Mariners With Just An Incredible Win Over The Yankees

Never in a million years would I have predicted this Mariners team could win a game in New York 2-1, let alone in extra innings, against THAT bullpen.  My oh my indeed!

I was in the downtown Seattle Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Seahawks game, but I was so distracted by the little TV in the corner with the Mariners game on that I had to text my dad to have him DVR the football game, because I was missing too much.

I thought Ariel Miranda did a helluva job wiggling off the hook in a lot of self-inflicted jams.  4.2 innings isn’t anything to write home about, but he kept the Yankees off the scoreboard and that’s all you can ask when the games matter this much.

Kudos to Emilio Pagan for getting Miranda off the hook in that fifth inning and bridging the game into the seventh.

I thought Scott Servais did a terrible job putting David Phelps there in the eighth inning of a 1-run lead.  That’s Nick Vincent territory!  For the second time in a row, he brought Phelps into a VERY tough situation straight off the DL; how about a softer landing, huh???

So, yeah, it was a bummer that Phelps blew the save there in the eighth, but good on Vincent to keep the game tied at one and getting the game into extras.

Big ups to Mike Zunino for scoring the team’s only run against C.C. Sabathia with his solo homer to left.  7 innings of 1-run ball, with 5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts for the ageless wonder.

Even bigger ups to Yonder Alonso for the go-ahead solo homer off of Aroldis Chapman of all people!  The M’s faced the teeth of the Yankees’ bullpen, loaded the bases on Dellin Betances, but couldn’t quite push the go-ahead run home in the top of the ninth.

And, closing it out, we have Edwin Diaz with his 30th save on the year.  That’s how you do it!

The M’s picked up a game on the Wild Card-leading Yankees, and are within 0.5 games of the Twins for the second Wild Card spot (having passed over the Royals and Angels with their losses tonight).  Two more games to go in New York; getting just the one victory was beyond my wildest dreams, so I don’t know what I’d do if we somehow managed to get two.  Early starts the next two days, so it won’t take long to find out.

The Mariners Cling For Dear Life Against The Braves

Albers are off when you’ve got Andrew Albers on the mound!

The Mariners have used, what, 37 different pitchers this season?  35 if you take out the two position players who had to mop up in extreme blowout defeats?  And, in that, we’ve got 16 different pitchers who made at least 1 start this year.  We’ve had injuries, BOY have we had injuries!  And, beyond that, we’ve had a whole lotta ineffectiveness.  From De Jong to Bergman to Overton to Heston to Whalen to Gaviglio to Moore to Gonzales to Gallardo and so on and so forth.  Aside from the injuries, there really hasn’t been anything we could depend upon with this rotation besides Ariel Miranda, I guess.  And, while we’ve had to muddle through all these starts to get back to the brief healthy times we’ve enjoyed, I’ve been sitting here and waiting.  Waiting and hoping.  Hoping and praying that just ONE guy would come up to Seattle and blow us all away.  Even if it’s the most unsustainable, unrepeatable string of starts, I DON’T CARE!  All these Quad-A pitchers have absolutely lived up to their mediocre expectations; can I just get one guy to surpass them, even if it isn’t real?

Well, we’re only two starts in, but there’s a lot I’ve liked about those two starts with Andrew Albers on the mound.  He came over in a nothing trade with the Braves a couple weeks back and immediately gave us 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Orioles (one of the plethora of teams we’re in Wild Card contention with).  And then he followed that up with last night’s performance.

Through five innings, he’d only given up 2 runs.  His pitch count was low, and the M’s had a 6-2 lead, so he was allowed to pitch into the sixth.  An error and a single ended his night without getting another out, and both of those runners ended up scoring after Emilio Pagan cleared the bases by allowing a triple to center, but that’s just bad luck more than anything else.  I thought Albers looked fantastic last night!  Of course, that’s based on the lowest of expectations, particularly when you consider all those meatball pitchers I mentioned above, but nevertheless it’s nice to have someone finally come around and exceed expectations for a while.  I hope it lasts.

It was nice to see the offense jump out early and play add on throughout the game.  The Mariners managed a run in the second, then after falling behind 2-1, poured it on.  Another rally in the third produced a run, and the M’s put up a 3-spot in the fourth on hits by Alonso and Cano.  Alonso would double again in the sixth to knock in our final run, which ended up being huge considering all the damage the Braves were able to do with Pagan on the mound.

Also, don’t look now, but Yonder Alonso has been on fire after something of a quiet start since joining the club and taking over for Danny Valencia at first.  He’s rocking an 8-game hitting streak, going 13 for 30 with 4 extra base hits, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  I know the Mariners’ offense was pretty good before he got here, but you’ll always take those kinds of numbers.  I think an infusion of production like that is just what this team needed.  Yesterday especially, what with Nelson Cruz riding the pine (and not even getting a pinch hit AB, due to circumstances of the game) in the National League park.  God the National League’s rules are stupid (hashtag Embrace The DH).

Quick shoutout to the rest of the bullpen.  After Pagan got knocked around (he’s been a little dicey the last couple times out), Scrabble, Vincent, and Diaz came in and locked it down.  That’s 28 saves for Diaz.  And Scrabble has been nails over the last week or so, and really for the entire month of August.  As for Vincent, he’s the MVP of this pitching staff, without question.

So, not too bad of a start to this road trip.  That victory puts the Mariners at 3-1 through the first third of this trip; which, if they could just match that for the next 2/3 of this trip, sign me up TODAY!  Yesterday’s win also brought their road record to 30-30 on the season, which is pretty insane when you consider they started out the year 8-20.  Since that nadir in late May, after the second game in Boston, the M’s have gone 22-10 on the road.  Unbelievable!

That victory also puts the Mariners at an even 1 game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card.  Predictably, the Angels fell back and are now just 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.  The Royals are still lingering, 0.5 games behind the Mariners; and the Rangers are too, just a game back of the M’s (tied in the loss column).

Looking ahead, there are two more games down in Atlanta before another off-day, featuring the two worst Mariners pitchers currently in the rotation – Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez.  Gonzales has yet to pitch over 4.1 innings and I have to believe is one more poor start away from being sent back to Tacoma, so today will be REALLY interesting.  Erasmo, meanwhile, is on a 2-game hot streak, so you have to wonder how long it will take for that house of cards to topple over.

Then, in the Yankees series this weekend, the Mariners have – in theory – their three best healthy starters going (Miranda, then Gallardo, then Albers again).  But, the Bronx Bombers feature C.C. Sabathia (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS fucking destroys us), Sonny Gray (the ex-A’s starter they traded for at the deadline), and Masahiro Tanaka (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS – except last time – fucking destroys us).  It could be a really yucky, miserable weekend, is what I’m saying.

So, Mariners, let’s try REAL HARD to win these next two against the Braves, so we can justify what’s surely going to be a series sweep this weekend.

Mariners Burn My Ass By Trading Tyler O’Neill, Also Fucking Stink Against The Yankees

It’s getting to be pretty hard to “trust the process” when it looks like the Mariners are no closer to the post-season than they’ve ever been.  When it looks like every trade for a pitcher brings in Chase De Jong.  When it looks like this year’s Mariners team might be worse than last year’s variety, in spite of all the offensive upgrades we’ve made in just a year’s time.

Look, I get the whole argument that fans over-value their own prospects.  But, I also see what Tyler O’Neill has done throughout his minor league career:  he’s gotten consistently better each and every year.  And, I see all these other deals go down around the league, some of which a team gets obviously fleeced, and its trade partner gets good value for its fucking high-ranked prospects (even in a farm system that isn’t exactly overflowing with high-ranked prospects).

I just think it’s stupid to trade someone so good – who can potentially be an All Star – for a pitcher so mediocre, in Marco Gonzales.  A pitcher who missed all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery to his elbow.  A pitcher who has done NOTHING at the Major League level but suck total ass in 12 games over 3 seasons.  A pitcher who was drafted in the first round, but whose only claim to greatness has been half a season in AAA this year; 11 games.  A pitcher who I’m hearing might be out of options after this year?  Which, if that’s the case, is the biggest slap in the face of them all, because these guys (out of options, out of their team’s future plans) are supposed to come at a DISCOUNT; they’re NOT supposed to cost you your best minor league prospect!

Oh, and not only is he not here to help out the Mariners THIS YEAR – you know, when we’re in this playoff race and actually need the starting pitching help – but who’s to say he’ll be ready next year?  If he doesn’t have some injury setback (which, yes, is a real concern now and forever), will he be able to win a spot in this rotation?  Odds are, the Mariners are STILL going to have to bring in other starters to compete!  What happens if we have to settle for Gonzales being a reliever?  THEN what have we done???

And the company line continues to be:  trading from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.  BULLSHIT!  Even if I believe in Ben Gamel (which, we’re talking about half a season or so), Mitch Haniger has NOT been the same since he returned from his injury (as I predicted), and Guillermo Heredia has been slumping pretty hard since he was effectively put in this centerfield platoon.  How is that a strength?  How would the Mariners not be better served with more competition?  Especially considering how Boog Powell isn’t worth a shit, and Taylor Motter has been figured the fuck out.  If OF is such a position of strength, then where’s the DEPTH???  Tell me that, you company man!  You fucking Mariners sycophant!

In other Mariners Trade News:  they gave Mark Lowe and Jean Machi away to the White Sox for cash.  This allows them to potentially continue their Major League careers, and makes the Mariners look enticing to the next batch of over-the-hill veterans who might sign on for minor league deals.  We hardly knew ye or some shit.

In actual Mariners Baseball News:  they got destroyed by Aaron Judge and the fucking Yankees last night.  Andrew Moore gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, Emilio Pagan went the rest of the way shutting them out, and the offense could only muster 1 run, as they went 3 for 12 with RISP.  C.C. Sabathia got the win, because of course he did.  He kills us when he’s great, he kills us when he’s shit, he kills us when he’s young, he kills us when he’s old.  On a related note, Masahiro Tanaka goes tonight, so get ready to be swept in this stupid fucking series.

New day, more Mariners bullshit.  I hate this fucking team.

This Is Why You Can’t Blow 3-Run Save Situations, Mariners

You want to know why I was so irate about the Mariners losing to the Brewers on Sunday?  I mean, shit, look on the bright side, the M’s still won the series!

Yeah, except, you had to know the Mariners weren’t going to win every single series from here on out, right?  At some point, the Mariners were going to run into just a dud of an offensive night, against an aging-yet-at-times-effective veteran pitcher, and follow that up by being manhandled by that team’s ace.

C.C. Sabathia didn’t look anything remotely like the C.C. Sabathia of old last night, but he was able to change speeds and work the edges of the plate and just generally be a pain in the ass all night.  He was able to spread 3 hits and 1 walk across 7 innings while only giving up 1 run in a 5-1 defeat.  Indeed, this was his best performance in over 2 months, which makes it all the more galling, but that’s the whole point:  the offense isn’t going to dominate EVERY SINGLE GAME.  Sometimes, you’re just going to have an off night.  You just have to hope it doesn’t become a trend, but nothing about this season would suggest that’s happening.

What’s worse, and what makes Sunday’s abortion so unforgivable, is that today we have to go up against Masahiro Tanaka, who – in 4 career appearances – has manhandled the Mariners.  There’s no reason to expect that to change, which means we’re going to need Iwakuma to be at the very top of his game and hope for the best.

In reality, it means we’ve already lost this series.

This series loss could’ve been mitigated if the bullpen and the outfield defense didn’t completely fall apart on Sunday, but that’s baseball, I guess.

Losing this series isn’t the end of the world, of course.  But, for starters, it’s a bad sign that we can’t seem to play our best baseball against teams in contention.  If THAT continues, then you better get ready for Texas to eat our lunch in the next couple weeks.

Here’s where it really comes to bite us in the ass.  We hit the road this weekend for a 4-game series against the White Sox, where we have to see both of their studs in Sale and Quintana.  Then, guess what, in Texas next week, we have to face Darvish and Hamels, two MORE guys we have a whale of a time trying to hit!  If the Mariners don’t take advantage of these winnable games (like the one on Sunday!), then they have to work that much harder to try to get those games against the really good pitchers.

I mean, how many more miracle finishes could the Mariners possibly have left?

The Mariners Won More Than They Lost Against The Yankees

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about the weekend that was.

The M’s won an impressive one on Friday, 7-1, scoring in each of the final six innings to put it away.  Cruz and Cano had big games, we got a lot out of the DH combo of Smith & Guti, Adam Lind had something of a breakout game with a couple of hits, and Iannetta continued his torrid start to the season, which has been the most welcome of surprises.  Most everyone got in on the action offensively, except of course for poor Kyle Seager, who can’t buy a hit (but has plenty of Double Play foodstamps to throw around – THANKS OBAMA!).

Nathan Karns had a very Nathan Karns type of outing:  5 innings, 5 hits, 4 walks, 1 run, 7 strikeouts.  He got himself into and out of trouble in almost every inning, which is just something we should all get used to seeing, because that’s going to be the norm with this guy.  His inability to consistently pound the strikezone and get guys to hit into our defense is going to mean high pitch counts, low innings counts, and potentially a lot of crooked numbers.  In games like on Friday, where he was able to wiggle off the hook time and time again, he’ll resemble a bulldog like Erik Bedard.  You take the good with the bad with a guy like Bedard/Karns.  A tendency to Five & Dive, but at the same time (ideally) someone who can give you a QUALITY five innings.  Which, compared to some of the 5th starters we’ve seen in years past (weak-throwing flyball pitchers like Beavan and such), this might be a welcome change.  But, if Karns starts getting beat up more often than not (BECAUSE he’s putting so many people on base early in innings), then you’ll likely see him replaced by Paxton sooner rather than later.  It’ll be an interesting first few weeks of his Mariners career.

As the Mariners played add-on, the bullpen locked it down for the final four innings, including Peralta, who had been savaged in recent games by the long ball.

The Mariners won again on Saturday, 3-2, in a very Mariners-like performance, where the team scored three runs in the fifth inning, and no runs in any other inning.  Felix got the start, and for a while, this looked like the prototypical Hard Luck Felix Game.  C.C. Sabathia was working his magic through the first four innings, and it looked like a return to form for the erstwhile ace.  Felix, meanwhile, struggled in Karns-like fashion each and every inning, as he too was limited to five innings on the day.  It was a really weird day, if I’m being honest.  Felix had some of the most unhittable stuff I’ve ever seen out of him, but the downside was that he had pretty much no control over anything.  He threw about 80% offspeed stuff, and that shit was flying every which way but inside the strikezone.  As such, he only gave up 5 hits, but he gave up 6 walks.  When you add Saturday’s performance to his opening day start, there might be cause for concern.  I, however, choose to believe in the King, and like to see that he’s got such strong movement this early into the season.  He’ll harness everything, and get control over his command, and once he does, we could see a nice long run of dominance out of him this season.  As it is, he’s only got a 1.00 ERA, so the Felix Haters can eat all the dicks.

When Felix left the game, he had a 3-1 lead, and you sure as shit know none of us Mariners fans thought that lead was REMOTELY safe.  Vidal Nuno came in on his second consecutive day to throw shutout ball for an inning; he’s going to be a HUGE piece to this bullpen when it’s all said and done.  In the 7th, Nick Vincent gave up a solo homer to make it 3-2, and it was Hold Your Nuts time from there on out.  Benoit returned from his shoulder soreness to throw an uneventful scoreless inning, and Cishek came in for the 9th, gave up a couple hits, but ultimately got the job done for his first save of the year.  Last year, that game is a loss 11 times out of 10 games, so good on the bullpen to snap back after a rough homestand.

Yesterday, the Mariners lost 4-3, in a game that necessitated a dominant starting pitching performance, and ultimately didn’t see one.  Masahiro Tanaka was going for the Yankees, and he’s always been a tough cookie against the Mariners.  Quite frankly, seeing the Mariners get even 3 runs was laudable, as more often than not you’re lucky to get more than a single run against the guy.  Ultimately, when you get three runs off of a team’s ace, you need to find a way to win that game, and the Mariners just couldn’t hack it.

Hisashi Iwakuma is one of the more infuriating pitchers I’ve seen in a good, long while.  Not the same kind of infuriating as guys like J.A. Happ, or Carlos Silva, or even Jeff Weaver.  Unlike those guys, we’ve SEEN Iwakuma do really well in a Mariners uniform.  We KNOW he has greatness in him.  In the last two seasons, he’s had decent, if injury-plagued years, and in 2013 he had near-Cy Young quality stuff over 33 games.  When we all think of Iwakuma, we think of him in that 2013 context, where he solidified his reputation as a legitimate #2 starter on this team.  But, the truth is, even in 2013, he’s prone to these dumpy runs of mediocrity.  THAT’S what makes him so infuriating!  It’s not like he runs into a bad game here and there; even Felix has a bad game every now and again.  But, Iwakuma tends to string his bad games, or his so-so games, all in a row, before he has these prolonged stretches of quality starts.

Here are some of the stretches to which I’m referring (not counting his first year in the Bigs, as he was still getting over some shoulder issues):

  • 2013 – a five-game run where he gave up at least 4 runs per game
  • 2014 – a six-game run where he couldn’t get through the 6th inning in 5 of 6 games (and, more often than not, couldn’t even get through the 5th inning)
  • 2015 – a four-game run to start the season where he gave up at least 4 runs per game

I don’t know if it’s fair to saddle him with this run of three games to start the 2016 season as it being one of his bad runs, but he hasn’t been great by any stretch.  In 18 innings, he’s given up 22 hits and another 6 walks.  While he’s only given up the one homer (to A-Rod yesterday, ugh), teams are stringing their hits and walks together just enough to force him into this 0-2 start.  I wouldn’t say it’s dire straits yet with Kuma, but it would be really nice to see him overwhelm one of these teams soon with a dominant performance.

All in all, as I said before, a commendable hitting performance out of the M’s yesterday.  We were able to tie it in the fifth, but Kuma went right out in the bottom of the inning and gave up the fourth run of the day for the Yankees.  Even though Kuma was able to go 7 innings, and let the bullpen relax a little bit, those four runs proved to be too much.  Tanaka was also able to go 7 innings, and once the Yankees have a lead going into the 8th inning, you might as well forget it.  Dellin Betances is a fucking beast, and Andrew Miller is rock solid.  Can you even imagine what that bullpen is going to look like when Aroldis Chapman returns from suspension?  You better pile your runs up early, because you’re not budging that bullpen an inch in the late innings!

I do have to say something about Kyle Seager, though, because he’s been an absolute mess through two weeks.  He’s down to a line of .119/.245/.238, he was benched on Saturday to give him a day off to mentally unwind, and he’s just been a machine at grounding out to the right side of the infield (into the shift, which I have to believe is in his head more than anyone wants to let on).  I have confidence in his ability to turn it around, as I’ve seen these slow starts out of him almost every year of his career, but if this team wants to avoid digging a hole impossible to get out of, it’ll need Seager to start pulling his weight.

I like what I’ve seen out of Cruz and Iannetta.  Smith and Guti have had truly professional starts to the season.  Aoki’s been on a nice little run, and Martin has showed better power than I would’ve given him credit for prior to the season.  Dae-ho Lee has brought exactly what I expected to the table.  It’s really only a matter of time before Cano goes on a hot streak to get his numbers back to career norms.  Sardinas has brought what you like to see out of a guy off the bench.  Marte has had a rough go of it, but he’s young, and he has a knack for getting on base and using his speed to his advantage.  Lind’s rough start can’t be sugar-coated, but at least he looks like a guy who can hit it to all fields, so he’ll find some of those balls dropping in for hits sooner or later.  That just leaves Seager, who is bringing up the rear like a maniac.

When you think of a lineup, you’re going to see lots of peaks and valleys out of guys.  For instance, Iannetta is having a tremendous start to his Mariners career.  But, that other shoe is going to drop in a minute, and it would be NICE to see someone else hit one of his peaks at the same time as Iannetta’s inevitable valley, so the offense doesn’t go completely in the tank.  Iannetta is giving us Seager-like production right now, but that won’t last forever (if it even lasts much longer than these first two weeks); we’re going to need Seager to step it up just to maintain the status quo we’ve got going on right now!  That’s a scary thought, especially if it takes him much longer to pull out of this nosedive he’s been in.

The 2013 Seattle Mariners Will Not Make The Playoffs (Obviously)

Over the weekend, I wrote this.  It was a Glass Half Full (or, really, just a Glass Full) imagining of how the Seattle Mariners might make the playoffs ahead of schedule.  Of course, if you’re a Glass Half Empty guy like myself, “ahead of schedule” could be making the playoffs anytime in the next 20 years.

Today, ahead of Game 1 of 162, featuring Felix Hernandez against the Oakland Athletics, I’m writing the counter-argument.  The Wario to Saturday’s Mario.  The Darth Vader to Saturday’s Luke Skywalker.  The Van Halen with Gary Cherone to Saturday’s Van Halen with Diamond David Lee Roth.  Nobody wants to read about THESE Mariners when you could possibly have Saturday’s Mariners.  But, the stark reality is, if I’m putting my Smart Money down on one or the other, I’m putting it down on the Mariners NOT making the playoffs.  Because the Mariners making the playoffs is not the way the world works.

Let’s look at this realistically for a moment.  Justin Smoak is who we thought he was.  That’s going to be proven in this, his final season as a Mariner (or, at least, his final season as a Mariners starter).  The guy can be Mr. March and Mr. September all he wants.  But, he’s going to have to figure out a way to be Mr. April thru August too, if he’s going to make it.  I know he’s young, and we like to shield the young from the rigorous pressures of the Major Leagues, but at some point you have to prove that you can HANDLE some of those pressures.  You can’t be coddled forever!  Mike Trout is young, and he seemed to handle those same pressures pretty fucking well.  I’m not saying Smoak is on a similar talent level as Trout, but that’s neither here nor there.  Emotionally speaking, Trout is in another league.  Smoak is like an infant trying to cross the street in Frogger.  How about we grow the fuck up and start doing our jobs, huh?

I’m not nearly as down on Jesus Montero as I am with Smoak.  That’s probably because I haven’t been crushingly disappointed for quite as long.  Still, for a guy who was the centerpiece of the offseason prior to last season, it’s a little disconcerting to know that he’s simply a stopgap solution to our catching needs.  That is, until Mike Zunino arrives.  Essentially, I don’t give a flying fuck what Montero does behind the plate this year.  He could be the second coming of Rob Johnson for all I care.  This dude needs to hit, plain and simple.  The writing has never been more ON the wall:  Jesus Montero is our future full-time DH.  So, you know, I’d like to have a DH that hits .330 with 40 doubles and 30 homers.  If that’s all right with you.

I do still believe in the protection theory, and I do think that Morales and Morse were admirable pick-ups this past offseason.  But, how much can you expect, really?  Every time I see a ball hit his way, I’m going to wonder if THIS is the moment where Morse hurts himself and goes on the shelf.  I’m going to be an absolute trainwreck this first month of the season; it’s probably best I DON’T have cable.  There is no way in Hell that Morse stays healthy all season (that goes double for Guti, but I’m getting ahead of myself).  And when he is healthy, what have we got?  MAYBE a guy who’ll hit .270 (but don’t be surprised if he hits .230, because Seattle).  MAYBE a guy who will end up with 20-or-so home runs.  MAYBE a guy who will play in 100-or-so games.  Who’s going to make up that slack?  Guys like Ibanez and Bay?  Oh, great.

For the record, I think Ibanez is done.  I think this will prove to be his final season EVER.  Seattle is where old players go to die (Sexson, Vidro, Everett, Griffey, Wilkerson, Sweeney).  Ibanez had a reasonably productive season last year in part-time duty.  But, he still only hit .240.  As for his 19 home runs, we’re still talking about the band box that is Yankees Stadium.  14 of those 19 were hit at home.  Now, Safeco Field is his home.  I would expect that average to be a whole lot worse and I would expect those power numbers to approach zero.

As for Jason Bay, I give him two months, tops.  He’ll show why he was so expendable and so loathed in New York.  I would anticipate the likes of Eric Thames back in a Mariners uniform before too long.

Getting back to Morales, I think he is a legitimately good hitter.  He might be the best hitter on this team.  But, I still have to wonder how playing in Seattle is going to affect him.  I highly doubt he WANTS to be here.  He’s a professional, so he’s not going to make a big fuss.  But, to anyone who is holding out hope that he might choose to sign an extension with the Mariners, I would say, “Just put that idea to bed.”  No way.  No way in HELL he comes back to Seattle.  If he’s not traded at the deadline, then we are essentially resigning ourselves to getting nothing for the man as he walks at the end of the season.  And oh by the way, I would expect his numbers to take a drop as well.  He’s in Seattle now.  “When in Rome,” as they say.

Kyle Seager was a nice little story in 2012, but my concern is this:  what if that’s as good as it gets?  Dustin Ackley was a less-nice story in 2012, but again my concern is the same.  I think if you put these guys in Colorado, they might be All Stars.  But, in Seattle, I have to wonder.

As for Michael Saunders, I have a sinking suspicion that he’s going to revert back to his old ways.  Not hitting that outside pitch.  Striking out too much.  With a batting average around .200.  Everyone will make a big deal about him being in the leadoff spot being too great a challenge.  The team will bounce him up and down the lineup.  And by season’s end, he would have been benched long ago, but of course we’ll need him to cover center field because GUTI!

Chone Figgins was a disappointment because we all had these great expectations of him being a pest at or near the top of our lineup.  He ended up being one of those old players who comes to Seattle to die.  Franklin Gutierrez is a disappointment because of similar expectations.  But, he’s not a bad player.  His skills haven’t diminished!  At least, I don’t THINK they have.  Then again, what would I know?  I haven’t seen him play an extended stretch of pain-free baseball in quite some time.  Guti isn’t old, but he’s a player who has come to Seattle, where he might LITERALLY die.  Someone find the old witch who cursed him and drive a stake through her cold, black heart.

I actually kind of think Brendan Ryan is due for a rebound at the plate.  Unfortunately, I also kind of think Brendan Ryan is due for a serious injury that keeps him out for a few months.

Which is something I never did get into over the weekend.  Injuries.  Everyone gets ’em!  And you never anticipate ’em when you’re trying to predict what’s going to happen in a given season.  You can look at an older team and say, “Hey, these guys will probably hurt themselves!”  But, we’re not fortune tellers.  Someone (or some ones) on the Mariners will get hurt.  It’ll set the team back.  And their replacements will be terrible.  Or, they’ll get hurt, not tell anyone, try to play through the pain, and be WORSE than the already-terrible replacements.  So, there’s that.

***

In 2013, it’ll be Felix and hope for four days of rain.  OK, maybe it won’t be that bad, but still, there’s a lot to dislike.  Saunders will be decent at times, and he will be awful at times.  Iwakuma will be good at times, and kinda bad at times.  Beavan will start the season pretty well, but by June or July he will be down in Tacoma where he belongs.  Maurer is the ultimate wild card, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s demoted within the next four weeks (or just as soon as Erasmo Ramirez is ready).  I think Maurer will eventually return, but who knows how this will shake his confidence?

Here’s the thing, though.  If the Mariners DID make the playoffs, how could anyone POSSIBLY trust this pitching staff?  Yeah, we’ve got Felix, but any team we’d play in the post-season has their own version of Felix too!  And they will be pitching against the Mariners, which means his numbers will likely be BETTER than Felix’s!  Shit, the Mariners had Randy Johnson in 1997 leading the charge, and he wasn’t enough to even get us to a fifth game in the first round!  I wouldn’t exactly say it was his fault; but, then again, I wouldn’t say he was throwing any 1-hitters either.

Felix is great.  He’s my favorite all-time Mariner for a reason.  But, he’s not perfect.  A theoretical 2013 Mariners playoff team will have relied on his arm for 230+ innings ahead of any playoff game.  It wouldn’t shock me in the least to see him be mortal against a team like the Tigers or Yankees.  Especially when they have Verlander and Sabathia, who (especially Sabathia) have tended to dominate the M’s.

After Felix, your playoff rotation is fucked.  Like I alluded to over the weekend, if this team makes the playoffs, it will be because Brandon Maurer was our second-best pitcher.  It will be because he reached his potential (which is so much higher than the potential of Saunders, Iwakuma, Beavan, or Ramirez) and posted a ridiculous win/loss record.  But, at the same time, if he does that, he won’t be with us in the playoffs (because he’ll be shut down).  We’ll be stuck with cagey veterans like Saunders and Iwakuma.  They will get rocked.  We will likely be swept in the first round.

So, you know, it’s probably for the best that this team won’t make the playoffs.  Why suffer the embarrassment?

As for the bullpen, I do like it a lot.  From top to bottom, I think it can be one of the best in baseball.  But, Pryor could struggle with command.  Capps could struggle with command.  Luetge could get shelled.  Perez could get shelled.  From season to season, no numbers fluctuate so wildly as bullpen numbers.  You can be the same exact pitcher from season to season, with the same level of health and the same speed on your fastball.  But, for reasons unknown, you can dominate one year with a sub-2 ERA, and you can somewhat struggle the next, with a sub-5 ERA.  It’s insane.

As for the rest of the AL West, I do think the A’s are a flash in the pan.  I think the Rangers will hang in there for a possible Wild Card spot.  And, I think the Angels will run away with the division and win 100 games.  You know what else I think?  I think the rest of the division will feast upon the entrails of the Houston Astros (last night’s game against the Rangers notwithstanding), while I think the Mariners will actually manage a losing record against them.  Wouldn’t that be too perfect?  What’s one of the major storylines going into this season?  Everyone thinks the Mariners will have a better record than last year, and everyone thinks that’s because they get 19 games against the Astros.  Well, I’m here to tell you right now, the Mariners will go 9-10 against the Astros, and it’s going to be a dogfight to avoid last place in the division!

No.  No, I don’t really believe the Mariners will battle for 5th place.  In fact, I DO believe the Mariners will contend for some stretch of time this year and that they WILL end up over .500.  I think we’ll get to July 31st right in the middle of the fracas for a Wild Card spot and I think we will actually be BUYERS.  I really do.  Jackie Z has shown he’s willing to trade from a position of strength (starting pitching) to get what this team needs.  So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another package of players a la the doomed Justin Upton deal going out for a big bat coming back in.  Or, shit, maybe the Mariners go out and get a veteran starting pitcher (not believing their young guys in Tacoma are ready for the leap).  These Mariners will ultimately fade in August (just in time for football season) and September will be entirely meaningless.

I’ve felt the way I feel right now prior to 2007 and 2009.  My outward expectations low, but inwardly thinking, “Hmm, maybe …”

When going into those seasons, my motto was, “Just keep it interesting.”  Just keep us all entertained through the summer.  I don’t need miracles!  I don’t necessarily need a playoff appearance.  Just … let me dream, beyond the month of May.  Give me good things to write about.  Make me wish I actually DID have cable TV.

That’s the way I feel about 2013.  I know that’s totally the kind of Seattle Loser Talk I normally condemn on this site, but the Mariners have broken me.  They have sucked my will to live for far too long, and I doubt there’s any coming back.  I’m a broken shell of a man whose innards have dried up and been replaced by sawdust.  Just entertain me.  Just make me forget the horror I’ve been forced to follow for most of the past decade.  That’s all I ask.  And it’s not a lot TO ask!

87-75.  That’s my number.  It’s actually kind of a high number, now that I think about all this ranting and raving I’ve been doing throughout the duration of this post, but that’s what I’m going with.  I think this bullpen will more than likely be the real deal – at least when it counts, in one-run games – and I think there will be just enough clutch hitting to make up for all the recent Mariners teams who have struggled with runners in scoring position.  It doesn’t make sense, but then again it doesn’t HAVE to make sense.  The Mariners will go 9-10 against the Astros, but they will still be in some form of contention for a Wild Card spot.  Because sometimes, that’s just the way it works.

And, really, it’s not all that far off from the 95 wins I predicted in my Fancy-Free post over the weekend.  So remember, as always, I’m a huge tool who has no idea what he’s talking about.

2001 Seattle Mariners: The Best Team To Never Reach A World Series

You can find this post, and others like it, in the menu bar at the top, under “Seattle Playoff Futility”.

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.  – Vince Lombardi

Remember what Vince Lombardi said:  If you lose, you’re out of the family! – Homer Simpson

What the hell’s going on out here?! – Vince Lombardi

In February, 2012, I wrote the first three posts in the series entitled:  Seattle Playoff Futility.  All three were about the Seattle Mariners, as sort of a prelude to the 2012 season.  I had intended on finishing the brief 4-season volume on the Mariners that very same month, but for whatever reason I put it off.  It has continued to lurk in my To Do list of blog posts to write ever since.  The longer I waited, the more daunting it seemed.

I have to somewhat relive that 2001 season again!  I don’t think anybody wants that!

Nevertheless, it must be done.  What better time to do it than now?  So, without further ado:  the very last time the Seattle Mariners reached the playoffs.

Safeco Field opened in July of 1999.  Going into 2001, the Mariners had endured a season and a half in one of the toughest-to-hit-in parks in all of Major League Baseball.  In their first full season, 2000, the Mariners scored the 7th most runs in all of baseball with 907.  To put that in perspective, a decade later in 2010, the Mariners were dead last, scoring 513 runs.

Well, let’s go one better:  in 2001, the Mariners led ALL of Major League Baseball with 927 runs scored.  To put THAT in perspective, since 1900, the team that scored the most runs in a single season was the 1931 New York Yankees with 1,067.  Legitimately, on paper, we’re talking about one of the greatest baseball teams of all time when we’re talking about the 2001 Seattle Mariners.

I mean, the record speaks for itself:  116-46.  It’s just an astounding figure!  Here’s how the record breaks down by month:

  • April:  20-5
  • May:  20-7
  • June:  18-9
  • July:  18-9
  • August:  20-9
  • Sept/Oct:  20-7

The most losses in any given month was 9!  How insane is that when you’re talking about a team that plays every fucking day?

The Mariners played 52 series of baseball in 2001.  Here’s how it broke down:

  • Series Wins:  42 (15 of which were sweeps)
  • Series Ties:  4
  • Series Losses:  6 (with 1 sweep)

So, there’s just a brief overview.  This team was lethally good.  But why?  Well, let’s take a look at the players involved.

It’s been mentioned before, this was the fourth and final Mariners team to make the playoffs.  The first was back in 1995; it was led by the likes of Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner.  In 1997, you still had those guys, plus a player in Alex Rodriguez who was already putting up MVP-type numbers in only his second full season as a starter.  Slowly but surely, that core was chipped away.  After the 1997 season, Jay Buhner stopped being a full-time player.  Whether it was injury or a down-trending performance at the plate, he saw his number of games decline through the rest of his career, ending in a VERY-diminished bench role in 2001, appearing in only 19 games.  The front office was worried about Randy’s back, so they traded him in 1998 instead of giving him a much-deserved contract extension (he would go on to win four Cy Young Awards and a World Series in 2001, but more on that later).  After the 1999 season, seeing how the Mariners treated their superstars, Ken Griffey Jr. demanded a trade to the Cincinnati Reds (he would go on to play in 9 more injury-plagued seasons with the Reds & White Sox, hitting 213 homers and driving in 620 runs, though only 4 of those seasons saw him have over 500 plate appearances).  After the 2000 season, A-Rod signed the (then-) biggest contract in MLB history, 10 years, $252 million (he would go on to win 3 MVP awards and a World Series in 2009, though he will also go down as largely a disappointment and a steroids-cheat).

By 2001, all that was left was Edgar Martinez.  Yet, somehow the Mariners managed to put enough horses around him to create one of the best teams ever.

Mike Cameron came over in the trade for Ken Griffey Jr. (along with three other stiffs, including Head of the Stiff Brigade Brett Tomko) and was an instant sensation.  While he didn’t exactly approach Griffey’s production at the plate, and he had a super-human amount of strikeouts, he also was a freakish athlete in center field, endearing himself with the types of reckless, against-the-wall catches that made Griffey so special.

Of course, just because he wasn’t a Griffey-level stud at the plate doesn’t mean he was a slouch.  He averaged nearly 22 home runs a season in his four years with the Mariners, along with nearly 29 doubles, 27 stolen bases, and 89 runs scored.  So, you know, he wasn’t any kind of 40/40 man or anything, but for a guy in center, that’s more than solid production.

Another big “get” was Bret Boone.  He began his career in Seattle back in the early 90s, then knocked around with the Reds, Braves, and Padres before re-signing with Seattle in 2001.  A one-year deal for a little over $3 million, essentially we were taking a flyer on a guy on the wrong side of 30 to come in and play second base.  This obviously didn’t please the previous second baseman, Mark McLemore, but in the end it worked out for the best.

Which is a fucking all-time understatement.  For our $3 million investment, we got a guy in Bret Boone who hit .331, 37 homers, 37 doubles, slugged .578, scored 118 runs and hit in 141 RBI.  He finished 3rd in the MVP voting (more on that later).  Mind you, this was a guy whose previous highs over a full season were .267 (in 1995), 24 homers (in 1998), .491 slugging percentage (in 1994), 102 runs (in 1999) and 95 RBI (in 1998).  At no point would you ever point to this guy and say, “Yeah, he’s capable of what he did in 2001.”

Of course, knowing what we know about the era he played in, it’s hard not to wonder, but I’m going to save that argument for another time.  In the end, steroids or no steroids, it’s not like they helped us to a World Series or anything.

Boone, starting in 2001, had a 4-year run for the ages before he started to break down.  He really earned that contract extension going into 2002, and he actually lived up to it.  He would average, per season, from 2001-2004:  30 homers, 112 RBI, 34 doubles, 98 runs, .289 batting average, and a .501 slugging percentage.  In 2005, he was done, and shipped off mid-season, but that was a small price to pay for the best second baseman in the game over that stretch.

John Olerud was signed prior to the 2000 season to anchor first base.  He had long been a standout defensively, with a steady bat that always hit for a high average and moderate power.  From 2000 through 2002, nothing changed.  He averaged nearly 20 homers and 40 doubles per season through those three years, with a batting average close to .300 and an on-base percentage close to .400.  He was nobody’s middle-of-the-order hitter, but then again, on this team, you didn’t need him to be.  He would simply get on base any way he could and wait for others to hit him in.  For one of the slowest runners in baseball, he still scored on average 87 runs per year.  In 2003, he started his quick decline into obscurity, but in that sweet spot, there weren’t many guys I’d rather have.

Of course, I’m saving the best for last.  Ichiro Suzuki was signed by the Seattle Mariners on November 18, 2000.  The Mariners paid a little over $13 million to the Orix Blue Wave, then signed Ichiro himself to a 3-year, $14 million deal.  All told, it was a $27 million investment for three years of the best hitter in Japanese baseball history.  At the time, people wondered if the Mariners paid too much.  Knowing what we know now, I’d say that was the steal of the century.

We all know what Ichiro’s numbers are, so I won’t regurgitate them once again.  But, let’s just think about this:  In 2001 we had a guy who was 3rd in MVP voting and we had the actual MVP himself (as well as the Rookie of the Year) in Ichiro Suzuki!  For anyone who ever wondered how we would manage without the likes of Griffey, A-Rod, and Buhner, look no further.  Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, and Cameron joined a still-in-his-prime Edgar Martinez as the backbone of this record-setting offense.  They were supplemented by quality role players like Dan Wilson (still a defensive wizard and not a total black hole behind the plate), Carlos Guillen at short stop (part of the underrated Randy Johnson trade who would go on to be a much more consistent player with Detroit after the Mariners traded gave him away in 2004), David Bell at third (a player I couldn’t stand at the time, but who I have since grown to appreciate for his solid defense, especially after the adventure that was Russ Davis), and Mark McLemore being an every-man who found his career rejuvenated by playing multiple positions, before eventually supplanting Al Martin in left field down the stretch.

Sometimes, things just come together and work out beyond your wildest dreams.  And we haven’t even touched on the pitching side of things!

***

The 2001 Seattle Mariners averaged 5.72 runs per game.  Think about that.  On average, the Mariners could give up 4-5 runs every game and still win!  Suffice it to say, there were some pretty inflated win/loss records out of this starting rotation.

The Big Three consisted of Freddy Garcia, Aaron Sele, and Jamie Moyer.  The Chief came over in the Randy Johnson trade and pitched fairly well in his first two seasons in the Majors.  He was rounding into an Ace quite nicely.  In 2000, he took a big step forward, especially in the playoffs, and essentially earned that #1 pitcher role in 2001.  He didn’t disappoint.  A 3.05 ERA over 34 games (with a career-high 238.2 innings pitched), he struck out 163 batters and netted an 18-6 record.

Sele signed as a free agent before the 2000 season after a solid, if unspectacular 2-year stint in Texas.  He had a fastball around 89-90 miles per hour, straight as an arrow, with a solid curve ball and not much else in his arsenal.  He would throw strikes (only 51 walks vs. 114 strikeouts in 2001), eat up innings (215 over 34 appearances), and he would keep an ERA somewhere around 4 (actually 3.60 in 2001).  Not necessarily the guy you want as your #2 starter, but as a 3 or a 4, you’d take him.  And with this offense behind him, Sele posted a 15-5 record and didn’t really hurt us during the regular season.

Moyer was the most tenured pitcher of the bunch, having arrived at the trade deadline in 1996 from the Boston Red Sox.  Moyer played for the Mariners for about a million years and is generally one of the more beloved pitchers in M’s history.  As just about everyone was having a career year (or a career stretch of years), Moyer was no different.  He posted a 3.43 ERA over 33 starts and 209.2 innings, generating a 20-6 record, doing all kinds of Jamie Moyer things with his slow fastball and even slower change up.

So, Big 3.  53-17 record.  But wait!  There’s more!

The 2001 Mariners had Brett Tomko (Griffey Trade) and John Halama (Randy Trade) as their #4 and #5 starters to kick off the season.  Tomko lasted about three starts in the first month before he was stowed away in the bullpen (where he would remain through May before being sent down to Tacoma) in favor of Paul Abbott.  Abbott made his first start on April 28th and didn’t look back.  He finished the season with a 4.25 ERA over 28 appearances, yet he enjoyed (I believe) the most run-support in all of baseball, so his record ended up being an obscene 17-4.

Halama managed to stick in the rotation through the middle of July, but after the All Star Break, Lou opted to go with a different young pitcher in Joel Pineiro.  Pineiro made 11 starts from late July through late September before going back to the bullpen for the playoff run.  Halama and Pineiro combined for a 16-9 record, going to show that even the bottom of the barrel still managed to win more than they lost.

The bullpen was anchored by 2000 Rookie of the Year Kazuhiro Sasaki.  I think we all remember Sasaki as a decent closer, with a nasty forkball, who always (or almost always) seemed to choke in the biggest of games.  Which isn’t really fair, since his three-year run from 2000 through 2002 was one of the best in all of baseball.  In 2001, Kaz saved 45 games, but he blew 7.  In other words, he was no Mariano Rivera, but he was still pretty damn good.

The best relievers, actually, were behind him, in the 7th and 8th innings.  Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes were the epitome of stellar in 2001.  Rhodes posted a 1.72 ERA in 71 appearances, with only 4 blown leads all year.  Nelson posted a 2.76 ERA in 69 appearances, with only 1 blown lead all year.  With these three guys, all the starters REALLY had to do was keep a lead through 6 innings and most of the time that would equal a Mariners victory.

Rounding out the bullpen were guys like Jose Paniagua, who was okay in 60 appearances (after all, you can’t ALWAYS use your three best guys), Norm Charlton, who managed to bounce back with a pretty good season in 44 games of spot relief, and Ryan Franklin, who manned the long relief role for most of the year with adequate results.

I don’t know if this team was built with the intention of winning 116 games, but as things shook out, this team was most certainly built to CRUSH the regular season.

***

There was some amount of good luck on this team, but I wouldn’t by any stretch say they were defined by their luck.  This was a solidly-built roster from top to bottom, with a good mix of old and young.  Everyone fit in their roles and played the hell out of them.

The 2001 Mariners were 26-12 in 1-run games.  Obviously, that’s not a sustainable figure, but it goes a long way in explaining how the Mariners won so many games.  They absolutely beat up on the Angels and Rangers, posting a combined record of 30-9.  As stated above, there was never really a lull with this team.  Their longest losing streak was 4 games.  Their longest winning streak was 15.  Maybe not so obvious was the fact that this team indeed went wire-to-wire.  They had a 0.5 game lead after the first game (over the Angels, who had yet to play a game), then they were tied for first over the subsequent two days (with a 1-1 and a 2-1 record), then they absolutely ran away with this thing.

At the end of April, the Mariners had a 9-game lead in the AL West.  At the end of May, that lead was up to 14 games.  At the end of June, it was a 20-game lead (with a season-high lead of 21-games a few days later).  At the end of July, the lead was still 19 games.  At the end of August, the lead was 17 games as the A’s started their annual late-season push towards glory.

When 9/11 happened, the Mariners were 104-40.  Now, I’m not going to place ALL of the blame for the Mariners not making it to the World Series on 9/11, but let’s just say it was a poorly-timed event for everyone involved (and no, that’s probably certainly NOT the most horrible thing I’ve ever said or written in my life).  Up to that point, the Mariners were winning at a .722 clip.  The Mariners ended their season on a 12-6 run (after an 8-day layoff of sports).  Was the layoff to blame?  Did it give other teams a chance to rest while somehow also stifling our momentum?  I mean, one would think that if rest is good for the Yankees, then odds are it was also good for the Mariners; but, was it more helpful to them in the long run?  We’ll never know, but it’s an argument.

Another argument is the record itself.  116 wins, the most ever in a single season.  That was the prize the Mariners had their eyes on.  Did the pressure to get to 116 catch up to them?  It finally happened, after game 161.  The Seattle Mariners were tied with the 1906 Chicago Cubs, with one game to go to potentially hold the record outright.  In the end, that 162nd game of the season was ultimately a microcosm of the playoffs to come:  a sub-par starting effort, a somewhat pathetic effort from the bats, and a usually stout bullpen arm blowing it in the late innings.  This game had it all, and should’ve given us great pause about this team.

Nevertheless, the team had the record, and with it a new kind of pressure.  If you’re a team that has the most wins in MLB history and you DON’T go to the World Series and win it all, then can you truly be considered a great team?  Or are you just a footnote?

You have to believe that notion was weighing on the minds of everyone on this team.  And that pressure HAS to be what ultimately led to this team’s undoing.

***

The 116-win Mariners were to host the 91-71 Cleveland Indians, while the 95-65 New York Yankees were forced to tangle with the 102-60 Oakland A’s.  Those same A’s who finished the season a mind-boggling 29-4 to lock down the Wild Card.  A rematch of the 2000 ALDS where the A’s took the Yankees to 5-games before finally blowing it.  The Mariners, meanwhile, were embroiled in a rematch of the 1995 ALCS.  Only, this was a very different Indians team.

The 2001 Mariners played the Indians 7 times in the regular season.  Four games in Cleveland in early August, three games in Seattle in late August.  The Mariners were 5-2 in those seven games.  But, if you’re any kind of Mariners fan at all, there is one game between the Indians and the Mariners you will never forget.

Game 111.

Sunday, August 5th, 2001.  The third game of a four-game series, the Mariners had won the first two games with relative ease.  And it looked no different for much of the third.

The game started off innocently enough:  through one inning, no score.  Then, in the top of the 2nd, the Mariners busted out to a 4-0 lead thanks to a few doubles and a well-timed 2-RBI single by Ichiro.  Through two, starter Aaron Sele was cruising:  two hits and a walk, but no runs scored.

Then, things got downright NASTY in the third:  three straight singles to lead off the inning knocked the starter out of the game.  Seven of the next eight batters reached base either by hit, walk, hit-by-pitch, or error (and that lone out turned into an RBI sac fly).  Sele gave up another lone single in the bottom half and after three innings, the score was Mariners 12, Indians 0.

In the bottom of the fourth, Jim Thome hit a two-run home run, but in the top of the fifth, the M’s got two more on a flurry of hits to take a 14-2 lead.  Sele held that lead through the bottom half and at that point the Mariners had a 100% win expectancy.  The score stayed the same until the bottom of the seventh, when shit started hitting the fan.

A solo home run by a young Russell Branyan.  Two quick outs, then a single followed by two walks knocked Sele out of the game.  John Halama came in and immediately gave up a 2-run single before getting out of the jam.  14-5, Mariners.

Bottom of the eighth, leadoff homer by Thome.  14-6, Mariners.  A hit-by-pitch and another homer.  14-8, Mariners.  A groundout and two singles knocked Halama from the game.  Enter:  Norm Charlton.  An RBI double made it 14-9, Mariners.  Charlton ended the damage, then came back for the ninth.

A single, two outs, and a double kicked off the start of the ninth before Charlton was replaced by Jeff Nelson.  Mind you:  14-9, Mariners, one out away from victory, runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Nelson promptly gave up a walk and a 2-RBI single.  14-11, Mariners.  Enter Kaz Sasaki for now what has become a save situation.  A Kenny Lofton single loaded the bases, bringing up Little-O, who cleared the bases with a triple.  Game tied.  An out later and we’re in extras.

At this point, the Mariners haven’t scored a run since the 5th inning.  Ichiro, Edgar, and Olerud had all been replaced, because who would’ve thought that a 12-run lead could be blown so spectacularly?  Of course, the Indians replaced four of their starters, including Juan Gonzalez and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.

Anyway, the 10th inning came and went without a run scored.  Jose Paniagua came in, got a pop-out, then gave up three consecutive singles to lose us the game in the bottom of the 11th.  15-14, Indians.  One of THE worst games I’ve ever seen in my life.  Just an absolute back-breaker.

So, when we saw that the Indians were going to be our ALDS matchup, you can understand why everyone kept talking about Game 111.  Even though the Mariners did what they did in 2001, winning 116 games, dominating in every facet of the game, there were chinks in the armor that could easily be exposed.  Like, say, in a 5- or 7-game series.

***

Game 1 happened on October 9th.  Ace vs. Ace, Bartolo Colon vs. Freddy Garcia.  Colon was in his 5th season and actually just had a so-so year.  Very up and down.  He was only 14-12 with a 4.09 ERA, but he was clearly the best pitcher they had.  On any given day, he could absolutely shut down an opposing offense.  And, it just so happened October 9th was one of those days.

8 innings, 6 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs.  A Cleveland 5-0 victory to steal game one in Seattle.  Ominous start, to be sure.

However, the Mariners came right back two days later to dominate in a 5-1 affair, with Jamie Moyer out-duelling Chuck Finley.  Moyer went six, giving up 1, and the bullpen went 1-2-3 with Nelson, Rhodes, Sasaki.  The exact blueprint for most 2001 Mariners victories.  The offense only generated 6 hits, but made them all count, with Cammy and Edgar each knocking in 2 RBI apiece.

Game 3 took place on the 13th in Cleveland, with a rookie C.C. Sabathia taking the hill against Seattle’s number three Aaron Sele.  Sabathia won 17 games as a rookie and began his reign of kicking Seattle’s everloving ass every time he took the mound.

Only, this game wasn’t about Sabathia.  He was just okay, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, walking 5 and striking out 5.  No, this was about it being the Beginning of the End for Aaron Sele.  He had been pretty steady throughout the year, but what had been a sub-3 ERA going into June was approaching 4 by the end of the year.  In this game, he was a God-damned trainwreck.  He lasted only 2 innings before Lou yanked him out of there in favor of Paul Abbott.  Of course, Abbott was unbelievably worse!  He ended up giving up 8 runs over the next 3 innings!  The cherry on top was Jose Paniagua in the 8th inning.  In one inning of work, he managed to give up FIVE runs!  A 17-2 drubbing like nothing I’ve ever seen.

All of a sudden, the 116-game winners were one game away from elimination, with another game to go in Cleveland:  a rematch of Game 1, where Bartolo Colon torched us.

Things were pretty grim, but fortunately Colon wasn’t the same world-beater.  The Mariners knocked around 11 hits and brought the series back to Seattle.  Edgar was the big hero here with a double and a homer.

Game 5 was a carbon copy of game two, right on down to the brilliance of Moyer and the usage of the Big 3 in the bullpen:  Nelson, Rhodes, Sasaki.  The Mariners would go on to once again face the Yankees in the ALCS; a rematch of 2000 where the Yankees won in six games.

Like in 2000, the A’s once again took the Yankees to a deciding 5th game.  Unlike 2000, where the Yankees and A’s split the first two games in Oakland, in 2001 the A’s swept the first two games IN NEW YORK.  Are you kidding me???

I shit you not.  But, that’s when the Yankees’ pitching decided to flat out dominate.  Mike Mussina spun a 1-0 shutout in game three (going 7, with Rivera getting the 2-inning save).  El Duque, Orlando Hernandez proved what a big-game pitcher he could be by dominating in game four.  And Clemens led off the fifth game where the bullpen really sealed the deal.

***

Game 1 of the ALCS kicked off in Safeco on October 17th.  Andy Pettitte vs. Aaron Sele.  Hold on a second while I pull the gun out of my mouth …

This game was a 4-2 snoozer where the Yankees flat out dominated us.  Pettitte went 8, giving up 1 run off of 3 hits.  Meanwhile, Sele wasn’t terrible.  He only gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, but we just had no chance.  Our offense went AWOL.

Game 2 was also in Seattle, and WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!  Mike Mussina, dealing once again.  Freddy Garcia gave up 3 runs in the second inning; Mussina gave up 2 runs in the fourth inning (thank you Stan Javier 2-run jack), and that was it for the scoring.  The series went back to New York with the Mariners down 2-0.  10 hits in the first two games for Seattle.  Four runs scored.  Hold on a second while I finish tying this noose …

Game 3 showcased Jamie Moyer vs. El Duque.  GREAT!  Only the guy who murdered us in the ALCS in 2000, what joy!

Except, hold on a second!  The Mariners promptly gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the first, and held that 2-0 score through four, but THEN … POW!  A whole SHITLOAD of runs!  2 in the fifth, 7 in the sixth, 2 in the seventh, 1 in the eighth, 2 in the ninth.  A 14-3 DISMANTLING of the Bronx Bombers!  Where was THIS the first two games?  Ho HO, the offense is BACK, BABY!

Yeah, yeah no.  Mees-sir Superman no here.

Remember Game 4 in 2000, when it was Paul Abbott vs. Roger Clemens in Safeco Field, where Clemens threw probably the greatest post-season game in the history of ever?  Well, guess who the starting pitchers were in Game 4 of 2001.  Would Seattle be able to turn the tables?

Hold on a second while I finish lighting this bundle of dynamite strapped to my chest …

To be fair, Abbott and Clemens each went 5 innings, each giving up 0 runs.  So, there’s that.  In fact, in the top of the 8th, Bret Boone crushed a solo homer to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.

SIX OUTS!  Six measly fucking outs.  And here comes Arthur Rhodes!  Yes, he was one of many goats (but probably the most high-profile goat) in 2000, but he was also coming off a career-best season!  He was, for all intents and purposes, our very best pitcher in 2001.  And look at THIS!  David Justice!  Remember?  Remember how he killed us in 2000?  Well, what would you say if I told you … that Arthur Rhodes struck his fucking ass out!?!  Because that’s what happened!  Five measly fucking outs!

But, then Bernie Williams decided to come in and become the hero.  Slam.  Homer.  Tie game.  Rhodes got out of it two batters later, but the damage was done.

The M’s went down in order in the top of the 9th, and Lou decided to bring in Sasaki, our closer, even though this wasn’t a save situation.  You know what they say about bringing in closers in non-save situations, don’t you?  You don’t?  Well, essentially, what they say is:  don’t.  Don’t bring in closers in non-save situations.  Unless you want that closer to fuck your shit up but good.

He gave up a 2-run missile to a young Alfonso Soriano (playing second base, remember that?  When he was a second baseman?) with only one out in the 9th and that was the ball game and PLEASE fucking hold on while I finish swallowing this bottle of skull & crossbones poison …

So, I don’t know about y’all, but that was the final straw for me.  Ever since, I have hated-slash-never again trusted either Arthur Rhodes or Kaz Sasaki.  Which probably isn’t fair, because outside of that anomaly of a Game 3 where they scored 14 runs, the offense REALLY screwed the damn pooch here!  Two years in a row!

Game 5 featured Pettitte and Sele again and a bunch of terrible defense and I think you know where this is going.  YEP, you know where this is going:  Sele got torched, the bullpen sucked dick, the offense sucked many bags of dicks, and the Yankees won 12-3.

The all-time winningest team in the regular season … sigh … lost in the ALCS in five games.  One game WORSE than the 2000 Mariners, when all is said and done (who at least took the ALCS to six games).  If you wanted to expend the energy, I GUESS you could call bullshit on the whole 2-3-2 playoff format.  The team with the supposed home-field advantage had to play three straight games in Yankee Stadium a month after 9/11 … but I’m not going to sit here and blame that on the Mariners losing.  Fuck, man, this was a team effort and they would’ve gotten their shit kicked in no matter WHERE they played these games!

The team with the number one offense hit .211.  The team with the best bullpen in the game saw that very same bullpen give up 12 earned runs in 14 innings.  Aaron Sele, who had been, as I said, so steady, went 0-2 and looked miserable doing so.

The only solace I can take away from this crushingest of blows in a long, endless line of crushing blows, is the fact that the New York Yankees lost in the World Series in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, with Mariano Rivera blowing the final game and Randy Johnson winning in relief.  He shared World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling, and he couldn’t have been more deserving.  The same guy whose back was too fragile to re-sign to a long contract extension (if you even consider four years a “long” time, which was his initial contract with them) was World Series MVP on a team in its fourth year of existence.

The Seattle Mariners, meanwhile, have been around for 36-going-on-37 years.  The Seattle Mariners are one of two teams who have never been to a World Series (the other being the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals).  The Seattle Mariners have not been back to the playoffs since 2001 (thanks to those fucking Moneyball A’s in 2002 and 2003; God I hate Brad Pitt SO MUCH; I’m GLAD YOU FUCKING LOST AT THE END OF THAT SHITTY MOVIE EATADICKANDDIEYOUFUCKSBLARGLFLARGLMARGLESPARGLE@!!!2).

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.

The Mariners Own A Brand New, Mint Condition 15-Game Losing Streak

UPDATE – Not Quitting Day Job:  This Guy!  Good lord was that a drubbing.  Hello 16-game losing streak + counting …

The last time the Seattle Mariners won a baseball game was July 5th.  It is now July 25th as they start a 3-game series in Yankee Stadium.

I just figured I’d bang this post real quick and shove it out of bed for a couple reasons:  first, who enjoys thinking about how much the Mariners suck?  I know I don’t.  For the record, 15 consecutive losses is the most consecutive losses the Mariners have ever had.  Now I’m REALLY glad I took that week off from thinking about and talking about the Mariners.

Secondly, this week – as early as today – we’re going to be talking about the Seahawks and nothing but the Seahawks.  What with the CBA being agreed upon, we’re looking at teams being able to sign their own players starting at noon; followed by teams being able to sign anyone starting tomorrow.  The Seahawks need about 95 people to fill out their roster, so suffice it to say this week should be the most fun we’ve had in Seattle in quite some time.

As for the Mariners, it looks like this:

  • Vargas vs. The Chief
  • Fister vs. Sabathia
  • Felix vs. Hughes

Here’s a hint as to how this series is going to go:  Fister will have zero runs of support and we will get killed in that game.  I’m going to say that Felix just destroys the Yankees and we find a way to beat Hughes 2-1.  And I’m going to predict that TONIGHT, in a 4-3 contest, Jason Vargas breaks the 15-game losing streak!  Put your money down now, folks, because it’s going to be a glorious night in the Bronx!

By the way, if the M’s can somehow find a way to win 2 of 3 in New York, my fortune-telling days may just be starting.  I’m right-on about the Texas sweep, and for 2-7 to happen on this road trip, 2-1 needs to happen in this series.  Not impossible.  Of course, for my prophecy to REALLY come true, we’ll have to subsequently be swept by the Rays.  That might be tough since we’re scheduled to miss their two best starters …

Seattle Mariners All Stars Results Post

It’s been a long weekend of moving and no Internet; suffice it to say I’ve got posts I want to put out there that are far more pressing (or interesting) than this, but I figured I’d get this out of the way now while I have a minute.

It looks like my prediction was correct.  How ’bout that.  Let’s take a look at some of the key participants.

David Pauley didn’t do what was needed of him; namely, he wasn’t perfect.  Since my post, he’s given up 3 earned runs in 8.1 innings, ballooning his ERA all the way to a gaudy 1.38.  EGAD!  In all seriousness, this would’ve been an uphill battle even if he HAD been perfect.  It takes a mountain of circumstances going your way for a middle-reliever to make an All Star Game.  Mostly, their inclusion is a reward for a team being in first place at the break (and, generally, being in first place in convincing fashion, like the 2001 Mariners).  Teams that are hovering just below .500 and in third place don’t get the luxury of having a middle reliever make the team (unless, of course, that lone middle reliever is the team’s best player because the rest of the team is so bad; in which case, why wouldn’t that reliever be starting or closing games?  I guess we’ll have to ask Aaron Crow to find out the answer to THAT mystery).

The biggest snub on the team easily goes to Michael Pineda, but when you look at this thing Big Picture style, I can see both sides of the argument.  On the one hand, the Mariners have some of the best pitching in all of baseball.  In particular, their starters rival the best rotations at a fraction of the cost and hype (Phillies, Giants, etc.).  These Mariners pitchers are working in constant pressure situations (46 of our 85 games have been decided by 2 runs or less) and still keeping us in contention despite an offense that might actually be worse than last year’s historically inept squad.  So, naturally, a team with pitching like that would deserve more than just the two guys they gave us.  And Michael Pineda would be the most-deserving of the left-over bunch (plus, let’s face it, he’s a rookie and he’s exciting as hell).

On the other hand, we are a sub-.500 team.  It would be foolish to expect anything more than what we got.  Therefore, to get Pineda on the team, you’d have to snub either Felix or League.  Can’t snub League, he’s leading the AL in saves.  And as for Felix, you could argue Felix vs. Pineda until you’re blue in the face, but it all boils down to reputation.  Felix was the Cy Young Award winner last year.  He’s not having a terrible season this year, even if he’s not exactly mowing opposing lineups down by sheer will.  A 3.35 ERA is nothing to sneeze at, and his 124 strikeouts rank third in the AL.  If Pineda, with the same numbers next season, gets snubbed two years in a row, then I’ll start calling shenanigans.  But for now?  I’ll just say that if C.C. Sabathia can’t crack an All Star squad with his numbers and high profile, then it’s probably a moot point that Pineda was left off.

As for King Felix?  Good for him.  Of course, it sucks because from what I understand he’s pitching the Sunday before the game and therefore will be ineligible to participate in the actual All Star Game.  But, you know, it’s one more small thing to throw on the resume.

And bravo to Brandon League.  He rode out a river of shit-smelling foulness in early May and came through smelling like roses.  He’s still leading the league in saves, his ERA is back down to a respectable 3.28, and only Mariano Rivera rivals him in K/BB ratio among the top 4 saves leaders (all of whom made the team; with the only other reliever being the aforementioned Aaron Crow, KC’s lone invitee).

It will be interesting to see if League gets to pitch an inning (or, heavens forbid, the 9th inning of a save situation).  Assuming he’s actually there (his wife is expected to foist another human into this world anytime between now and then), I have to wonder.  After all, Ron Washington is managing the team.  I gotta think any way he can stick it to the Mariners, he’s going to do it.  The Mariners could be that rare team who has 2 All Stars and neither participates.  That would be unfortunate.

Finally, a few words for Ichiro.  He’s getting a remarkable amount of publicity for not making the All Star Game for the first time ever.  I know the national media is pretty out of touch with all things Seattle, but Christ, just take a look at the guy’s batting average and consider your investigation closed!  Of all the snubs in all the towns in all the world, Ichiro’s would have to fall to dead last.  It’s a non-issue, national sports writers; let this one go.

Although, if the rumor was true that was spreading around Safeco on Saturday night (that the earthquake & tsunamis severely interrupted Internet service in Japan, thereby rendering Ichiro’s International Vote Totals to their lowly point), then that’s just got to be the cherry atop the sundae for them, huh?  All that devastation and destruction, and now they don’t even get to see Ichiro play in the All Star Game!