0 after 6 full innings.  Then, a solo homer by Bradley, 3 runs walked in, and two 2-RBI singles in the 8th and 9th innings.

How crazy was this game?  How absolutely batshit-backwards did things go down?  Felix struggles in pretty much every inning, gives up TWELVE hits and two walks to account for those 7 runs … and it’s the rest of the team that picks him up?  WHAT?

Pretty much everyone in the lineup did something except for Olivo, who left 9,000 people on base in his 5 at-bats (and did Felix no favors with letting those wild pitches go by him).  We racked up 11 hits and an INSANE 11 walks (which accounts for why their starter could only go 5 shutout innings).  Granted, we were 3 for 15 with Runners In Scoring Position (actually raising our average in that catagory from .194 to .195), but when you walk in 3 runs with the bases loaded in back-to-back-to-back at-bats, I think you can give the team a little leeway.

And finally, if the thought of the Mariners scoring 8 runs in the final 3 innings isn’t enough to make your brain explode, our bullpen ALSO helped out Felix and our cause by not giving up any runs in those innings!  Don’t look now, but Aaron Laffey hasn’t given up a run in his 5 innings over 3 appearances (don’t look now, but I just jinxed Aaron Laffey).  And sweet sassy mo-lassy, Wilhelmsen and Lueke both pitched scoreless innings (and both now have matching 9.82 ERAs).

The long national nightmare is over.  The Mariners won a fucking baseball game.  I can finally breathe again.

And hey, Michael Pineda goes tonight!  This week is already looking better than the last!

Worst Opening Day For Mariners In 35 Years

We’ve had 35 Home Openers in Mariners history, and if you add it all up, we’ve been fairly successful.  As a franchise, we started out 10-3 in Home Openers before going 5-5 over the next decade to close out the Kingdome’s Home Opener Record at 15-8.  In Safeco (not counting the mid-season Home Opener which was blown by Kaz Sasaki), we’re only 6-6, bringing our overall Home Opener Record to 21-14.  Still respectable, but I have a feeling most teams have winning records for their Home Openers.

12-3, a 9-run differential.  No other Home Opener shapes up.  Back in 1987, the Mariners lost to the Twins 8-1 for a 7-run differential.  Back in 1990, the Mariners lost to the A’s 15-7 (an 8-run differential and the most runs given up by a Mariners team in their Home Opener; a feat we somehow didn’t have shattered last night).  As a point of reference, the 1987 Twins won the World Series that year; and the 1990 A’s lost in the World Series to Lou Piniella and the Cincinnati Reds.

So, if history holds serve, either the 2011 Indians will win it all this year, or they will lose in the World Series to our future Hall of Fame manager.  Either way, go to Vegas and put your money on the Tribe; you’ll still get good odds, I guarantee it.

Until last night, I had never been to a Home Opener.  My record in Home Openers is 0-1.  Next year, I’m going to Night 2.

I’ll try to set the scene for you:  the weather was absolutely sparkling yesterday.  The sun was out, there was a nice crisp breeze blowing ever so slightly; it was a perfect night for baseball in April.  I got off work and went straight to Sodo for a Louisiana Red Hot with grilled onions and a Sprite.  Next on my agenda:  I wanted to buy a Mariners hat.  Classic navy blue with the S and the Mariners star on the front, size 8.  Then, it was over to Pyramid where it was jumping with M’s fans; I promptly left when I saw the line for the beer garden was nearly as long as the line to get into the stadium.

They were handing out “Go Mariners!” signs outside Safeco, so I picked one of them up.  They were also giving away magnetic Mariners calendars inside Safeco as well as a green Mariners Opening day bandana.  Met up with a couple of friends and we headed over to our seats.  Section 115, row 15 on the first base side in Right Field.  Bought a beer, a souvenir soda, and a couple more Sodo Dogs before settling in with my scorecard and my glove.

At 6:30, the festivities started.  First, they announced the entire Cleveland Indians team, including equipment managers.  Then, it was our turn.  Fireworks!  Explosions!  The red carpets rolled out for every Mariner announced!  They presented Gold Gloves to Franklin Gutierrez (not in attendance as he’s still working to make it back to the big club in Arizona) and Ichiro.  They also gave Ichiro a ceremonial plaque since he recently became the Mariners’ all-time hits leader.  This got the biggest ovation of the night as the previous Mariners’ all-time hits leader walked out of the dugout to present it to him.  Oh Edgar, how we miss you so!  Finally, Felix got his Cy Young award and we were almost ready for the first pitch.

But first, one more tribute to Dave Niehaus.  Dave Niehaus Way – the ceremonial street named after him along 1st Ave next to the stadium – as well as having the broadcast booth named after him.  Of course, there’s still the Dave “My Oh My” patches the players are wearing (as well as the statue that’s going to be build sometime in the near future).  Then, local white rapper McLemore Macklemore came out to perform his Dave Niehaus song; he was about as good as you’d think a local white rapper would be.  Finally, Marilyn Niehaus – widow of Dave – threw the ceremonial first pitch to Felix who was catching.

Then, around 7:20pm, it was Game On.

Jason Vargas took the hill and promptly gave up a solo homer to Asdrubal Cabrera, former Seattle Mariner (a prospect traded to the Indians under Bill Bavasi for a handful of magic beans).  The second inning went 1-2-3 thanks to a double play, and the third inning went almost as easily.

The Mariners were down only 1-0 when the dancing morons showed up after the 3rd inning.  You know who I’m talking about:  they’re local favorites who always get the biggest cheers because they’re uncoordinated white people dancing with rakes.  The fucking groundscrew dancers, how I hate them so!  They did their thing, then the 4th inning happened.

Five straight hits, punctuated by a double from Austin Kearns.  Then, a sacrifice fly knocked in another run before one final single knocked Vargas from the game.  By that point, he’d given up 5 runs in the inning, then Tom Wilhelmsen entered and gave up 1 more for Vargas and another 4 more for himself.  14 Indians went to the plate, 10 runs scored – it thoroughly made me question why I ever decide to keep score at baseball games; my scorecard couldn’t look more abysmal.

Wilhelmsen gave up another unearned run in the 5th inning to close his book.  We were down 12-0 at the time, with the fans streaming for the exits.

I’ll say this about Wilhelmsen:  either he was nervous AGAIN – this time being his first in front of the home crowd – or he just isn’t ready for the Major Leagues.  My guess is, he will be in Tacoma before the month’s out.  Maybe even before the weekend’s out.

As for Vargas, this just looked like a bad day.  I couldn’t tell what the Indians were hitting – if they were good pitches down and away, or meatballs up and over the plate – but I’m generally not too worried about our Number 2 starter.  I think he’ll turn it around as early as his next start.

Aaron Laffey went the next 2 innings, giving up only a hit and a walk (seemingly cementing his status as our bullpen lefty); that brought us to the end of the 7th inning.

The time when me and my friends decided to leave.  We were down 12-1.  They could’ve given us 27 more innings and we probably wouldn’t have scored the 12 runs it would’ve taken to win that game.  Apparently Lueke and Wright shut the Indians down over the final 2 innings, and apparently we scored a couple of runs in the bottom of the 9th to make it less dreadful, but really, who cares?

This was an onslaught.  This was NOT the way we needed to start our season at home.  How are the Mariners going to hold onto the casual fans they have left if they’re throwing out duds like this?

This was CERTAINLY not the way to honor Dave’s memory.  What a joke.  My prediction of 65 wins is looking more like unrealistic positive thinking than a lowball guess made by the jaded.

Once again, Chone Figgins went hitless in 5 at bats, lowering his average to .100.  Once again, we were totally incompetent with runners in scoring position (1 for 8), but what did THAT matter?  If we don’t have picture-perfect pitching from our starters, we don’t have a chance in Hell of winning ANY games this year.  Our offense couldn’t overcome a measly 2-run deficit, much less a 12-run deficit!

I just don’t know what to say anymore.  We’re going to lose 100 games again, Jackie Z will be shitcanned, and we’re going to start this whole fucking process all over again.  Luckily for the Mariners, the world is going to end in 2012, so all the losing in the world doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, does it?