The Mariners Most Likely Won’t Lose 100 Games This Year

The Seattle Mariners currently sit at 62-87.  Doing the math (or better yet, just doing the counting), I see that the Mariners have only 13 games left in the season.  We would have to lose every game the rest of the way to get to 100 losses.

Our magic number is 1!

I don’t suppose that’s a magic number in the sense most people are familiar with magic numbers in sports, but for the Mariners, 1 win will make all the difference.

Look at it:  we came into this season with lower than low expectations.  Anyone who predicted a .500 season, or anything close to a .500 season is a God damn moron, there I said it!  Yeah, I’m talking to YOU!  All you blogs, all you sports writers and beat reporters and national pundits!  You all had the Mariners in the 70-win range when you had NO REASON for it!  And you M’s fans, forget about it!  You’re fucking CRAZY!

Regression.  That’s all you got?  Certain players had outrageously bad seasons and SURELY they couldn’t replicate the badness back-to-back!  Bullshit, of course they could!  And, in many cases, they did.  Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Jack Cust, Jack Wilson, Michael Saunders; ALL of those guys followed up bad seasons with even worse seasons.  Compound that with the fact that Ichiro took a huge dive, Justin Smoak went on an extended slump (that is, when he wasn’t out with injury), Miguel Olivo is a walking Golden Sombrero …

I didn’t intend for this to be a 2011 Retrospective.  There will be plenty of time for that in the off-season.  This is a call-out to all the people who predicted this team would be better than it actually is.

And, for a while there, they were looking pretty damn good and I was looking pretty damn foolish.  For a while, the Mariners were at or above .500.  They were in contention for the AL West, their starting pitching was off-the-charts good, and their bullpen was doing things (Jamey Wright, David Pauley) that nobody in his right mind EVER could have expected.  Then, that 17-game losing streak happened.  I guess that’s one case where regression actually makes sense.

You know what I predicted for this year?  “Record Prediction:  65-97.  AL West Finish:  4th Place.  Draft Pick in 2012:  4.”  I’m EERILY fucking close to all of those things hitting right on the nose.  Look at my post HERE (and trust that I didn’t go back later and adjust it).

To hit my record, the Mariners have to go 3-10.  Look at the schedule!  6 games against the Rangers (fighting hard with Anaheim for the division), 3 games in Minnesota, another game in Cleveland, and 3 games at home vs. Oakland.  It’s not the most difficult schedule in the world, but 3-10 is VERY much on the table!

Currently, the Mariners are drafting 4th by a half game (San Diego is tied with us in the loss column, with one more in the win column) and by one and a half games (Baltimore has 1 extra loss, 2 fewer wins).  Should we go 3-10, as I predicted, I would say 4th is a stone cold lock (if not a lock for an even better draft slot).

And, obviously, the Mariners are last in the AL West.  By a whopping 5.5 games.  This one is a done deal.

Anyway, before I got all sidetracked on your idiotic predictions, I was talking about how 1 win will make all the difference.  And it will!  The psychological disgust involved with seeing triple-digits in the loss column is overpowering.  It’s a stench so foul, it will haunt you in your nightmares!  It’s the kind of thing that gets GMs and field managers unnecessarily fired.

I’ve said all along, while I thought the Mariners would be terrible, I still want to see Jackie Z retained.  That’s still true.  It’s a lot easier on management (I mean upper management here, the guys who hire and fire guys like Jackie Z) to NOT fire someone if they’ve got fewer than 100 losses.

However, a GM who has proceeded over a team with back-to-back 100-loss seasons … that’s a bitter fucking horse pill to swallow.  And I understand Z has already been signed to an extension, but first of all, who really expects contracts to ever be honored (even in Baseball where everything is guaranteed)?  Secondly, back-to-back 100-loss seasons is only going to serve in additional pressure on our already-beleaguered GM.

I don’t need Z suffering the ill effects of Armstrong & Lincoln breathing fire down his neck, whispering in his ear, “You gotta win now!  We gotta get more asses in those seats!”  That’s the kind of pressure that makes a guy panic in his wheelings and dealings.  Signing guys he wouldn’t normally sign because they’re a big name who might attract a few hundred more season ticket holders; trading away blue-chip prospects for guys who will help us in the interim, but won’t help us in the long run.

Look, I’m not one of those guys who says, “Don’t trade ANYBODY,” and keeps talking about the farm system like it’s some magical fairyland that produces nothing but top-notch Major Leaguers.  I understand not ALL of our prospects will pan out; I understand that we need to make trades to bring in guys to help the big ballclub (as opposed to the other way around; trading Major Leaguers to help the farm).  But, I just don’t want Z making the wrong deals, or deals he will later come to regret, simply because there’s this pressure on him to Win Now Or Else.

The Mariners winning 1 more game will go a long way toward helping that.  99 is better than 100.  Yeah, it’s just 1 game, but the distance between those numbers is a country mile wide.

How Have Our Ex-Mariners Fared So Far?

I feel like, when a few Mariners get traded, Mariners fans still have an interest in how those players perform.  At least, I know I do.  If I hated the guys, I’m hoping they go on to fail miserably (Carlos Silva).  If I don’t necessarily agree wholeheartedly with the trade, then I hope they fall apart so we don’t look like dopes for trading a sure thing (Brandon Morrow).  And, if I like the guys, I kinda hope they do well (though, if they get traded to Boston or the Yankees, I hope they do well while their teams go downhill … Erik Bedard).

Even though there’s all this interest among Mariners fans, it’s pretty obvious that the local media does a pisspoor job of giving us occasional updates.  I get it, they have a lot on their plates as it is.  Following a Major League team full time comes with a lot of responsibility; they don’t have time to be pouring over all the box scores of every team the Mariners have ever dealt with.  In that sense, maybe someone should start a blog devoted to following only the ex-Mariners (or, only the ex-Seattle players).  Not the worst idea in the world.  If you decide to run with it, give some credit where credit is due, huh?

In the meantime, here’s a quick and mostly uninformed look at the three guys the Mariners traded at the deadline last month.

Doug Fister – My boy went out in his very first Tigers start and did what he does best:  limit teams to two earned runs or less while going seven innings or more.  Specifically, vs. Texas, he went 7 and gave up 2 earned runs.  AND, he got the win for only the fourth time this year (against 12 losses in spite of a sub-4 ERA).  His next start was in Cleveland and involved a massive rain delay that kept him to 2 innings pitched (with 2 runs scored) in a game they would go on to lose (more on that in Pauley’s paragraph).  Fister came back in Baltimore and got messed up to the tune of 5.2 innings, 8 runs (6 earned) on 12 hits.  He took the loss and the Tigers are currently 1-2 in his starts.

David Pauley – So far he’s pitched five times.  He pitched in the 7th inning of a win against the Rangers (getting 2 outs while giving up 0 runs and getting a Hold).  He pitched in the 7th inning again three days later, getting a bogus blown save because he gave up the tying run the starting pitcher put on (in spite of the fact there was a pitcher between him and the starter who gave up a hit while getting nobody out).  Four days after that, in extras in that Doug Fister rain delay game, Pauley got the loss in the bottom of the 14th by hitting a batter with the bases loaded (loaded because he gave up a hit and two walks beforehand).  He came in the next day, in a rout of a losing effort, and ate up some innings ineffectively.  Finally, in Fister’s latest defeat, Pauley came in right after, going 1.1 innings of shutout ball.  Have they lost confidence in Pauley already?  Well, he was never really a true 8th inning guy in the first place, but I still hope he turns it around.

Erik Bedard – So far the Red Sox are 1-2 in Bedard’s starts, though he’s only 0-1.  His first game was a no-decision defeat where he went 5 and gave up 3 (while still working to increase his pitch count).  He still got 5 K’s and 0 walks, so that’s not bad.  The next game, he went 5 and gave up 2 (increasing his pitch count by 20) in a no-decision victory.  Finally, in his latest game, he went 6 and gave up 1 earned run (with 2 unearned runs).  That was a loss, as it appears the Sox aren’t producing with their bullpen for our boy.  In 16 innings, he’s got 17 K’s and only 4 walks.  Bedard is looking a lot like the kind of guy the Yankees should have overpaid for.

Mariners Generate Ugliest 1-Hitter I’ve Ever Seen

Or, at least, one of the most unconventional.

I moved to Seattle exactly 4 weeks ago today, from Tacoma.  I don’t have cable and I likely won’t for quite some time because I really only actively watch TV for the sports I follow (the rest of the time, I find myself passively watching crap like Big Daddy reruns on FX and way more Man vs. Food than any reasonable human being should ever watch).  Anyway, as such, I don’t get to watch as many Mariners games as I’m used to (and don’t believe the hype; listening to games on the radio … not better at ALL).

Today, however, I got to sit in front of a TV like the good ol’ days, and I witnessed quite the exciting contest.

Pineda had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning, but even before that you could tell it just wasn’t going to happen for him.  He struck out a lot of guys (career high 10 when it was all said & done), but he was also falling behind in counts, walking guys, giving up stolen bases, and burying more pitches in the dirt than I’m comfortable with.  Whatever he was throwing early (change up or slider, I don’t know which) was working for him like gangbusters as he had 7 K’s through three innings; I honestly wondered if he’d go on to approach 20 K’s this game.  But, the command after that fell off the table, and it almost cost us the ballgame.

The first run scored from a walk, a stolen base, and an error on the throw down to second; from there, it was a ground ball RBI out to cut our 2-run lead in half.  This all happened while the no-no was still taking place, and you had to wonder if this lead would hold up.  Especially considering the way Pineda’s pitched in his last three games.

To his credit, he got outs when he had to, and even though he gave up the tying run in the 6th on Tampa’s only hit, he charged into the 7th inning with just under 100 pitches.  It might’ve been better to NOT have him go in for that 7th inning, but what can you do?  We were down a reliever today after Pauley got the boot and we have to get as much out of our starters as we can (especially considering Bedard couldn’t even get through two innings yesterday).

To our offense’s credit, we didn’t give up.  Ichiro led off the game with a single, and Dustin Ackley got him home with a 2-run homer to deep right-center field.  For a while there, that looked like all we’d get as their guy settled down brilliantly.  However, Ackley jumped all over another pitch in the bottom of the 6th (after they’d tied it in the top half of the inning) for a screaming double, and Mike Carp jumped all over the subsequent offering for the game-winning single.

From there, Jeff Gray was perfect, and Brandon League finally got to pitch in a game that mattered.  They combined for 2.2 innings, 0 hits, and 3 strikeouts.  So THAT’S what a Mariners win looks like … it had been so long, I’d forgotten.

So, yeah, this wasn’t your traditional 1-hitter where the starter goes all the way with a mastery of all his pitches, nor was it a shutout (and indeed it was almost a loss), but it was still a helluva ballgame and I’m actually a little glad I chose to do this instead of going out into that northwest sunshine.  Thank you Mariners, for not making me want to kill myself.

Mariners Trade Fister To Tigers

Meanwhile, Erik Bedard is going to be a sometimes-injured Mariners starter for the next 150 years.

After the streak, I’m ready and willing to see everyone traded on this Mariners team except for Felix and Ackley.  So, in that sense, I’m glad we got rid of Fister and Pauley for a AAA outfielder, a left-handed bullpen guy, a AA 3rd baseman, and a player to be named later (as you can tell, I know nothing about Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, or Francisco Martinez; you’d be better served going somewhere else for that info.  Might I suggest Lookout Landing?)

Even though I’m totally disenchanted with this team, that doesn’t mean I don’t like some of the non-Felix or Ackley players.  You could put Fister in that group of players I enjoyed rooting for; so, in that sense, this is tough for me.

There’s a lot to like about that guy!  For someone with such an average fastball and below-average other pitches, he was not only able to stick on a Major League roster, but be effective throughout the last year and a half.  Doug Fister is wildly impressive given what he is, and the fact that he was able to step up his game this season gives me hope that he’ll have a long and decorated career.  It’s just too bad it won’t be in a Mariners uniform.

David Pauley I’m much more indifferent to see go.  We signed him for next-to-nothing, he was an okay starter on a terrible team last year, he was an okay reliever on a bad team this year.  He’s helping us bring in some prospects who will hopefully help us sooner or later, so really David Pauley has fulfilled his destiny.  Good for him!

Fister, I hate to see you go but I love to watch you walk away … give ’em hell out there.  Give ’em hell.

That 17-Game Losing Streak Was A Thing of Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Mariners All Stars 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!

The Jinx Game

Look, I think we’re all a little bit guilty on this one.  YOU know what you were thinking as you watched the end of that game yesterday!  “Oh, we’ve got it in the bag!  I don’t need to pay attention anymore; this game is OVER.”

Don’t deny it because I know you were thinking it.  We were ALL thinking it.  Doug Fister had just finished murdering the Nationals through eight innings, Brandon League was in there with a 4-run lead, he let a few runners on, then got a double-play STILL with the 4-run lead.

It was over.  It was OV-ER.

This wasn’t one of those kinds of freak, one-in-a-million type things where you’ve got an 8-run lead and you blow it in the ninth.  First of all, those almost never happen.  Secondly, those almost always require the full allotment of outs.  Nobody comes back from a billion runs with 2 outs in the ninth and a harmless base runner standing at third.

You know how sometimes you can just sense these things coming?  Maybe you’ve been snakebitten in the recent past; maybe your closer can hardly muster a 92 mile per hour fastball; maybe you’re just unlucky in 1-run games.  This wasn’t that, either.  Brandon League had been lights out!  Sure, maybe a teensy bit of dread crept into my heart when he walked the guy right after the Smoak error … but that dread was slammed the fuck shut once he got that double play!

And then someone singled to make it 5-2.  And then Mike God-damn Morse drilled a ball off of League’s leg.

After that, I’m not gonna lie to you, I knew it was over.

You know how The Perfect Storm generally relates to having a bunch of oddball shit happen all at once?  Yeah.  An error, a walk, a single, an infield single off the closer thereby knocking him out of the game … David Pauley.  Who didn’t have complete faith in David Pauley going into last night’s game?  I know I did …

and yet, I still knew the game would end on a home run.  At that point, it just seemed like destiny.  They weren’t just going to tie it on a home run; they were going to WIN it on a home run.

And that’s just what they did.

I have yet to read anyone’s recap, so I guess I can’t say I’m all that well-informed about what happened or why it happened.  All I know is it’s pretty useless to play the blame game here.  Who’s at fault?  EVERYONE.  Smoak and his error.  Wedge and not leaving Fister in to close out the game.  Wedge and going to his closer in a non-save situation (when, really, you’re talking about the AL’s saves leader and someone whose been used too much as it is).  David Pauley and his hanging slider.

Each and every one of us fans for believing that the game was over before we’d gotten that 27th out.  And, quite frankly, the players themselves.  Could you blame them for thinking it was over before it was over?  I know I couldn’t.

That lead felt about as safe as a 15-run lead.  Except it wasn’t, because we all fucking jinxed it.

Fun Mariners Are Fun!

See, if anything, I bet most people would’ve predicted before the series began that we’d win on Saturday (Felix vs. Nobody) and lose on Friday and Sunday.

But lo, those Mariners, they ain’t what they used to be, ain’t what they used to be, ain’t what they used to be.

Maybe it was just because we played the Phillies, but I’m sensing that the fans are starting to feel it a little bit.  Did Philly just travel really well this weekend?  Has their success turned them into something of a Red Sox Nation where they have fans who’ve never even seen them play in their home stadium?  Could be part of it; I guess we’ll find out next weekend.

Because if you can’t get excited for being in an American League park and seeing your team’s pitchers bat right before your eyes, then there’s just nothing I can do for you.

You know what we could really use?  A good winning streak.  Another 9 wins in 11 games kind of thing.  Something to not only vault us into first place in the AL West (currently 0.5 games behind Texas), but vault us convincingly into first place.  Convincingly enough that we might just have to talk about being buyers at the Trade Deadline.

Isn’t that an odd thing to think about?  Here we are, a team with half its farm system up and contributing … and yet we’re still contending for the division?  This is a transition year!  This is a rebuilding year!  This is a year where we’re giving the kids a shot to see who we can count on going forward!  This isn’t a year where we’re supposed to think about trading some of those kids to get a veteran bat for a pennant chase!

Except it is.  It’s June 20th and we’re within half a game.  If we’re this close a month from now, we have to realistically think about things like Trading For A Bat.  Remarkable.

Remarkable and a little nerve-wracking.  Because all of our best trade chips are the same people who are keeping us in this race.  Our pitching.  Can’t move that.  If we traded away a single starter, we’d be hosed!  Who would take his place?  Have you seen Tacoma’s rotation thus far?  It’s abysmal!  And, if you convert David Pauley back into a starter, guess what:  that makes your bullpen all the crappier. 

Of course, that might have to be the way to go.  Because you know Smoak and Ackley aren’t going anywhere.  And guys like Peguero, Halman, and Carp haven’t done enough in the Majors to net you diddly squat.

And please, let’s just forget about trading Figgins.  It’s just NOT going to happen, okay?

God, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to think about these things, considering my expectations going into the year.  This is a fun baseball team to watch.  Here’s to that showing up at the Safeco turnstiles next weekend.

Vernon Wells

We just lost because Vernon Wells hit two home runs.

We LOST.  Vernon Wells!  I can’t even formulate sentence-type things because WE JUST LOST TO VERNON WELLS!

With Vargas approaching 100 pitches after 6 full innings, I went to bed and the good guys had the lead 3-2.  I figured, okay, time for that lockdown bullpen we’ve been talking so much about this year.  1 inning for Pauley, 1 inning for Wright, 1 inning for League; shouldn’t be too hard for each of those capable young gentlemen to get 3 outs without giving up any runs.  CERTAINLY, they’ve done it before!

Except, no.  Pitch counts be damned!  Jason Vargas MUST GO SEVEN INNINGS.  That surely was what went through Eric Wedge’s brain.  Forget the fact that he was probably tiring – after all, we ARE just wrapping up a 20-games-in-20-days stretch of baseball.  FORGET the fact that he was about to face the teeth of the Angels’ lineup a fourth time with his pitch count nearing triple digits.  This isn’t a team that’s going to be a slave to pitch counts!

Look, I get that.  We’re a team with a 6-man bullpen (except, we’re REALLY a team with a 4-man bullpen that occasionally throws bones to the likes of Ray and Gray); our starters HAVE to pick up the slack.  But, you know what?  As the team’s manager, you have to recognize an important game when you see one.  Yesterday’s game was an important game.

Win:  and it doesn’t matter quite so much what we do against Jered Weaver tonight.  Lose:  and now we’re fucked because Jered Weaver’s going to no-hit us and Doug Fister’s going to get knocked the fuck out!

Yesterday’s game just decided this series.  We could’ve had a chance had we gone with the bullpen to start the 7th.  Instead, we got Vernon Wells’d right in the ass.

Seattle Mariners All Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**UPDATE**

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