Shed Long Is The Mariners’ Forgotten Man

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough.

Shed Long came over in a deal prior to the 2019 season. He was an infielder in the upper minors who seemed to have potential to be more than just a utility guy. Maybe not A LOT more, but enough for the Mariners to give him a legitimate shot at winning a spot on this team. He played in two stints with the M’s – in between jaunts to and from the Tacoma Rainiers – and … was okay. He showed promise. He was good enough for the Mariners to hand him the starting second baseman job in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. With the pop in his bat and quality glove work, it wasn’t hard to squint and see him as an everyday player maybe.

At the very least, with how bad the 2020 Mariners were projected to be, it made perfect sense to at least give him a chance and see if he could prove himself.

Unfortunately, Shed Long ended up falling flat on his face. Now, apparently, he was trying to play through a shin injury that would require surgery after his season ended (instead of, you know, getting it taken care of beforehand), but his numbers really cratered and there was never a time where he looked like the answer. He eventually got benched for Dylan Moore and others, and now he’s a man without a home.

Word on the street is: the Mariners are designating him as a Super Sub. He can play any infield spot in a pinch, as well as corner outfield (we’ll see about that one). The way I see it, until Jarred Kelenic earns his call-up, there WILL be an opening for Shed Long to try to re-prove his worth. But, he’s going to have about a month and change to do it, before Kelenic gets the nod and the organization has to do some roster shuffling.

I’ll say this: I’m intrigued to see what a healthy Shed Long can do. But, I have extreme doubts. He’s never been a guy who hits for a high average, and even though – for a little guy – he has a lot of pop in his bat, I don’t believe he will hit for enough power to sustain a regular Major League career. That isn’t to say he will NEVER figure it out, but I don’t think he will manage it in the next couple months. He also, not for nothing, strikes me as a Spring Training dandy who turns back into a pumpkin when the Regular Season starts. Prove me wrong, Shed!

2021 is a Now Or Never year for a lot of Mariners, but it’s most pronounced for someone like him. It is LITERALLY now or never, in that he better hit the ground running at a furious pace to earn his playing time. But, my hunch is that he’ll be trade fodder at some point down the line; a throw-in to a deal to bring back someone (hopefully) better.

I Don’t Know If The Mariners Are High On Ty France, But I Am!

Ty France seems to be one of those players without a position. That seems to be a trend with a lot of quote/unquote third basemen who come up through the minors at that spot, especially when they’re more known for their bats than their gloves. Do natural third basemen even exist? Or are they just plus-sized second basemen or slow-footed short stops? You be the judge!

Ty France, apparently, is coming at it from another angle, as a slightly-more-athletic first baseman type. Like, imagine if Daniel Vogelbach was 2/3 of his actual size, but, you know, could still actually hit a baseball.

These types of supposedly-deficient defenders always intrigue me, because if his 2020 season was any indication, the bat is there! He slashed .305/.368/.468 in 43 games across two teams (coming over in the Austin Nola deal with the Padres), with not really much of a dropoff at all during the transition. Ideally, you probably want a little more than the 14 extra base hits in that span, but a high batting average and competent on-base percentage makes up for a lot of ills in the power game for me. I’d rather someone come from this type of floor, because you can tweak a swing to create more loft if need be; but that kind of eye for balls and strikes is much harder to teach by the time you get to the Major League level. Knowing when to swing and what to swing at is an art, and most baseball players fail miserably at it.

He’s also only 26 years old, with up to five seasons of team control (including arbitration years), and while he’s not proficient at any one position, he’s capable of filling in at just about any spot on the infield (and by that I mean first, second, or third base).

It’s hard to talk about Ty France without talking about Dylan Moore, because both of them look to factor heavily on this team in the early going of the 2021 season. Presumably, that puts Moore in left field (next to Kyle Lewis in center, and Mitch Haniger in right) and that puts France at second base (between Evan White at first and J.P. Crawford at short, with Kyle Seager at his trusty third base spot). While we know Moore can play anywhere, it’s unknown at this time if we can hide France in one of the corner outfield spots in a pinch, but given our history of left fielders, it wouldn’t shock me to see the team give it a go (it just depends on how much of a liability France is up the middle).

As I alluded to, France’s “natural” position is third base. One would hope, if Seager ends up leaving after this season, that France could slide in there and we won’t miss a beat. But, if France isn’t any good at third, you’d have to wonder about his ability to play second, where I would assume – even between a couple of Gold Glovers in White & Crawford – defensive range is more of an issue.

Worst case scenario has the Mariners playing France primarily as the team’s Designated Hitter. You would think, given our history with Edgar Martinez (and our complete inability to properly replace Gar since his retirement), that the Mariners – more than most – can appreciate what an elite DH can bring to the table. But, like most teams, we’re trying to live in the 21st Century, where the DH is more of a rotational job, to give guys days off from playing in the field every day. Which means that, in their mind, you probably don’t want to be saddled with France at DH more than 3-4 times per week, which means he will need to be at least an adequate fielder 2-3 times per week. If he’s completely inept, that’s a problem, as it drastically reduces your lineup versatility.

That’s why guys like France – more often than not – aren’t foundational pieces, but instead guys who bounce around in deals like the one we made last year. He has value – so long as he’s hitting – but rarely gets the opportunity to stick in any one place thanks to his mediocre glove.

I’m, nevertheless, quite high on him for the reasons I’ve stated. The Mariners also have one of the best infield coaches in the Major Leagues, so I would hope that he can mold France into something passable in the field. Because, if we can work that out, that’s a HUGE hole we don’t need to fill later.

If we’re looking to break the playoff drought in 2021 – at least a year ahead of schedule – then we’re going to need more consistency out of our everyday lineup. While the pitching is shaky, as we saw last year, our coaches were able to mitigate things by keeping close tabs on the starters in their individual starts (not leaving them out there to get out of jams too often in the third/fourth times through the lineup). Obviously, the bullpen needs to drastically improve, but given the natural volatility of even high-level relievers, sheer randomness could always come into play to help us out this season. But, we need the hitters to hit, and not go into super-long funks.

That means, of course, that our stars – Lewis, Haniger, and Seager – need to perform to their potential/abilities, and that means some of these diamonds in the rough that we’ve stumbled upon – Moore, our catchers, Crawford, White, and France – need to be more consistent, and help pick up the slack when others are struggling. I have no doubt that France’s bat can be a big pick-me-up for this team. But, he just needs to not be a total wasteland out in the field.

I believe he can do it! And I hope that Austin Nola deal continues to pay huge dividends for many years to come!

So, What Is A Dylan Moore?

I swear I was going to get around to doing a Dylan Moore post independent of this very interesting one by Lookout Landing. Really, if I had to give an overarching title to my series of Mariners-related posts lately, it would be: Things I Find Interesting About The Mariners In 2021. And, obviously, I find Dylan Moore VERY interesting!

He was drafted in 2015 by the Texas Rangers. He bounced around a couple of other organizations before signing as a free agent with the Mariners prior to the 2019 season. He was projected to be a utility guy who is capable of backing up at many spots: both corners of the outfield (center if you’re desperate), as well as every spot around the infield except catcher (he even pitched in one game when the Mariners were getting destroyed and needed someone to eat an inning). He made his Major League debut with the M’s in 2019 and was about what you’d expect someone like him to be: a bad hitter and a capable defender (when he even struggled with his glove early in that season, he truly looked like a lost cause; thankfully for him and the organization, he at least improved on that facet of his game before the season concluded).

It made sense to hang onto Moore heading into 2020, because why not? Depth and competition being what it is, you can never have enough cheap utility guys to help you out in a pinch. But, the Mariners also brought in a few other guys who did the same exact job, because why not? Moore in 2019 did absolutely nothing to guarantee his own job security.

With his defensive issues in the rearview, Moore went to work improving on his hitting (which you can read about in that LL piece above). What resulted was nothing short of breathtaking! Smallish sample and all of that, but Moore was absolutely one of the very best players on that team! Kyle Lewis got all the publicity – for obvious reasons – but day-in and day-out, there weren’t many people you could rely on more to come through for this team (especially once we traded Austin Nola away) than Dylan Moore.

He played so well that he went from a utility guy, to a utility guy you couldn’t take out of your lineup (once again, he played every defensive spot on the field except catcher), to a bona fide starter at second base once Shed Long went down. In fact, he played so well that heading into 2021, he’s already being pencilled into the lineup as your everyday second baseman (though, I could see him playing quite a bit in left field as well, until Jarred Kelenic gets the call-up).

It’s an exciting time to be a Dylan Moore! This year can make or break his entire professional baseball career! He’s 28 years old, he will be entering his first of three Arbitration years in 2022, he’s on a young, up-and-coming team and at least for the time being, he has the potential to be a big reason for its success. The Mariners clearly have this hole at second base that needs to be filled (to say nothing of third base once Kyle Seager moves on after this year), and unless Shed Long turns it on (being demoted to a utility role going forward), there really isn’t a lot in the pipeline. The Mariners could always make a big splash next year (maybe signing a high-priced short stop as a free agent, which could theoretically move J.P. Crawford to second base, as has been indicated by many scouts to be his future), but they also might not have to. Dylan Moore has his future in his hands; if he kills it in 2021, either the Mariners can keep him as their everyday second baseman for at least the next few years, or they can flip him for a great return of Major League talent and/or future prospects.

Considering the investment to bring Moore into the organization, I couldn’t be happier with what we’re witnessing! Assuming he stays healthy and his star keeps rising, it’s all gravy at this point!

Obviously, the downside is: he could turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. Or, you know, get hurt (which seems to happen quite a bit whenever I get excited about someone). As that LL post indicates, opposing pitchers could make his life miserable with off-speed stuff and render this whole fantasy moot. He was batting near the top of the lineup most of last year, and you’d think he’s destined to start out in the 2-hole this season; teams are fully aware of the Dylan Moore transformation. He will have to continue to work on his swing and make adjustments to the new tactics we all anticipate will be coming.

But, even getting to the point where he could hit a fastball with any regularity is a place I never expected we’d get to, so I don’t see why he couldn’t continue to improve and become a fully well-rounded hitter. Should that be the case, it’s yet another reason to be excited by the prospects of these 2021 Mariners.

The 2020 Mariners Are Giving People A Lot Of Hope For 2021

The best-case scenario for the 2020 Mariners would’ve been going 60-0 with the players we had on our original roster (without calling up any of our prized prospects), followed by a rampage through the playoffs and our first (of many) World Series titles; my second and third wishes – for the record, if there are any lamp-imprisoned genies out there reading this – would be a billion tax-free American dollars given to me through no criminal means, and my very own Perpetual Orgasm Machine that I’m able to plug into Matrix-style for my own nonstop indulgence.

Since we obviously didn’t reach that apex of baseball achievement, I’d have to say the 2020 Mariners season was a qualified success! I’ll rate it a 7 out of 10 batting doughnuts (you don’t rate baseball success on a scale of batting doughnuts?). Based on expectations as a long-suffering Mariners fan, though, I’d have to bump it up to an 8 out of 10.

There was every reason to expect the worst this year. Key guys getting injured. Potential stars failing to develop. Botched trades. Useless free agent signings. Listless or negative clubhouse chemistry compounded exponentially as losses mounted. The Mariners have been in some form of rebuild since plummeting back to Earth in 2004. You can say they’ve never really torn the franchise down to the studs until this time around – and I’m inclined to agree with you – but there’s also no one right way to rebuild a franchise. As it turns out, hindsight being what it is, we know that all the ways we’ve tried it over the last 16 years have been utter failures, largely due to the reasons listed at the top of this paragraph; we’ve seen it all and then some!

So, to have the relative success this team was able to achieve is pretty remarkable. For the first time in a VERY long time, there is reason for actual hope. This feels real! Not based on a mountain of lies and unsustainably-lucky performances. We finished 27-33, and even with the playoffs expanded to eight teams per league, we still failed to get there. Honestly, I think that’s great! We didn’t overachieve! Because let’s face it, the last time there was this much hype around a bad, yet-hopefully-rebuilding Mariners squad, we did overachieve (in 2007 and again in 2009) and were crushingly disappointed (in 2008 and again in 2010).

Our general managers in those eras made what now feels like panic moves, to bolster a house of cards and see if we could parlay unlikely success into a return to meaningful, post-season baseball. And, we ended up losing over 100 games in response both times, falling apart under the weight of too-high expectations.

That isn’t to say the Mariners should stand pat going into 2021; just stick to the plan. The plan all along was to strip away the rotting, dead wood, give our young prospects an opportunity to flourish, and then add on complementary, quality veterans to slingshot into the stratosphere. While a 60-game, COVID-shortened season isn’t the ideal form of development for our young guys, it’s better than nothing. And, you can argue they flourished all the same.

The M’s are in desperate need for young, cheap, homegrown stars (not necessarily draft picks or international free agent signings, but really anyone acquired to work their way through our minor league system). Kyle Seager was really the last one to stick in any sort of meaningful way, and he obviously has a ceiling to his level of production; before him you’re probably looking at King Felix. That’s NOT a lot of stars over the last 15 years, which makes the futility all the more understandable.

With the crop of youngsters we have on the team now, and the guys in the upper levels of the minors (who figure to be called up pretty early on in the 2021 season), there are a considerable number of candidates who could be stars for this team. That’s so exciting!

As a change of pace, I’m going to rank the top Mariners I’m most excited about, with a little blurb for each.

  1. Jarred Kelenic – We did it! We kept him in the minors for the entirety of the 2020 season! That buys us an extra year of club control, and if we keep him down there for the first month or so in 2021, that’ll earn us one MORE year. This is important, see, because he’s far and away the best prospect we’ve had in the organization since King Felix, the best position player prospect we’ve had since Adam Jones, and probably the best position player prospect who we’re not going to foolishly trade away since Alex Rodriguez! If it all breaks as it should, his floor should be as a perennial All Star, with his ceiling being an MVP-calibre superstar.
  2. Kyle Lewis – Our should-be Rookie of the Year, he’s really exceeded expectations both in his 2019 cup of coffee and his 2020 surge forward. Of course, in both instances, we saw some struggles; his final month of this season was a pretty collosal nightmare from a batting average perspective. But, he remained a tough out – with a resepctable on-base percentage throughout – and took a huge leap in his defense, in locking down the everyday centerfield job. You never root for someone to do poorly, of course, but I don’t think his end to the season was a bad thing. He’s not a finished product, that’s clear. That’s also really exciting, because we know what the floor is (and that’s a really good player); we have no idea what the ceiling is, though, which allows us to dream as big as we want!
  3. Evan White – On paper, his rookie season wasn’t all that good, but there are still promising signs of things to come. For starters, he’s already among the best defensive first basemen in baseball. That’s going to paper over a lot of things for someone who slashed only .179/.253/.352. Anecdotally, though, I think we all saw some good improvement with his approach at the plate. In 54 games, he hit 7 doubles and 8 homers; extrapolate that out for nearly a full season and you’re looking at a 20/20 player. As a rookie? I’ll take that. This was good, pain-free experience for a still-developing prospect; I know I’ve said this a lot over the years, but I really believe he’s only going to get better from here. When he makes contact, the ball really explodes off his bat! This isn’t a Justin Smoak/Warning Track Power sort of swing; he’s got some pop that will play at this level! He just needs to improve his eye at the plate and his contact rate; everything else will work itself out in the years ahead.
  4. Marco Gonzales – What a stud. Just an absolute horse for this team. Someone to lead a new generation of exciting pitchers both with his outstanding on-field performance and his in-clubhouse guidance. I’ll be honest, I forgot we already extended him through 2025, but now that I confirmed it (and at a pretty reasonable salary to boot), I’m even more thrilled! When the M’s originally acquired him from the Cardinals in 2017, I thought we were getting just another ho-hum, soft-tossing lefty who at best would translate to a #5 starter, but more likely fizzle out of baseball entirely. Boy am I happy to be so wrong! He has gotten better every year he’s been here, to the point where you can legitimately have him in the Cy Young conversation! I thought his 2018/2019 level of production was his peak – a 4 ERA type of guy who might give you 175-200 innings and keep you in most games – but what he was in 2020 was a legitimate … ALMOST ace. He’s so close! If he can do what he did this season over 30+ starts next year, then I’ll absolutely give him that mantle for as long as he’s still in Seattle.
  5. Mitch Haniger – Don’t think I forgot about you! You know what’s exciting? Having an All Star locked and loaded and ready to go (hopefully) in 2021. He’s still young, he’s still at the Arbitration level for two more seasons, he’s STARVING to be back on the diamond and among the greats in this league again (so you know motivation won’t be an issue), and he’s still talented in all the ways you want in a right fielder. Sure, he might be a little rusty at first, but he hasn’t irrevocably declined; he’s just had nagging, freak injuries. Injuries, mind you, that should fully heal and shouldn’t hamper his ability going forward. I’m under the assumption that – before too long – he’ll return to his 2018 level, where he was a 6-WAR type of player. This further helps matters because, while the Mariners do have a considerable glut in outfield talent, they don’t necessarily have to call them all up right away. We’ve got Haniger here to soften the blow! Also, with the DH spot up for grabs, if we do end up extending Haniger beyond 2022, he can always transition there and prolong his career that way.
  6. J.P. Crawford – Before the final series of the season – where he raised his batting average nearly 30 points in four games – I think there was a lot of consternation about Crawford’s 2020 season. To that I would say: this is the same guy who was hitting nearly .400 through July 31st; he’s streaky! In great and maddening ways! If you offered me .259/.335/.343 out of him every year, with the quality defense he plays at short stop, I think I’d take that and be happy. I don’t think anyone loves the idea of him being this team’s leadoff hitter – though, he was pretty great at working counts and looking at a lot of pitches this year – but as a bottom-of-the-order type of guy with plus-defense? Yes please! But, more importantly, he’s young enough that there’s still plenty of potential for him to get better as he gets used to playing at this level. I think he’s fine, and I’m happy to continue rooting for him.
  7. Justus Sheffield – There was a lot of concern for him as I’ve noted before, the bloom had come off the rose a little bit (even though he only just turned 24 this year). He was always going to start this season in the Majors and be given every opportunity to work his way through any growing pains. I think he came out of it wildly successful given my pre-season expectations! Six of his ten starts were of the quality variety, and I’d argue it would’ve been seven of ten had the manager left him in there longer in his final appearance of the season (there was no reason to push him, since we weren’t playing for anything, but he had plenty left in the tank). The fastball isn’t great, but his slider is phenomenal, and I thought his command improved tremendously from where it was in 2019. When we traded James Paxton to get him, we’d hoped we were getting a future ace; I don’t think that’s in the cards here. But, he can be a quality #2 or an elite #3 in a great rotation if he continues to progress.
  8. Ty France – He’s not the biggest name we got in the Austin Nola deal, but he’s the most Major League-ready bat, which is just what this team needs. The question remains: where does he belong? Is he a DH until Kyle Seager moves on? Does he take over at third base after that? Do we try to transition him over to second base? Do we shoehorn him into left field until Kelenic gets called up? Or, is he simply trade bait for someone else who has a more established defensive fit for this team? What I’m excited about is the fact that his production at the plate didn’t falter one bit in going from San Diego to Seattle. You never know what you’re going to get when you trade for someone; sometimes the transition causes them to press and try to do too much (leading to mistakes). His bat plays anywhere in the 2-6 range in the lineup – depending on who you’ve got around him – and it should continue to be productive as long as he’s here (under team control through the 2025 season).
  9. Dylan Moore – He’s your frontrunner for the starting second baseman job next year, but he too can play all over the field if you need him. This is VERY impressive for someone who appeared to be nothing more than a utility guy (at best) or a Quad-A level talent (at worst). We’ve seen TONS of Dylan Moore types who never took the next step into being an everyday starter, which is why his story is so special. He came into this season and really set all of our expectations on fire! His defense has DRASTICALLY improved since the beginning of 2019, and now his bat – particularly his power numbers – has taken that leap as well. He’s yet another diamond in the rough this team was able to pluck from obscurity who should be a valuable player on the roster, as well as a valuable trade chip if we need him to be.
  10. Tom Murphy / Luis Torrens – Let’s just lump both of our prospective catchers in here. This has long been a troubled position for the Mariners (as an organization with LOTS of trouble spots they’ve failed to properly fill over the years, that’s really saying something). It’s so reassuring that we not only have this spot 100% locked down in 2021, but for many years to come (with prospect Cal Raleigh knocking on the door of the Majors, who figures to be our regular starting catcher as soon as 2022 or 2023). Murphy, of course, spent 2020 injured, but he should return at full health (and to his quality 2019 form). This, fortunately, afforded us ample opportunity to get a good, long look at Torrens, who also came over from San Diego, and was really reliable in all facets of the catching game for the M’s.
  11. Justin Dunn – Our other big rookie starter getting a “full” season’s worth of experience didn’t have quite as promising of a year as Sheffield. He too has a rather disappointing fastball, but makes up for it with tons of movement. Which means that he didn’t give up very many hits (or even a ton of hard-hit balls), but he walked a bunch of dudes (31 in just over 45 innings). You wonder, if he is able to harness things and stay within the strike zone more, if that’ll translate to giving up more hits and extra-base hits. BUT, if he’s able to put it ALL together, he could be a really special guy. As it is, this was just a year to get his feet wet, and he did that, while staying healthy throughout. He’s worked his arm up, accounting for four quality starts out of ten, and now it’s time to take what he’s learned this year and advance things in 2021 and beyond. Once again – with Sheffield – he’ll be given every opportunity to walk out of Spring Training with a starting rotation job, which means he has a significant head start over the younger guys we’ve drafted in recent years, who are champing at the bit to make their marks in the Major Leagues.
  12. Yohan Ramirez – The bullpen was an unmitigated disaster in 2020, but Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we got from the Cheating Astros’ organization – managed to not only stay up all year, but be probably our best overall reliever, as well as the guy most poised to be our Closer of the Future. He made 16 appearances, got 3 saves, and had the best ERA on the team (of guys who finished the season on the 25-man roster). He had 26 strikeouts in 20.2 innings, so he’s got electric stuff; but he also had 20 walks in that span, which means he’s yet to fully harness it. Bullpen is such a crapshoot, and we’ve probably got 20 guys right behind him who all have potential to be at least competent, so I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense to go crazy here. I’m just happy we came out of this season with ONE guy I like!

I could go on and on; there are a few pitchers in the minors I’m pretty excited about, but I know almost nothing about them, and I don’t know what exactly they were able to accomplish in Tacoma this year, without any real games happening (and facing the same Mariners prospects over and over). Many of them won’t be ready until 2022 at the earliest, and even the guys who are on the cusp will still likely have to start 2021 in the minors just to prove they’re ready to be called up.

But, if you just look at the guys I talked about here, 2021 looks like it could be quite fun. By midseason, Kelenic, Lewis, and Haniger could be our outfielders. Seager, Crawford, Moore, White, and Murphy/Torrens could be our infield, with Ty France as our DH (and any number of good-looking bench/utility guys behind them, like Jose Marmolejos, Sam Haggerty, Tim Lopes, and Shed Long). What do you think about this lineup?

  1. Dylan Moore (2B)
  2. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  3. Kyle Lewis (CF)
  4. Kyle Seager (3B)
  5. Ty France (DH)
  6. Evan White (1B)
  7. Jarred Kelenic (LF)
  8. Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)
  9. J.P. Crawford (SS)

Obviously, of course, Kelenic will eventually ascend toward the 2-4 range in the lineup, but as a rookie? Let’s give him a soft landing, at least until he’s worked through his inevitable struggles.

That’s a fun lineup, though, right?! Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais are already talking about the 2021 team contending for the playoffs – which is a good year (at least) earlier than most projections had us heading into this season – and that has to be a considerable reason why. Those guys can hit, defend, steal bases, get on base; everything you want! That’s a viable Major League everyday roster that can win a lot of ballgames.

On the pitching side of things, it’s a little more iffy. It sounds like we’re going to continue with a 6-man rotation, with four of the slots going to Marco, Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justin Dunn. Figure that Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome will compete for a fifth spot (with the other likely heading to the bullpen as a long reliever), and a sixth spot going to a free agent (maybe bring back Taijuan Walker, who was KILLING it in Toronto after we traded him; it’s a bummer that it doesn’t look like he got a chance to pitch in the playoffs, before they lost to the Rays). With all the money the Mariners have to spend, I have to imagine that whoever we sign in free agency will be of high quality. So, if you figure he’s at least on Marco’s level, that’s two high-quality starters at the top of the rotation, with two promising young guys in Sheffield & Dunn, and Kikuchi who will hopefully figure it out at some point (considering his pedigree in the Japanese league). Also, not for nothing, but Margevicius and Newsome both threw lots of strikes and consistently kept the M’s in ballgames, so I have no problem with either one of them.

It’s not a dominant rotation, but as long as guys don’t regress too bad, you can win a lot with them.

The bullpen is another matter, of course. You figure the M’s will also look to free agency here to shore it up, but I won’t be holding my breath. The variance from season to season when it comes to relievers makes them too unpredictable to project. It’s going to take a lot of luck – in finding the right guys, as well as helping our homegrown guys improve in their development – but if the Mariners somehow hit the lottery with their bullpen configuration, then 2021 could very well be the year we end the streak.

It could be the first year since 2001 that we make the post-season!

(it would also help if MLB kept the playoff format as is, with eight teams per league advancing, but that’s neither here nor there).

As I mentioned, every time I’ve left a season allowing myself to dream big about the future, the Mariners have fallen on their faces. This time DOES feel different, though. The foundation doesn’t seem like it’s being held together by 15 year old duct tape, with a leaking roof and spiders crawling all over the basement. The veterans are still in their primes, the young guys look poised to develop early, and if we can just catch a fucking BREAK for once, maybe there will be cause for real, legitimate celebration in 2021!

Or, you know, maybe everything falls apart again, the front office all gets fired after making all these promises of contention, panic moves – made in hopes to save their jobs – all bite us horrifically in the ass, and we’re left to do this all over again in another 5-10 years.

When I put it that way, when do the Seattle Kraken start playing?

The Mariners Are Starting To Fade With That Weekend Series In San Diego

Let’s just pretend last night’s game against the Astros didn’t happen. Football season being what it is, it necessitates my writing about the Seahawks most Monday mornings. And I’ll be damned if I’m posting twice on the same day when I don’t have to!

So, imagine it’s yesterday morning when I’m writing this. The M’s are 23-30 and coming off of a series defeat to the Padres. The fact that we won once – and took the finale to extra innings – is impressive-enough, but with the Cheating Astros winning 2/3 over the weekend, they took an insurmountable 4-game lead heading into the Seattle series this week.

Friday’s 6-1 defeat was a bust any way you slice it. Yusei Kikuchi gave up 5 runs in 4 innings; his season hasn’t been ideal by any stretch of the imagination. In spite of decent bullpen work the rest of the way, the offense couldn’t generate more than three hits (one of them a solo homer by Evan White).

That made Saturday’s 4-1 victory all the more exciting, though. Legitimate cause for celebration – Justus Sheffield – tossed another gem, going 6 innings, giving up 1 run. He has been a true revelation this season! Kyle Lewis hit a solo homer (his 11th on the season) and two guys we brought in from the Padres in that Austin Nola deal – Ty France and Luis Torrens – combined for 4 hits and 3 RBI in this one. Nola, meanwhile, has shockingly been ice cold since going to San Diego, with only 10 hits in 49 at bats, for a slash line of .204/.316/.388, which has to be a disappointment for both him and his new team. Maybe the pressure is too much? Maybe it’s just a flukey cold streak. We’ll see. Anyway, this one got hairy in the ninth inning, with Yoshihisa Hirano loading the bases before getting out unscathed.

The finale on Sunday was pretty bonkers, with both starters getting into the fifth inning without giving up any hits. The M’s actually managed to draw first blood in the bottom of the fifth with a single and a double to take a 1-0 lead. Justin Dunn didn’t give up a hit until he got two outs into the sixth inning, before a walk, a double, and 3-run homer ended his outing. The Mariners tied it in the eighth on a Dylan Moore 2-run bomb, which eventually got us into extras. With the dumb Start A Runner On Second Base rule in effect, the Padres scored in the top of the tenth and the Mariners did the same to make it 4-4 heading into the 11th. The Padres did significant damage this time around, scoring three runs to ultimately take the game, 7-4.

Again, heading into Monday, the Mariners and their 23-30 record were good for tenth in the draft order next year. Still well within shouting distance of a much better pick! How will we do against the Astros? I’m predicting three more defeats!

(Would you look at that?! After last night’s game, I’m already wrong in my prediction!)

In Spite Of Everything, The Mariners Have Made Things Interesting

To be fair, the Houston Cheatin’ Astros have also made things interesting (by losing more than expected), but that’s neither here nor there.

1.5 games is all that separates the Seattle Mariners from an end to the playoff drought that dates back nearly 20 years. 2001 was the last time we made the post-season, making us the most suffering franchise in all of the four biggest North American sports. I wonder if that’s changed? Like, if you ranked the top ten biggest North American sports, would we be the losingest among ALL sports?! I mean, at some point we have to be the worst, and I think I would’ve heard about an organization that’s somehow been more inept than the Mariners.

Anyway, if you thought this 60-game season was a sprint, get ready, because we’ve got 12 games between today and September 27th; 12 games to try and overtake the Astros. I don’t think we can do it, but it’s 2020: crazier things have happened.

The series against the Diamondbacks over the weekend didn’t start off as fabulously as I’d hoped, with a 4-3 defeat. Yusei Kikuchi battled his way through 6 innings, giving up all 4 runs by the third before settling down. Dylan Moore hit a solo homer in the third, Jose Marmolejos hit an RBI single in the seventh, and Ty France hit a solo homer in the eighth, but otherwise the offense just couldn’t get going and we ultimately ran out of innings.

It was doubly unfortunate because the M’s went on to win the next two games, both with a score of 7-3.

Determined to get off to a hotter start on Saturday, we were up 5-0 after the second inning. Justus Sheffield quietly dominated in this one, going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits & 3 walks, with 7 strikeouts. Marmolejos and France both busted out multi-hit games (including homers for each), as did Luis Torrens and Phillip Ervin (sans the homers).

Sunday’s victory felt a little costly, as Justin Dunn was all over the place in his 2-inning start. He threw 66 pitches and while there was some good there (1 hit, only 1 run given up, and 5 of his 6 outs were strikeouts) the bad (5 walks) was too much to bear. The Mariners required seven pitchers in total to get through this one, which wouldn’t have been so bad if we had a scheduled off-day coming up (don’t get me wrong, we DID have one of those, but the A’s had to go and get COVID right before our previous series with them, and MLB was forced to schedule a doubleheader on Monday to help make up for it).

I didn’t have high hopes for this 2-game set yesterday. BUT, we had Marco Gonzales going for us in Game 1. If there was ever a time for one of his patented, dominating seven-inning starts, this would’ve been the one (recall all doubleheader games have been reduced to seven innings this year, which in hindsight was a brilliant call by the league, because there have been approximately one billion doubleheaders so far, across all of baseball, thanks to all the various COVID outbreaks). My hopes waned considerably once Oakland took a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. Marco was a trooper in this one, and it looked like he might’ve had to wear an even worse outing just to save the team (because we decided to have a Bullpen Start in Game 2), however he also settled down and limited the damage to just those five runs, over a six-inning start.

Things started to get interesting in Game 1 in the bottom of the fourth. Luis Torrens hit a solo homer to make it 5-1. Then, in the fifth, Jose Marmolejos hit a solo homer, followed by a Kyle Lewis two-run home run, closing the gap to 5-4. THEN, in the sixth, Tim Lopes – recalled specifically for this doubleheader, and inserted into the starting lineup as the designated hitter – hit his third double of the game to tie it at 5-5! What followed was only slightly anticlimactic, but the bases were loaded on walks from that point on, and Kyle Lewis ended up walking in the go-ahead run to make it 6-5. From there, Yoshihisa Hirano had no trouble locking down the seventh for his second save of the season.

At that point, we were playing with house money. And, if sports gambling were legal here (or easy to come by), I had the perfect wager. The Taylor Family Farm would’ve been doubling in size if I had my way! Because there was NO way the Mariners were winning the second game of that doubleheader. Not with a Bullpen Start. Not a chance.

I was right, the Mariners lost 9-0, though it was interesting for about two innings. The A’s gave our “starter” all sorts of fits in the first, but with the bases loaded and two outs, Kyle Lewis saved our bacon (temporarily) by jumping as high as I’ve seen anyone jump to rob the other team from a Grand Slam. It was absolutely phenomenal, and gave everyone visions of a young Ken Griffey Jr. robbing a home run in one of his early seasons on the team. This kid is SPECIAL, I’m telling you, and if he’s not the Rookie of the Year this year, I’m going to be very upset.

The only way the Mariners were going to win this one is if it was one of those oddball 10-9 affairs. Instead, the offense mustered all of two hits, as the A’s starter ended up going the distance. Ehh, it happens.

Nothing changes the fact that we are, again, 1.5 games behind the Astros. Of course, I think I read somewhere that the first tiebreaker is record in head-to-head matchups, which the Mariners have already lost even though we have three more games against them. So, in reality, it’s like we’re 2.5 games behind the Astros. We can’t just tie them in record and play it out, we have to be one game better by the end of the season.

Still, no one expected that! Our over/under was 24.5 wins; we need to go 3-9 the rest of the way to hit the over! What were my thoughts on the matter heading into the season? NEVER YOU MIND!

Okay, so listen, I need to win some money and I need to win it fast. The Taylor Family Farm is once again in trouble! No, I don’t know why I do these things! Clearly, I have a problem with gambling! Just float me some cash for a week, you know I’m good for it!

Alas, The Mariners Have No More Games Against The Inept Rangers Left To Play

The Mariners finished the 10-game season set against the Rangers with an 8-2 record, thanks to the 4-game sweep over Labor Day weekend. Ever since the disasterous Rangers/Astros/Dodgers road trip where we went 2-8, the Mariners have won 11 out of 14, and were quite close to winning two more in that stretch! That brings us up to a 19-22 record, good for third in the A.L. West and, not for nothing, but also DANGEROUSLY close to actual playoff contention!

No joke, we’re closer to second place in the division (2 games) than we are fourth place (2.5 games), and don’t forget that the top two teams in every division advance to the playoffs (plus two wild card teams per conference).

Now, of course, let’s not go crazy. The Rangers are BAD. But, what I think is pretty entertaining is the fact that the Mariners … might not be bad? I’m also highly amused that we’re in the midst of a 6-game winning streak and this is mostly AFTER the Mariners made all of their trade deadline deals. Sure, losing Taijuan Walker and Austin Nola doesn’t help, but everyone else seems to be addition by subtraction. Let’s look back fondly at the last four days, before reality comes crashing down again as we head to San Francisco to play the Giants over the next couple days.

After our series against the A’s was COVID-ed out, you’d be reasonable in thinking the M’s might be a little rusty or otherwise lacking in focus. But, Yusei Kikuchi brought his lunch pail in this one, going 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits (0 walks) with 7 strikeouts. It was a highly-effective performance (against, again, a bad Rangers offense). Dylan Moore, back from the IL, has been on fire; he had 2 hits in this one. Evan White also had 2 hits (including a double) and 2 walks, knocking in 2. And J.P. Crawford mashed a 3-run home run to salt this one away late. The Mariners were up 6-1 going into the ninth inning, when the Rangers made it marginally interesting, but they still lost by three runs.

The quality pitching continued for the Mariners on Saturday, as Justus Sheffield went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 8 hits & 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts. Dylan Moore had another hit in this one. Newcomer Ty France has had a solid start to his Mariners career, with two hits of his own (he has 4 hits and 4 RBI since coming over in the trade with San Diego). There were lots of clutch hits up and down the lineup, though, as the M’s were 5 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Also of note is that Yohan Ramirez notched his second save of his young Major League career, locking down a 5-3 victory.

Justin Dunn couldn’t let the Quality Start train fall off the tracks; on Sunday he managed 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks, with 4 strikeouts, after really struggling through the first two innings. This was a game where the offense did just enough in nailing a 4-3 win. Kyle Seager led the way with 2 hits (including a 2-run home run in the first), and Kyle Lewis had a solo bomb. Kendall Graveman made his second appearance of the weekend in this one, since returning from the IL. He’ll be a bullpen guy the rest of the way due to a neck injury that’s preventing him from getting deep into games. He also just might be a bullpen guy forever, because he seems perfectly suited for this role. He can touch 99 miles per hour with his fastball, he has tons of movement on his pitches, and he’s an unflappable veteran who should be good in these pressure-packed moments. Honestly, I’d love to see him as our 7th or 8th inning guy exclusively next year.

Finally, on Labor Day, Marco Gonzales continues to be master of his domain (I’m using that phrase correctly, right? He doesn’t jack off?). He’s also a really great baseball pitcher! 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits (0 walks) with 7 strikeouts. He is just a marvel to watch out there. I figured he could turn himself into a decent #3 or MAYBE a #2 if he really worked at his craft, but he is legitimately a borderline ace right now. At this point, I’m surprised when he’s NOT going at least 7 innings and giving up 2 runs or less. Certainly, in three of his last four starts, he’s gone 23 innings and given up just 4 runs. His ERA now sits at 3.02 and he’s worked his way up to a 5-2 record on the season. The only blemish in this 8-4 victory came in the ninth inning, when Aaron Fletcher was handed a soft landing of sorts with a 6-run lead. He got one out while giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded. Yohan Ramirez had to enter in this improbable save-situation and try not to give up the farm. He got a quick out on a sacrifice fly, walked the bases loaded again, but got the final batter to foul out to end it, picking up his third career save in the process. Big moment for the kid!

Look, I know it’s dumb to dream of the playoffs now, especially when the Astros still get to play the Rangers a whopping seven times, but I just think it’s remarkable that we’re in this position at all. The starting pitching – particularly from the younger guys, but really across the board – has been better than I ever could’ve imagined. The bullpen has been a struggle to watch, but I would argue our very worst offenders (save Aaron Fletcher, for now) are off the team and out of the organization entirely.

What has obviously impressed me the most has been the hitting. The everyday players. Kyle Lewis has cooled off considerably since his red-hot start, but he’s still finding ways to contribute and should be a leading Rookie of the Year candidate. Kyle Seager has been flat-out fun to watch! He’s the kind of guy you love to have leading a new crop of youngsters, as he goes about his business the way you hope EVERY player on your team would. J.P. Crawford is still streaky as all get-out, and hasn’t quite mastered the power element of his bat, but his ability to get on base hasn’t wavered all year; with his defensive ability up the middle, I’ll take it. Evan White is still digging himself out of a pretty deep hole to start his Major League career, but he’s been MUCH improved over the last 2-3 weeks. He doesn’t look lost at the plate, and his power is insane when he’s able to connect.

The real fun has come from the fringes. Austin Nola obviously turned himself into an All Star and was traded for a bounty. Dylan Moore appears to be right on his tail, hitting .293/.369/.565 with 7 doubles and 6 homers; that’s supposed to be your utility outfielder! He was this scrawny-looking Quad-A guy last year who was barely hitting over .200 across 113 games! Then, there was Sam Haggerty (before he just went on the IL), who came out of nowhere to hit like a maniac. And even Jose Marmolejos has been red-hot since being called back up from the minors! His defense isn’t any sort of sight to behold, but he’s more than making up for it with his power bat!

The point is, I expected the offense to struggle a lot more than they have this year. Of course, there’s still about three weeks left to go, so anything can happen.

Counterpoint: there’s still about three weeks left to go, so anything can happen! We have ten games against National League opponents (who don’t get to see us too often, and therefore aren’t used to beating up on us like the American League has). We have three games – at home – against the Astros (our rivals for one of those playoff spots), and six games against the A’s (who are leading the division at the moment, but are long overdue for a cool-off period).

If the Mariners are worthy of making the playoffs, they’ll figure out how to overcome this two-game deficit. If they’re not, then it wasn’t meant to be. Either way, it won’t change my excitement level for 2021 one iota. Better days are ahead, my friends! I can feel it!

The Mariners Managed To Beat The Dodgers One Out Of Four Times; That’s Something

I watched a GREAT DEAL of the home half of this Dodgers series, including almost all of the game on Wednesday. I had to be awake past 9pm for cryin’ out loud! Is there any way we can make all the games start at 4pm Pacific Time? Some of us wake up at the buttcrack of dawn for a living!

Wednesday’s game was legitimately fun … you know, for baseball. While I’m in Tank Mode for a higher draft pick, obviously the M’s can’t lose EVERY game, nor would I necessarily want them to. That’s not enjoyable! You’ve gotta give the kids a little success here and there to feel better about themselves!

Taijuan Walker took the hill in this one, and had thrown over 50 pitches through two innings, in giving up two runs. With a solo homer flying out of here in the third, it didn’t look like this was going to be Walker’s day. It happens. Sometimes you just don’t have it, plus the Dodgers are one of the very best teams in all of baseball. He was letting his pitches get too much of the plate; he REALLY had a lot of movement on pretty much everything he threw. It was one of those performances where I kept thinking, “Just aim for dead center and let the ball move away from that spot on its own!”

Anyway, he figured something out, because after that he settled down tremendously, giving up zero additional runs through the seventh inning, in throwing only 106 pitches. It was a sight to behold! Taijuan Walker is angling for a big-money payday in 2021 and beyond, and if he keeps pitching this way, he’ll deserve it!

The Mariners’ bats managed to knock the Dodgers’ starter out of there before he got through two innings, but we only had one run at that point to show for it. Nevertheless, in a de facto bullpen day, our bats continued to hit well, as we put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the third to take the lead for good.

Dylan Moore hit his fifth homer of the season, Austin Nola hit his third (with two runners on base, to bring his RBI total to 13), and Kyle Lewis and Tim Lopes each had two hits apiece.

This game was also highly entertaining because one of the Dodgers got called out on a legitimate strikeout (at the very bottom of the zone) in the third inning (which he wasn’t happy about at the time). Then, in the sixth, he took another iffy strike call in his at-bat – that, again, was legitimately a strike – and both the Dodgers’ hitting coach and manager were tossed from the game for arguing with the ump. The manager even came out to further argue his point, which led the Mariners’ DJ to play “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by The Police, which was the height of hilarity for a stadium DJ in these COVID-times. After all of that, when the batter struck out swinging, he must’ve said something under his breath that the ump heard, because HE TOO was thrown out!

Anyway, things calmed down after that. With a 6-3 lead heading into the eighth, the bullpen only gave up one run the rest of the way, though Taylor Williams certainly made it interesting in getting his 4-out save. The bases were ultimately loaded with two outs and Corey Seager at the plate, but Williams got ahead and finished the game with a strikeout and a 6-4 victory.

The Mariners weren’t nearly so good or fortunate last night. Clayton Kershaw pitched for the Dodgers and that’s all you really need to know. Against this Mariners lineup? Nothing about his performance was shocking to me: 7 innings, 1 run off of 4 hits and 1 walk, with 11 strikeouts. Honestly, the only thing even remotely surprising is the one run he gave up, but that’s mitigated by the fact that Kyle Seager is the owner of that one, with a solo homer; one of the most underratedly great things about Seager is his ability – as a lefty – to mash against left-handed pitching.

Yusei Kikuchi took the bump for the Mariners after missing his previous start with a minor neck strain. He was good through two innings, struggled in the third, bounced back nicely in the fourth, but appeared to tire in the fifth. 4.2 innings, 5 runs, 4 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts. Some of that could be rust; I’ll be more interested in how he responds next week.

As I noted, the offense was nil in this one, as the M’s lost 6-1. Other than Seager continuing to be Seager, the good news from this one was Ljay Newsome – a 26th round draft pick by the Mariners in 2015 – finally making his Major League debut. And, in risking another jinx, he looked really good! He went three innings – to REALLY save our bullpen in this one – and only gave up a solo homer. On top of that, in his final inning of work, he got into quite a little jam and was able to pitch out of it without giving up further damage. Considering the opponent, that’s a debut you can really hang your hat on!

The Mariners are 8-19 now, with a series against the Rangers over the weekend, before we hit the road again. With the Red Sox winning a couple, we’re now the second-worst team in the Major Leagues, in both record and winning percentage! We’ve got a ways to go to catch the Pirates, but I’m liking so much of what I’m seeing right now.

The Mariners Were Swept In The First Half Of The Home & Home Series With The Dodgers

Ways to lose: the M’s have found a few.

I just wrote, on Monday, about how with teams like these Mariners, sometimes the offense will be great & the pitching will be bad, and sometimes the offense will go in the tank when the pitching is good. Then, as if I conjured it out of thin air, it came to be over the last two games.

How does a Monday evening slugfest sound to you? Justin Dunn had another hard go of it, managing to make it only two innings while giving up six runs. In his defense, Corey Seager tried to break all of his ribs with a line drive in the second at-bat of the game, and after that apparently Dunn couldn’t throw his slider (I’m assuming his best pitch?) without pain.

Miraculously, the bats picked him up, and for a while there had the Mariners in line for a potential victory! Moore, Lewis, Seager, Nola, and White all had multiple hits; one of those hits (apiece) were home runs for Lewis and Seager, and both of those hits were home runs for White (who, again, is putting up more quality at-bats of late). The Mariners were down 6-2 after two innings, but held an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.

Then, in walked Matt Magill – one of the few bullpen arms whose praises I’ve sung in this space – who had yet to give up a run all season. He got two outs in this one, but five runs came across to break his scoreless streak. We got one more run in the eighth, but it wasn’t to be, as the Dodgers held on 11-9.

Out of sight, out of mind, though! Yesterday was a new day! Our ace, Marco Gonzales, was on the hill, and he was truly pitching like an ace this time around. In 100-degree Los Angeles heat, he went 7 innings (throwing 102 pitches), giving up 1 run on 5 hits and 0 walks, while tying his career high with 9 strikeouts! Simply and truly remarkable, with just a teeny, tiny hiccup of a jam in the sixth that he was able to pitch his way out of. He also, not for nothing, got some defensive help in this one, with a superb sprinting catch in the outfield by Kyle Lewis – leaping up and catching the ball as it would’ve hit the top of the wall for at least a double – as well as an exciting double play started by J.P. Crawford – who gobbled up a ground ball in the shift, tagged the runner trying to go to second, then rocketed a throw to first to end the inning. Again – and thankfully – some of the high-end kids continue to impress, giving me hope for the future of this organization.

But, the Mariners didn’t score until the top of the seventh, and even then only managed a single run. It didn’t feel like – when I watched this one almost all the way through – there were too many chances for the M’s to score, but it turns out there were plenty, as we went 0/7 with runners in scoring position. In that seventh, Austin Nola was up with runners on second and third and nobody out, and the ump rung him up on just an AWFUL called third strike, which really felt like a back-breaker. I would love to visit the universe where this game happened and his at-bat was handled properly (preferably by Robot Umps, of course), because I feel like he at least had a single in him – if not a walk to load the bases and put even more pressure on the Dodgers’ bullpen – but what can you do? Tim Lopes grounded out into a fielder’s choice RBI, but that was all she wrote.

In a 1-1 tie heading into the eighth inning, Scott Servais – for some reason – handed the ball to Dan Altavilla. While I agree, it’s better to give him a clean inning instead of having him come in with inherited runners, I’m wondering what he has EVER done in his career to deserve this level of trust? This is his fifth year with the Mariners; five years of Major League appearances. In all that time, he’s never been able to stick for a full season, often being sent down to the minors to continue working on his mechanics, or dealing with injuries. I can’t fault him for getting hurt, but in spite of a fastball that can hit 99mph, he has in no way, shape, or form managed to improve. The only reason he’s up here now, I’m sure, is because we just don’t have anyone who’s better; the rest of the bullpen is just as much of a disaster (he’s also still on a cheap, rookie deal, and I can’t imagine he has too many more option years left). So, in that sense, maybe it was just his “turn” and it doesn’t matter who Servais throws out there in the eighth inning of a tie game. But, whatever the case may be, it was frustrating to see Altavilla out there, and it was frustrating watching him gag away the game while throwing 29 pitches to get three outs. If anything, I guess I’m surprised he only gave up the one run, and we only lost 2-1.

As I feared, this brings our losing streak to seven games, with both the Dodgers and Mariners now flying up to Seattle for another two-game set here. We shot our wad with a 9-run scoring outburst, and we made as good a use as we could’ve hoped for with our ace, so breaking this streak seems outside the realm of probability in the next two days. We’re 7-18 with a -50 run differential (only the Red Sox are worse at -52). We’re still in line for the third overall draft pick (with the Red Sox taking over the top spot and the Pirates falling to second; though based on winning percentage you’d want to flip those two teams).

In more lighthearted news, ESPN just rated the Mariners as the third-most cursed franchise in the Major Leagues. Even that, somehow, feels like an insult; how are we not number one?! The only team to have never been to a World Series feels about as cursed as you can get. With only four post-season appearances in our history – dating back to 1977 – I dunno. It’s more than just the 2001 team winning 116 games and losing in the ALCS, I can tell you that. A franchise that had Griffey, Edgar, Randy, and A-Rod (four surefire Hall of Famers, if A-Rod wasn’t a steroid user who spent the bulk of his playing career being totally and completely unlikable to fans, players, and media alike) managed to do nothing. That same franchise who would go on to have Ichiro, Felix, Beltre, Cano, and Cruz likewise … nada. There have been lots of great players who’ve come through this moribund franchise over the years. If that’s not the makings of an all-time curse … I dunno, give it another decade, I’m sure ESPN will come around.

Mariners Gonna Mariners Down In Texas

The Mariners had another GREAT opportunity to win a series against a mediocre opponent. But then, you know …

The first game of the series against the Rangers saw the first Mariners blowout victory of the season! A 10-2 drubbing! Prior to that, the most the M’s had won by was three runs (on the flipside, we’ve lost by 6, 5, 8, 10, 5, and 5 runs already in this truncated season; which would explain our -35 run differential, pretty decisively the worst in all of Major League Baseball). Kyle Seager hit a grand slam in this one, Kyle Lewis and Dylan Moore both also had homers; in fact, every Mariner had at least one hit.

It wouldn’t be a sign of better things to come for the offense.

Justin Dunn got his first Major League victory in this one, having gone 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 walks, 2 runs, while striking out 2. Not super dominant, but easily the best performance of his very brief career. More of these types of games and fewer of his … usual types of games, would be important going forward.

The next day, Marco Gonzales didn’t really have it (5 innings, 4 runs), but while the bullpen managed to limit the damage to just that, the offense couldn’t get it going. The Rangers needed six pitchers to get through this one, but did so, 4-2. Two hits for Kyle Seager, and there’s your offensive highlight.

The final game, yesterday, was a total shitshow! The Mariners jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning and held that through five. Taijuan Walker had a very nice outing, all things considered, and was about to make it through the sixth inning just as unscathed. Dylan Moore got the start at first base because of his hot hitting of late (he was 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts in this one) and couldn’t dig out a slightly errant throw from J.P. Crawford for the final out of the inning. An out that Evan White – had he been starting – almost certainly would have made. Crawford got the error, but more importantly an unearned run was allowed to score in the process. I wondered at the time if that run would bite us in the ass, but Walker managed to wiggle off the line in the next at bat.

The Rangers scraped another run onto the board in the very next inning to make it 4-2; this one off of newcomer Joey Gerber (though, again, the next pitcher who inherited the baserunners allowed that man to score, because this bullpen is soft as freshly fallen snow and can’t be disturbed by complications on the field behind them). At this rate – one run per inning – the Rangers would tie the game up before the end of regulation!

Actually, it was much earlier than that.

In the eighth inning, Erik Swanson came in and the wheels came off. To his credit, he was throwing hard. Mike Blowers, on the broadcast, was absolutely creaming his jeans about some of the fastballs he was seeing out of this kid; he even touched 99mph on the radar gun! That, of course, got me excited, but it quickly faltered when it was clear Swanson couldn’t hit his spots. It’s frustrating to see a catcher set up in one spot (top of the zone) and see the pitcher throw the ball low and away. Or, worse, to see the catcher set up in the dirt, and watching Swanson groove a slider in the very middle of the plate.

Swanson, you’ll remember, is a former starting pitcher we got in the Justus Sheffield/James Paxton trade. At the time, we hoped maybe he could top out as a middle-of-the-rotation guy, but already he’s been demoted to a run-of-the-mill bullpen arm. And, with more appearances like this one, he won’t even have that for long. When it was all said and done, Swanson got 2 outs, gave up 3 hits, hit two batters, and gave up five runs while striking out just one (to be fair, it was an impressive-looking strikeout to kick off the inning). All the runs in that inning were charged to him, but of course Taylor Williams had every opportunity to get us out of it with the game still tied. Instead, a wild pitch and a 2-run single put the game away.

Austin Nola had a homer (as did Vogey) and another hit, and J.P. Crawford had two hits. But, the offense not ever adding on after that second inning was pretty criminal. So, you can say this was a total team effort, but the defense and bullpen really blew this one.

That puts the Mariners at 7-13 through 20 games; we’re a full third of the way through the season! 7-13 is also good for last place in the A.L. West (though, we’re somehow only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, in this asterisk season).

Considering how bad we are, it’s probably a good thing the defense and bullpen are blowing so many games. I know there’s the argument that you don’t want to be a young team who’s used to losing, but the Astros lost more than anyone for a bunch of years in a row before being one of the most dominant teams in all of baseball (and cheaters, don’t forget the most dominant cheaters in all of baseball). 7-13 puts us as the third-worst team in all of baseball. That’s exciting! We could be in a prime drafting spot next year! The Red Sox are somehow worse, but I wouldn’t expect that to last; we could EASILY fall into the second spot! The Pirates, right now, are 3-13, but there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played.

The Mariners get their first off-day of the season today. Then, it’s off to Houston for a 3-game set over the weekend. I was kind of hoping, for morale’s sake, that the M’s would win that Rangers series, because our next seven games are against the Astros and Dodgers (a 2-game road series, followed immediately by a 2-game home series). I mean, I could see us going 0-7 in that stretch and it’s not even difficult to imagine!