The Mariners Were On Fire While I Was On Vacation

You hate to max out your vacation time before Labor Day, but I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of my trips this year. The past 10 days or so were no exception, and I can see that the Mariners felt the same way, as they wrapped up a 6-game undefeated road trip while I was out of town.

Apparently, we have the Cleveland Guardians’ number. When I left, we were hosting them for four games, taking three. There was a 3-1 victory where Marco Gonzales got back on the horse and all the scoring was completed in the first inning for both teams. We followed that up with a 3-2 nailbiter in 11 innings. We had our only loss to the Guardians after that, with an uncharacteristic blown outing by Andres Munoz. Still, it was a narrow 4-3 affair. But, we came right back to take the series, winning a 4-0 shutout thanks to Robbie Ray’s 7 innings of dealing.

That set us on the road for the Tigers and Guardians again. We had no trouble destroying the Tigers: 9-3, 5-3, 7-0. We got to take a load off of Kirby’s arm in the first game (giving Flexen the 4-inning save). The Return Of Abraham Toro came with a 2-run homer in the later innings to give us the lead for good in the second game. And Logan Gilbert took advantage of a lot of runs early to throw 6 relatively easy shutout innings before giving way and saving his pitch count. Great job, everyone!

Even more impressive was the 3-game sweep of the Guardians on the road, especially when you factor in how – on Sunday’s getaway game – it took over 8 hours for the game to complete thanks to huge rain delays. We beat ’em 6-1 in the opener, on the back of another strong outing by Castillo. We shut them out again 4-0 in the next Robbie Ray start on Saturday. And we finished them off in that aforementioned rain game, where Kirby was limited to 3 innings before the 4 and a half hour delay. Even though technically the bullpen gave up our 3-1 lead late, it was awesome work by those guys to keep us in it and take on the burden of the day. It gave us enough time to rally in the 11th inning, with a Crawford RBI single and a Raleigh 2-run homer. Flexen got his second save of the week, as the last pitcher available.

At the moment – with yesterday’s defeat to the White Sox, thanks to what I’m sure was a miserable late return home Sunday night/Monday morning – we’re still in a virtual tie with the Rays for the top Wild Card spot. They are, of course, charging the slumping Yankees for the division title, so things could look a lot different by month’s end. Nevertheless, even with our hot run lately, we’re still 11 games behind the Astros for the A.L. West. So, don’t even think about that.

The good news in all of this is that we’re almost a lock to make the playoffs. Our odds of making it are, like, 99% or something. This is really happening!

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

The Mariners Were Lucky To Split Against The Lowly Angels

It’s mind-boggling to think that the Mariners needed a 14-game winning streak, and to win 22 out of 25 games to close out the first half … all to keep themselves in a Wild Card spot by a measly two games. That just goes to show you what kind of offensive problems we’re dealing with on this team. Problems that aren’t going to magically disappear.

Too often, it’s too big of a struggle for the Mariners to score more than a couple runs. And that means if the pitching isn’t perfect, we’re going to fall on the losing end of games we should win. Like half of the games we played against the Angels over the weekend.

The Angels are terrible. Since the big brawl, they’ve gone on a freefall. Now, Mike Trout is hurt, which means they just have the one guy – Shohei Ohtani – and even he’s been flailing quite a bit with the bat of late.

And yet, if you knew nothing about this season or these teams, you might look at the weekend series as a whole and come away thinking the Angels are the better team.

Robbie Ray had it going on Friday, when he went 7 innings, giving up 1 run, while striking out 10. Unfortunately, the Mariners scored exactly 0 runs until the bottom of the ninth inning, when an unlikely rally tied the game at 3-3 (I should point out that the weak link of the bullpen – Ryan Borucki – gave up a 2-run home run in the top of the ninth to make this one even more challenging for the offense). That late explosion of runs didn’t carry over to the tenth, though, as the Angels sacrificed a ghost run across to win it 4-3.

We had even more solid pitching on Saturday afternoon, headlined by George Kirby going 6 innings, giving up 1 run, walking 0, striking out 8, all in 80 pitches. The bullpen was nails from there, and Ty France’s 2-run home run gave us all the cushion we needed, winning the game 2-1.

Saturday evening’s game, though, was a total disaster. This was the second of the two doubleheaders with the Angels we’ve had this season, which presumably cuts one of their trips up to Seattle off of their schedule (the remaining 7 games we play against them are all in SoCal, where they will presumably be free to plunk our guys with impunity). My main concern came to fruition in this one, when it comes to a proposed merging of Kirby and Flexen spots in the rotation. If you pitch Kirby first, that’s only going to allow the opposing team to tee off on Flexen’s slow junk balls. Which they did, albeit a few hours later, on Saturday. 6 innings, 5 runs, 2 homers. The Mariners lost 7-1, because of course the offense couldn’t pick up the slack.

Thankfully, I was there at the stadium on Sunday with my girlfriend, and our powers of luck combined woke up the bats from their hibernation! I was clad in my finest Felix Hernandez shirt and we had some pretty great seats in the first row of section 334; you could draw a straight line from us all the way to the right field foul pole (which will come up again in a bit, I promise).

As it was preordained, Marco Gonzales gave us an unimpressive quality start of 6 innings and 3 runs given up. Was there a rhyme or reason to it? No way! He gave up 8 hits and a walk, but he also somehow found a way to strike out 7. I … I got nothing.

Thankfully, the Mariners jumped all over the Angels’ starter from the get go. We were able to manufacture a run in the first (and could’ve scored a lot more). We did end up taking advantage of that guy’s wildness in the third, when Winker homered with the bases loaded, pulling the ball just inside the foul pole. No one had a better view of it being fair than we did! It was pretty glorious. We added a run in the fifth off of Haggerty’s double, and that was that. All the bullpen needed to do was preserve a 6-3 lead the rest of the way. Munoz, Murfee, Sewald, see ya later.

The day itself was beautiful. Mid-to-high 80s, clear skies. The seats we had, unfortunately, were smack dab in the center of the sun, but we did ultimately get some shade in the fourth inning or so. This came on the heels of a great weekend in general. We went to a wedding, we schmoozed on the observation deck of the Smith Tower, we walked around the waterfront and Pike Place Market, we brunched with some fine folks. The city of Seattle has taken some hits over the last couple decades, but it can still impress you if you know where to look.

The Yankees come to town tonight, and then our remaining schedule gets remarkably easy the rest of the way. We also, not for nothing, have our top three starters going the next three days. It’s not necessarily the same order as one might expect from a playoff series, but it might as well be. Gilbert, Castillo, Ray. I’ll be REALLY curious to see what they’re able to do this week.

The Mariners Traded For Luis Castillo As They Were Nearly Swept (Again) By The Astros

I can’t wait for the Mariners to sneak into the playoffs as one of the wild card teams, only to get swept by the Asstros in the A.L.D.S.

I don’t want to talk about this weekend series. The Mariners won 1 out of 4 games, and they were LUCKY to even win that. Even worse, Julio Rodriguez went on the IL and Ty France is sitting out a few days, both with wrist injuries that figure to linger the rest of the season. It’s about as low as I can imagine feeling while still technically qualifying for the second Wild Card spot.

Anyway, the deal: the Mariners get Luis Castillo from the Reds in exchange for 4 prospects. Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Andrew Moore, and Levi Stoudt.

Let’s talk about … the discourse. This deal, of course, happened over the weekend, so the best I could do is follow along on Twitter. It SOUNDS like there’s panic in the ranks of Mariners fandom. And I get it, this is a massive haul of prospects going away. Marte was probably our highest-rated prospect, and word on the street is that Arroyo has the potential to be even better. Two short stop prospects for a year and a half of a starting pitcher?! That’s a lot! To say nothing of the reliever who throws over 100 mph (Moore) and the lottery ticket of a starter (Stoudt).

I’ll just say this and move on: Twitter is a poor example of the general populace. They’re only the most vocal and complain-y members of the populace (and I absolutely acknowledge my very small part in that). But, I think more Mariners fans – especially the most casual Mariners fans – are deeply in favor of this move, because it means we’re FINALLY going for it, after all this time.

It’s the loons who obsess over prospects all the time that really get to me. How many prospects actually pan out and turn into stars? It’s a very small percentage. How many of those same loons pegged Jarred Kelenic as a can’t-miss uber-prospect? Well, I’d say he’s very much missed in his parts of two seasons in the bigs. And I don’t think it looks good for him going forward.

We all figured Marte was on the trade block. We’ve got J.P. Crawford locked up long-term, for starters. And even if Marte is destined to shift over to second or third base, he was probably at least two years away from being in a position to crack our roster. That’s for a guy who, again, is no guarantee. He’s not Julio. Now, he might turn into a very good player, but them’s the breaks. You need to trade some good prospects every now and then to get in some good players. Guys who, you know, will perform well at the Major League level right away.

Arroyo hurts, though. He’s not as highly-rated as Marte – at the moment – but his trajectory suggests his prospect rating is about to explode. He could go down as not just the one that got away, but the really embarrassing folly of this deal. For the two of them, plus a reliever with tremendous potential, plus a starter, again, it seems like the Mariners should’ve gotten more.

At the very least, I would’ve loved to have seen this deal at the beginning of the year, piggybacking on the Winker/Suarez deal.

The rational side of me understands this is what the Mariners need to do. First of all, they need to over-pay for literally everyone, because they’re not the Yankees. We’re all paying that fucking Yankees tax, because everyone in the world over-rates Yankees prospects to the point of insanity (when, in reality, the Yanks are the best in the world at keeping their very best guys, while jettisoning good-looking guys who will ultimately under-perform expectations).

But, moreover, the Mariners have to take this opportunity. To strike while the iron’s hot. Because you don’t get a lot of these chances in the game of baseball.

That being said, the irrational side of me sees this as the Erik Bedard Deal 2.0. Remember that disaster? Remember how the Orioles got marginally better with players we could’ve desperately used to actually contend? What are the Reds going to do with our guys, other than flip them down the road for more prospects, while maybe squeaking into a wild card once or twice?

Here’s the upside, though: Luis Castillo is legitimately amazing! He throws in the mid-to-high 90’s with a devastating change up. He’s been compared to young Felix (given how hard he throws) and veteran Felix (when he wrangled that change into a Cy Young-winning weapon of mass destruction), so I’m conditioned to like this guy!

He’s an ace, period. Now he’s in a rotation with Robbie Ray (shrug emoji), Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, George Kirby, and Chris Flexen. Say what you will – and spoiler alert, I’ve got some thoughts – but that’s a pretty formidable rotation.

We needed another starting pitcher for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Kirby is going to reach an innings limit and almost certainly won’t get to participate in the playoffs. There’s also talk about pulling back on Gilbert, since this is just his second season – and first full season – in the big leagues. Then, there’s always injuries to contend with. So far this year, we’ve seen the injury bug hit our bullpen pretty hard, and our everyday lineup a fair amount. But, our rotation has been wildly, unsustainably healthy through four months. I think everyone expects that to change at some point; at least now we’re better prepared. I shudder to think who might’ve stepped in had we not brought in Castillo.

He also gives us the best opportunity to make a significant impact at the deadline. If you’re like me, then you’re pretty sure the Mariners either don’t have what it takes to wrestle Juan Soto from the Nationals, or they’re not willing to do what it would take. My hunch is, what it would take starts with a Julio Rodriguez and goes from there. There just aren’t a ton of great bats out there! The best addition we’re likely to see is Mitch Haniger when he comes off of the IL.

What happens if we trade for a bat, and he’s like so many other guys we’ve brought in? Either he’ll need an adjustment period to get used to playing half his games in Seattle, or he’ll downright fucking suck his entire time here. We’re just as likely to see positive regression from the guys already on our roster (Winker, Frazier, Suarez) than we are to see a vast improvement from some outside bat (again, if you believe Soto is unreachable). So, I’m cool going this route and holding off until the offseason before addressing the offense again.

This team lives and dies with its pitching. That’s also – not for nothing – what most of the very best playoff teams do. If we’re going to make any kind of noise in the postseason, we need monster pitching (which is why I hope we make moves for another ace reliever or two).

I have high hopes for Castillo. He’s been elite even in that bandbox they play in over in Cincy. I’m a little annoyed that his first two appearances in a Mariners uniform are going to be against the Yankees and Gerrit Cole, but here we go! We’ll get a great look at how his stuff is going to play. If he comes in on fire, I think that bodes well for this year and next. If he struggles, then I think we’re going to be justifiably concerned. We HAVE guys who can dominate the Rangers and A’s; we need someone to take down the Yankees and Astros!

If he pans out, there’s nothing that says we can’t extend him beyond next year. If the Mariners are out of contention next season – and an extension doesn’t look likely – we can always flip him at the deadline. But, otherwise, heading into 2023, our rotation looks set, and it looks pretty fucking great. Castillo, Ray, Gilbert (with the training wheels fully off), Marco, and Kirby (who should be that much stronger in his second season in the bigs).

In the short term, that’s it for the Cheating Astros for the regular season. God willing, we won’t have to see them again until 2023. Don’t think they’re cheating anymore? Well, don’t tell Robbie Ray that, because they seem to be tipped off to what he’s throwing, better than most other teams in the A.L.

The Mariners Swept The Rangers After Being Swept By The Astros

Even weirder: the Astros just got swept by the Athletics after sweeping the Mariners. Baseball is idiotic.

Oh, what a difference a Julio Rodriguez makes!

He didn’t return in time for Monday’s game. But, the impact he made on Tuesday and Wednesday is pretty gargantuan.

Monday’s game was a run-of-the-mill 4-3 victory. Chris Flexen went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. The offense manufactured a couple runs in the fourth, before Ty France hit a solo bomb in the fifth, with Santana beating out a fielder’s choice (avoiding the double play, in other words) to add an insurance run in the seventh. Diego Castillo didn’t have very good command – needing 22 pitches to get one out in the ninth, while giving up a solo homer to give the game its final score – but Erik Swanson only needed three pitches to get the final two outs for his second save of the year.

Tuesday’s 5-4 victory was anything but run-of-the-mill. George Kirby returned from his mini-sabbatical, tethered to a pretty severe pitch count as the team ramps him back up. He was expected to throw 60-70 pitches (thinking maybe 3-4 innings of work), but he only needed 51 pitches to make it through five innings, to potentially qualify for the victory. He looked outrageously impressive; sharp with his command, and nasty with his 2-seam fastball moving all over the place. All told, he gave up 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 4 and giving up 0 runs.

The aforementioned Julio Rodriguez returned for this one and homered in his first at bat of the game. The Mariners continued to make the Rangers’ starter work as we got another run in the same inning. It looked like he might get knocked out early, but those were the only two runs the Rangers’ starter gave up.

It was 2-0 heading into the seventh, before Texas closed the gap to 2-1. However, Cal Raleigh homered in the bottom half to make it 3-1, and seemingly pave the way to a safe and sound M’s victory. Not so fast, though, as Paul Sewald got two quick outs before suffering some insanely bad luck. Well, the two walks weren’t “bad luck” so much as “bad command”. But, the 2-run double to tie the game looked like it was going to go foul before bouncing the opposite way – just inside the first base bag – as if it was deflected by an invisible tennis racket or something.

Erik Swanson came in for the top of the ninth – game still tied – but the Rangers worked him over for a run to make it 4-3 heading into the bottom half. That’s when the offense got going again. J.P. Crawford led off with a single, followed by a Cal Raleigh double to tie it at 4-4. Adam Frazier sacrificed Cal over to third, and with one out on the inning, the Rangers did the sensible thing: they intentionally walked both Julio and Ty France to load the bases.

Unfortunately for them, we had Carlos Santana in the 3-hole. Having a veteran, professional hitter to take that spot means the world to this organization. Santana worked the count to his favor, then got a ball he could drive to center. It was JUST deep enough to score Cal on a tag-up from third base (after video evidence on replay review confirmed he didn’t leave early).

That set the stage for Wednesday’s afternoon sweeping, 4-2. Marco Gonzales gave up 2 runs in 7 innings (4 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts), though we were down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when the magic man did it again.

With one out, Cal walked and Sam Haggerty doubled to put runners on 2nd & 3rd. Instead of intentionally walking him again, the Rangers left their starter in there to face Julio, who made him pay with a 3-run jack to make it 4-2. Swanson and Munoz combined to endure the eighth, and Matt Festa worked the ninth for his second save of the season.

In hindsight, I don’t see how anyone pitches to Julio in that situation ever again, especially with first base open. The Rangers even had the benefit of not having to face Ty France, who was getting the day off to rest a sore wrist. I don’t know how likely it would’ve been to see him pinch hit, but it sure seemed like the M’s wanted him to rest ahead of our trip to Houston (first game later today). Regardless, you love to see two players of the calibre of J-Rod and France hitting back-to-back like that. Pick your poison, man! Or, walk them both and still have to go up against a professional hitter in that 3-hole.

I can’t tell you what it means to our season to not have fucked away this Rangers series after faceplanting against the Asstros last weekend. Now, we play those Asstros again, followed by the Yankees, which could make for a very LONG next seven days.

What Should The Mariners Do At The Deadline?

There are three schools of thought: trade for more Major League-ready (albeit shorter-term) talent, trade away our Major League talent for more prospects, or stand pat.

The Stand Pat option is the least-satisfying one, not to mention pretty psychologically damaging to the mental well-being of the players and coaches in that clubhouse (not to mention to us as fans). While I’m sure they’re very confident in each other and their own abilities, even the biggest World Series contenders could always use a little help in some key areas. That being said, the Stand Pat option also might not be the worst one of the three, though I couldn’t possibly advocate for it here.

You only get so many bites at the apple, as they say. If you’re not doing everything in your power to take advantage of the opportunity your strong play has created, then you’re just not doing your job as a General Manager. This is especially true in baseball, since it’s so damn wonky.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by following the Seahawks, but it seems like in the NFL – as long as you have a top tier franchise quarterback – you’re always going to be in contention for a playoff spot. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to making the Super Bowl – you need so many things to go right for that to happen – but you frequently see teams with quality quarterbacks go on hot streaks at just the right time.

With baseball, I think you see teams catch fire in the playoffs even more often; the key is simply getting there. What do we remember about the Mariners from 1995-2003? A lot of good, right? All of our post-season appearances took place in this period of time. But, in those 9 seasons, we actually made the playoffs only 4 times (heartbreakingly, we won 93 games in 2002 and 2003, yet failed to reach the post-season). What happened those other five years?

Well, we obviously had the talented core to put up a lot of great stats, and win a lot of ballgames, but we failed in our charge to add to the team when the playoffs were within our grasp. The Pat Gillick years were unmatched in our level of on-field success. But, there’s a reason why he was derisively called Stand Pat. Because more often than not, he did nothing when he should have done something; and the few times he went and made a move, it ended up being the wrong one (hello: Al Martin).

There’s a part of me that sees the level of talent we’ve been able to draft and trade for in recent years, and wants to continue on this course where we have a young, cheap core of players for the next decade. But, there’s absolutely no guarantee that any of the guys in the minors right now will amount to a hill of beans in the majors. Meanwhile, we’ve got some pretty good ones in the bigs right now who need some help around them, if we want to make a dent in the playoffs.

The Mariners are 51-42, right in the thick of the Wild Card hunt. Not just in the hunt, but IN the playoffs, if the season ended today. Our current playoff odds place us at 80% to make it; I couldn’t possibly tell you the last time it was that high! Probably 2003.

As such, it makes zero sense to ship off our veterans for more prospects. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I could see maybe one or two veterans getting moved. But, that would almost certainly be in conjunction with bringing in other veterans to take their place. Maybe we find a taker for Adam Frazier; he is an unrestricted free agent next year, after all. But, if we do that, that would probably be because we’ve found a replacement at second base who looks a little more promising, either for the remainder of this year, or hopefully for the next year or two. Maybe we package Jesse Winker with some prospects to help bring in a high-falutin’ outfielder who’s a little less volatile at the plate. Maybe we flip Carlos Santana – now that we’re confident Ty France is healthy – and would rather save the DH spot for Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger, to bring them back more slowly when they return.

Really, what needs to happen is what I’ve been alluding to all along: the Mariners need to do (almost) whatever it takes to improve the Major League ballclub, whether or not it’s a combination of veterans and prospects. And, at this point, I don’t think you can afford to leave any stone unturned.

There are obvious guys you don’t deal. You have to keep Julio and Cal. You’re probably locked into J.P. and Suarez given their contracts. And I really don’t think Haniger or France are going anywhere (especially Hangier, given he’s more valuable to your team than he would be on the trade market). On the pitching side of things, Robbie and Marco aren’t going anywhere. You’d probably be idiotic to trade Gilbert, Kirby, or Munoz. And there might literally be a mutiny if you trade Sewald.

But, as far as minor league prospects are concerned, or anyone else on the Major League roster I haven’t mentioned, I think they’re fair game. Now, obviously, this is where Jarred Kelenic comes into question. I don’t think he’s totally fallen off the map when it comes to prospect status – he could still very well turn into a great Major Leaguer. But, there’s no question that his value has taken a significant hit. This is the second consecutive year since he was called up to the bigs where he’s had to spend a good portion of the season in Tacoma. He’s got massive holes in his swing, on top of confidence issues that have left him endlessly tinkering with his approach. Before the 2021 season, you could’ve asked for the moon and stars when it came to a potential Kelenic deal; now, he’d be little more than thrown into a package of prospects to bring in a quality Major Leaguer. It would be Kelenic plus 2-3 other high-level prospects to bring in an All Star.

So, would I do that? It depends on the All Star. I’d love to lock down another premium spot on the field that we’re currently filling with a replacement-level guy. Maybe a corner outfield spot, maybe second base. I would need that guy to come with a big bat that’s not going to falter in T-Mobile Park, nor require a platoon because his splits are so stark.

The question on everyone’s mind is Juan Soto, who apparently rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension with the Nationals. He’s under team control through 2024. If he’s turning down THAT deal, then what are we looking at? He’s already earning over $17 million in his first Arb year this year. So, not only are you paying an arm and a leg over the next two years, but you’re probably giving him the biggest contract in Major League history to stay here long term. How do you get that done, and then turn around and extend Julio Rodriguez (who, I would argue, is the higher of the two priorities, in this hypothetical scenario where Soto gets traded to the Mariners)?

Do you just pull the trigger and let the chips fall where they may, hoping you win it all at some point between now and 2024? Do you pull the trigger, give it a couple years, and then maybe trade Soto at some point in 2024 to try to recoup? Do you try to pay both him and J-Rod and just pray you have enough pieces making the minimum around them to continue contending for the playoffs?

Half measures are a great way to win nothing, both in the short and long term. Trading for Soto would be anything BUT a half measure. However, is he enough? It seems to me, you make a Soto deal when you need that final piece to the puzzle (or, if you’re looking for a boost and a superstar to build around). The Mariners have their superstar to build around in Julio. We’re also more than one piece away from World Series contention. If we’re going to drastically trade off prospects to bolster the Major League roster, then I’d like to see them go to other areas of need.

I’d love to trade for another ace-level pitcher, for instance. What does Ray, Gilbert, and Ace 3 look like, when surrouned by Marco, Kirby, and Flexen as a 6th guy/long reliever type? Pretty great, right? Maybe add another reliever or two who throw in the upper 90s with filthy breaking stuff? Can’t have enough relievers! And, I think you can get away with middling another bat, either as an outfield platoon/insurance, or as a starting second baseman, to spare us the combo of Frazier/Toro/Moore.

If we can do that, while not completely decimating our minor league system – to save some prospects for next year and beyond, either to bolster our Major League roster, or to trade for more help – then I think I’ll be happy with the effort put forth to contend in 2022.

I already believe this is going to be a playoff team, barring more injuries. It’s not unfathomable that this could be a team that makes some noise in the post-season. With the right collection of players, and a good amount of injury luck, we might even make the World Series for the first time!

The Mariners Swept The Rangers, Literally Refuse To Lose

There comes a time in most every Mariners season when you start doing the math. If the Mariners were to only win – throw out some crazy insane number, like 22 of their next 25 games – then we’ll pass a bunch of teams in the standings and put ourselves right back in that playoff race (assuming they lose some crazy number of collective games in that same span). It’s the final nail in the coffin for a fan, right before you give up and admit how impossible it all is. Acceptance: your season is dead.

Because teams just don’t go on those crazy insane runs! They don’t win 22 of 25 games! They sure as shit don’t win 14 games in a row! That’s not how baseball works. You win 60 games, you lose 60 games, and it’s what you do with the rest that determines if you make the post-season or not.

Except, here we are. THESE Mariners DO win at this ridiculous clip. It defies logic. How is this the same team we saw struggle so mightily in the month of May? Two months ago. Two months ago, this was legitimately one of the worst teams in all of baseball. Now it’s the absolute hottest team in all of baseball.

On June 19th, the Mariners lost to the Angels to fall to 29-39 (the Angels at the time were 33-36). Now, we’re 51-42, while the Angels are 39-53. How is that for a turnaround?! Fuck them Angels, is what I’m getting at.

It has, of course, been an ideal time to play the big mediocre chunk of our schedule. Other than a total of six games against the Blue Jays and Padres, none of the teams in this span have a winning record (to be fair: the Orioles are at exactly .500). The Rangers are one of those mediocre teams, and we got to play them four times heading into this week’s All Star Break.

On Thursday, Marco had a bear of a time, coming off of last week’s double header in D.C. that featured a Bullpen Day in the second game. But, he gritted through six innings, giving up 5 runs. Naturally, the offense picked him up, and the bullpen did its job, because that’s what this team is about now.

We overcame deficits of 4-0 in the second, and 5-1 in the fifth, thanks to a Sam Haggerty inside-the-park home run, and lots of ass kicking by Winker, France, and Julio, among others. When you talk about how impossible a 14-game winning streak is, it’s because you’re not supposed to win games like these. Games where the starter doesn’t have it, and the offense struggles through the first six innings. But, we ralled for five runs in the seventh and eighth innings to take the 6-5 victory.

Friday’s game featured your run-of-the-mill Robbie Ray Quality Start, where he went 6.2 innings, gave up 3 runs, and struck out 12. We built up a 4-0 lead halfway through the game, gave almost all of it back by the seventh inning (4-3), before Julio Rodriguez struck with a grand slam in the top of the eighth, with two outs and a reliever who was mystifying our hitters to that point. It was a star-making moment in a season full of them for our All Star.

Saturday’s game was a thrilling little pitchers duel. Carlos Santana gave us a 2-1 lead early with another homer, but the Rangers tied it in the seventh off of our otherwise remarkable bullpen. The game went to the tenth inning before a J.P. Crawford single put us ahead 3-2. Matt Festa got the save with a clean bottom half.

Sunday, on paper, would’ve been the most likely game to break the winning streak. Chris Flexen was taking the hill on short rest – a byproduct of sending George Kirby down to Tacoma to rest his arm – but he came through with 3.2 innings of 1-run ball. Since we were looking at a juicy four days off this week, we pulled out all the bullpen stops from there. Thankfully, the offense was up to the task, with 2 RBI each by Cal Raleigh, Julio, and our late-breaking All Star, Ty France (who got the invite over the weekend, presumably due to injuries on the A.L. squad).

Hilariously, the Mariners have done all this winning over the last month, but we’re still 9 games behind the Cheating Astros. But, more importantly, we’re firmly entrenched as the second Wild Card team (out of three). We’re a half game behind the Rays, a full game ahead of the Blue Jays, and three games ahead of the Red Sox (who are on the outside looking in).

I never could’ve imagined this happening in my wildest dreams. I kind of half-expected the Mariners to improve during the summer, maybe getting tantalizingly close to contending for a wild card spot (like a small handful of games out), but ultimately finishing the way the Mariners always do: just short. That could still happen, if I’m being honest. The hitting could revert to being less than clutch again, the bullpen could gag away games here and there like they were at the beginning of the season, and the rotation has been way too healthy compared to what would be expected of literally any baseball team.

But, boy, does this have a different feel to it. I know I must have said that before, in the last decade-plus where the Mariners have looked like they might be contenders. Odds are, I’m setting myself up for disappointment, just like in those years. But, I dunno. The way the Mariners are doing it – with Julio, Cal, Ty, J.P., Winker, and Haggerty (of all people) leading the way – it’s not just a gaggle of overpaid vets on short-term deals doing the job (save Santana, I suppose; what a godsend!). It’s the young, fresh-faced new blood leading the way.

No Jinx Guy or anything, but this could be it!

The Mariners Swept The Nationals In A Doubleheader

The winning streak is now 10 games. Oh, you read that right!

This was always a two-game series – after an off-day on Monday to fly across the country – but Tuesday’s game was entirely rained out. That led to a doubleheader yesterday – one in the morning, one in mid-afternoon – against the lowly Washington Nationals. Doubleheaders are notoriously difficult to sweep under any scenario, but you can kind of see why the Nats are so bad.

The morning game ended up being the lone suspension game for Julio Rodriguez (who this week was not only named to the All Star Game, as our lone participant, but also entered into the Home Run Derby, making it a thing I have to watch for the first time in eons), which finally puts an end to all the Anaheim Brawl Madness.

We got another great start, this time from Chris Flexen, who went 6 innings and gave up 1 run. We also got some offensive magic throughout, with a Suarez 3-run bomb in the first, a couple of solo bombs by Winker and Frazier in the fourth, and an insurance bomb by Raleigh in the ninth.

That was a 6-1 lead we took into the bottom of the ninth. We had Paul Sewald warming up – prior to Raleigh’s homer in the top half – for some reason, but opted to go with Penn Murfee instead. He got two outs, but gave up a 3-run homer to Juan Soto before being pulled. It looked like – for a second – that Servais was going to let Murfee pitch out of it, but there was just no way. Say what you will about the Nationals, but they can run a lefty-heavy lineup out there with the best of ’em. And a guy like Murfee – with a slurvy slider that kind of sweeps over the plate – probably isn’t the best option out of the ‘pen. Paul Sewald did come in to get the final out – on 4 pitches – to rack up his first save of the day (spoiler alert).

Game 2 was always going to be a Bullpen Day. The Mariners have temporarily sent down George Kirby to manage his innings load on the season. With the All Star Break coming up, it makes sense from a timing perspective. I’m told this allegedly won’t be the only time he gets sent back down for a spell, but I have my doubts on that, barring injury.

In spite of the Bullpen Day, it turned into quite a pitchers duel! Erik Swanson got the start and went two shutout innings. He gave way to Tommy Milone, who fustigated them for 3.1 more shutout innings, before he finally left the game with runners on. That lead to Matt Brash coming in and getting out of the inning lickety split with a double play. He ran into trouble of his own the following inning, but Diego Castillo was there to clean up the mess.

All the while, the Mariners had been in a scoreless tie until the sixth inning, when Winker hit a solo bomb (his second of the day) and Frazier hit a sac fly to give the M’s a 2-0 lead. That held until the ninth, when Sewald came in and promptly gave up a solo homer to Soto to make it 2-1. He was able to make it out, striking out the side, holding that 2-1 victory (and almost certainly earning himself a well-deserved day or two off in this Texas series coming up).

That’s 10 wins in a row. That’s 18 wins in the last 21 games. That’s a 47-42 record. That’s good for a 3-way tie for the last two wild card spots. Not that we’re at that point or anything. Just pointing out the obvious. Also, stay away from the divisional standings, because even with our good fortune of late, we’re still 11 games behind the Cheating Astros. We could sweep them the rest of the regular season and still be four games back; it’s insane.

Will the Mariners ever lose again? Almost certainly, as soon as this next series. But, they could also keep this train rolling somehow. Crazier things have happened!

The Mariners Were On Fire While I Was On Vacation

I want to get this in before tonight’s Blue Jays series starts, because I feel like there’s a good chance it doesn’t go well, and then I’ve waited until after a loss to write about how “on fire” the Mariners have been lately. It’s not a good look.

Also, not for nothing, but am I the only one weirded out by a random Wednesday off-day? This whole week has been absurd, with a 2-game road trip to San Diego sandwiched around a bunch of home games. What was the point of all this?!

Anyway, I’ve been on vacation down south for the last week, and it was a glorious opportunity to unplug from regular life. I did, of course, follow along with my Twitter feed to stay apprised of current events.

It feels like a month ago that the Mariners had that brawl with the Angels. And yet, we’re still dealing with suspensions? Only in America! In reality, it’s been 9 games, where the Mariners have managed to go 7-2, improving their record to 41-42. SO CLOSE TO .500!

There was, I guess, what we’re calling a “let-down” game in the opener of the Baltimore series. But, in reality, George Kirby didn’t have it, giving up 7 runs in 4 innings, en route to a 9-2 defeat. We followed that up with a Robbie Ray-induced 2-0 victory, behind his 7 shutout innings (capped off by a Winker 2-run double in the eighth to break up the 0-0 tie). We capped off our season series against the Orioles with a good old fashioned 9-3 drubbing, behind Flexen’s 6 strong innings and lots of hitting up and down the lineup (J-Rod homer and 3 RBI, Haggerty’s 3 for 3 day, Toro & Winker’s multi-hit games).

We were able to keep it going in a 4-game set against the A’s, in spite of a so-so effort from Logan Gilbert in the opener. He went 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, but we went on to win 8-6. J-Rod had another homer, as did Dylan Moore. Winker and Raleigh had multi-hit games. And the bullpen did just enough to not gag it away. We lost the next day, 3-1, when the offense couldn’t do anything (hard luck day for Marco Gonzales, who went 6 innings and gave up only 2 runs). But, we won the next couple games by a 2-1 score. Kirby dominated in his game, going 7 innings, giving up 1 run. He was helped by a pinch-hit Justin Upton homer in the eighth to tie it, before we got a good rally going in the ninth to win it in walk-off fashion. Not to be out-done, Robbie Ray continued his crazy-good streak, pitching into the seventh, striking out 12 and giving up just the 1 run. Julio accounted for all the runs scored in this one, with a leadoff homer in the first, and an RBI double in the sixth.

The capper (Mariners-speaking) to my time away was a 2-game sweep of the Padres. We dominated in an 8-2 win on Monday, with Flexen pitching 6.2 shutout innings. Raleigh, Toro, and J-Rod had all of our RBI in this one, which was extremely encouraging. Also, J.P. Crawford had 3 hits (his suspension having concluded), and the recently traded-for Carlos Santana had a couple hits to help out while Ty France is injured. We continued in dominating fashion, winning 6-2 on Tuesday. Gilbert went 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned). Meanwhile, Haggerty, Moore, and Crawford had all our RBI.

There are too many positive storylines to get into, but shout out to Julio Rodriguez for being the earliest player to hit 15 homers and steal 20 bases in MLB history. Shout out to Robbie Ray for severely turning his season around after it looked like the American League figured him out. Shout out to our fill-ins – Haggerty, Moore, Santana, and even Toro – for stepping up while our starters have been suspended and/or injured. Shout out to our rotation as a whole for laying waste to the rest of the league. Shout out to Scott Servais for holding the team together through our lowest point in ages. Shout out to Cal Raleigh for taking a HUGE step forward in his development, and absolutely putting a stranglehold on the catcher position.

Our work isn’t done, of course, but it’s nice to be back around .500. We SHOULD be getting guys back over the next month. Haniger hopefully won’t have any setbacks. Kyle Lewis is out on rehab from his massive concussion. Ty France is progressing from what I’m assuming is a hyperextended elbow.

No Jinx Guy or anything, but this could get interesting!

The Mariners Are Such A Fucking Bummer

I have no real reason to write about the Mariners for a second consecutive day. They didn’t even play a game last night! But, from a Seattle sports perspective, there isn’t anything worse that could have happened to us in 2022, and so I feel compelled to wallow.

I … don’t have a healthy relationship with sports.

The Kraken were one of the worst teams in all of hockey, and they didn’t even get rewarded with a top 3 draft pick in the lottery. The Husky football team is in full rebuild mode, and figures to be spinning its tires for the foreseeable future. The Husky basketball team is coming off of a somewhat-entertaining season, but also appears to be heading into a rebuild mode sooner rather than later. The Seahawks, obviously, just traded their franchise quarterback and figure to be boringly mediocre (at best) in the upcoming season. And, of course, we haven’t had an NBA team in 14 years.

All we had to sustain us in 2022 were the Mariners. Coming off of a 90-win season, with lots of exciting young prospects and promising young vets, even if a step-back was mathematically likely (for all the reasons we’ve discussed ad nauseam), you still had to figure there’d be enough magic in that old silk hat they found to at least compete for one of the umpteen wild card spots.

And yet, here we are. 10 games under .500, three weeks into June, with 94 fucking games remaining, and no sign of there being any improvement on the horizon.

Sigh.

SIGH.

sigh …

On June 21st a year ago, we were 38-36. Obviously, we were a little ahead of the pace we’re on now because that season started on time. But, even when you factor in where we were 68 games into the 2021 season, we were only 2 games under .500 (33-35), and that just feels like a tremendously huge advantage over where we’re at now (29-39). It’s four games. But, it’s so much more than four games.

This has to do with HOW the Mariners are winning and losing. Last year, the Mariners made a habit out of getting blown out on occasion, while winning the majority of close games, to ultimately be one of the funnest teams in all of baseball. This year, it feels like the opposite, even though that’s not totally true. I will say this, though: the 2021 Mariners were 11-28 in blowouts (games decided by 5+ runs); the 2022 Mariners are 8-7 in said affairs. Our run differential in blowouts is actually +10 this year, while it was -135 in 2021. And, when you figure overall our run differential is -19 on the season, that means in all games decided by 4 runs or fewer, we’re getting crushed. If we’re 8-7 in blowouts, then we’re 21-32 in games decided by 4 or less. And, not for nothing, but when you figure we’re 12-11 in 1-run games, that means in games decided by 2, 3, or 4 runs, we’re 9-21.

Well over half of our games are entirely winnable. And we’re finding ways to lose them more often than not.

Same Old Mariners, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

I want to sit here and cry out to the heavens, “Why is this happening?!” But, the answer is obvious: it’s the hitting, stupid! And yet, the 2021 Mariners were arguably a worse hitting team. To wit:

  • 2022: .232/.315/.374/.689; 24th in BA, 15th in OBP, 25th in SLG, 21st in OPS
  • 2021: .226/.303/.385/.688; last in BA, 28th in OBP, 26th in SLG, 27th in OPS

You figure the 2021 numbers were over a whole entire season, while the 2022 Mariners are likely to improve if for no other reason than the weather will be warmer going forward (to say nothing of the guys they’re likely to get back from injury later in the year). Also, it’s hard to see the OBP numbers dropping considerably (barring injury), while again the slugging should improve over where it stands today.

When you tack on how vastly superior our starting rotation is this year compared to last, it truly boggles the mind! We had significant innings going to the up-and-down nightmares of Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, and Yusei Kikuchi, not to mention a rookie in Logan Gilbert, and a very down first half from Marco Gonzales. This year, we’ve got Gilbert pitching like a true ace, significant improvement from Gonzales, and significant improvement out of our back-end with Kirby (to say nothing of the potential of a bounce-back from Robbie Ray, who’s starting to mix things up and pitch better of late).

It really boils down to that infuriating fucking bullpen. In 2021, they were a wrecking crew; this year, they’re a disaster zone. All other things (hitting and starting rotation) not just being equal, but improved, and yet here we are.

Of course, if you want to go by Win/Loss record, Marco and Flexen are a combined 10 games under .500, which is the exact number of games the TEAM is under .500, but that’s neither here nor there. That ignores the vast number of inherited runners the bullpen has allowed to score (the same guys, mind you, who were stranding at an impressive rate in 2021).

The thing is, again, this is what we expected. Of everyone, the bullpen was the most likely to regress, because they were playing out of their minds last year. What we needed to happen – what we were banking on, for the 2022 Mariners to be similarly entertaining – was for the other elements to be improved enough to make up the difference. We needed the hitting to put us in a position to afford the bullpen some slip-ups here and there. I think we’re getting as much as could be hoped for out of the rotation, but I suppose if they were playing out of their minds to a similar extent that the 2021 bullpen was playing at, we’d probably be happier than we are now.

But, I’m sticking with the offense narrative, because it’s just a nightmare to watch on a nightly basis.

And yet, when you toggle back and forth, you see a lot of similarities – and even improvements – when you compare the 2022 offense to the 2021 incarnation. Ty France is even better this year! He had a 4.2 WAR in 2021; he’s already at a 3.0 WAR not even halfway through 2022. J.P. Crawford is better: a 3.8 WAR in 2021, already a 2.6 WAR in 2022. Eugenio Suarez is a step up from Kyle Seager (1.6 WAR vs. Kyle’s 2.0 over all of last year). And Julio is more than making up for the loss of Mitch Haniger (1.9 WAR vs. Mitch’s 2.9 over all of last year). Cal Raleigh is improved over where he was a year ago (0.9 WAR vs. -0.5 WAR), as is Kelenic (0.0 WAR vs. -1.7 WAR) by simply not being here.

But, there are three massive black holes who are getting a lion’s share of games, and just giving us NOTHING in return. Adam Frazier is a -0.1 WAR player (he’s been anywhere from a 1.8 WAR to a 4.0 WAR player, save the COVID season). Jesse Winker is a -0.5 WAR player (he was good for a 2.7 WAR season last year). And Abraham Toro is a -0.3 WAR player (he was good for 1.7 WAR last year, including 0.9 WAR in a comparable number of games with the Mariners post-trade). Those three guys all by themselves have added up to lose us a full game, which isn’t easy to do only 68 games into the season. They’re not the only duds, of course. Luis Torrens is -0.4 WAR (he was 1.0 WAR last year, largely as a DH). And the dregs of our roster depth have all been below replacement-level.

This is what happens when guys like Haniger, Tom Murphy, and Kyle Lewis can’t stay healthy. This is what happens when a young stud you were counting on – Jared Kelenic – is so abysmal, he has to be sent to Tacoma to keep from further embarrassing himself.

This is what happens when you put the kind of pressure on an organization – to Win Now – because it’s beyond time to start winning some fucking ballgames and getting back to the playoffs, and you don’t fill out the roster with capable players to step up in times of crisis.

You know what’s bumming me out the most? I’d gladly accept a 29-39 record if it meant Kelenic took a step forward from his promising September last year. I’d be elated with a losing record if Matt Brash was kicking ass in the rotation. I’d be thrilled if Raleigh did more than strike out and hit dingers. I’d be elated if other guys who figure to be part of our future: Winker, Toro, and Suarez, for instance, could be counted on for a better collective batting average. Suarez gets a pass for kind of being who we thought he’d be – especially when Winker and Frazier have shit the bed so thoroughly – but it’s not like he’s an All Star or anything. Maybe if Suarez was hitting a 40+ home run clip, but at this rate he’ll be lucky to see 30 (he’ll probably finish in the mid-to-high 20’s).

There’s just little-to-no hope. Not compared to last year. Last year, we still had Kelenic as a viable option to bust out. We had Toro as a competent super sub type of player. We had Torrens giving us a quality professional at bat throughout the second half of the season. And we had Mitch Haniger playing at a Comeback Player of the Year type of level, with the potential to stick around beyond 2022 as a steady veteran presence in the middle of our lineup.

Now, what do we got? Haniger can’t stick around beyond this year, not if we know what’s good for us. We get two more years of a shitty Winker. We have Kelenic languishing in Tacoma. We have a boom or bust guy in Raleigh.

On the plus side, we’ve got J-Rod, Crawford, and Ty France. And a whole lotta prospects too far down in the minors to make any sort of imprint on the Major League ballclub in the near future. Our holes to fill in 2023 and beyond include second base, and left and right field (that’s if you’re okay with mediocrity at third, catcher, and a revolving Rest Day at DH). That’s not even getting to the pitching staff, which will probably need someone to improve over Flexen, and whatever we end up doing with this fakakta bullpen.

Every year, it’s one step forward and four steps back. Every year, it’s too many holes to fill on a mediocre roster and not enough resources to even come close to making this team good. Ever year, it takes the absolute perfect collection of moves, and that almost never happens in the game of baseball. Every team deals with injuries. Every team deals with acquisitions who are total busts. But, the Mariners thoroughly and completely lack the depth to compensate for such fuck-ups. As a result, we’re given yet another team that fails to make the post-season. We’re told once again to wait until next year. We’re fed a line of horse shit and asked to believe in the process. Just when our hopes are their highest, SURPRISE, the team is fucking shitty once again!

It’s not even July. Which means the weather isn’t even nice around here. Not that the greater Seattle area is pleasant even when the weather IS nice (in those small handful of days between the perma-overcast fall/winter/spring and the summer wildfires that send a blanket of smoke to cover the entire Pacific Northwest). It’s overcrowded, with too much traffic, and chock full of fucking assholes with their heads up their fucking asses. We could always say – even if Seattle was Sports Hell – the rest of it was nice. Not anymore. Everything fucking sucks here now, especially the sports.

Thanks Mariners. I know you tried your best. And that’s what’s so utterly depressing about all of this.