The Mariners Blew The Minnesota Home Opener

There was a time early last season when I took it upon myself to try and track the numbers for Mariners hitters with RISP.  That was because the M’s started off abnormally bad in this area, and I was curious to see how bad it could get, or how long that badness would remain.  Those numbers started to normalize as we got into late April and May, but for a while there, it was pretty dire!  And the team really struggled as a result.

I don’t know if that’s been as big of an issue thus far, through a week’s worth of games, but a performance like yesterday (2/17 with RISP) is pretty much as bad as it gets.  The Mariners were getting on base like crazy yesterday, with 8 hits, 4 walks, and 2 Twins errors.  There were only 2 clean innings for the Twins’ pitching staff/defense, and yet the Mariners were only able to muster 2 fucking runs, both in the first inning.  Pathetic, all the way around, and a game the Mariners absolutely should’ve won, Cruz or no Cruz.

For a while there, it looked like we might pull it out.  Paxton was dealing through five innings.  But, getting into that third time through the lineup, Joe Mauer singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and Miguel Sano smashed him in with a 2-run jack.  It’s funny how much lip service the Mariners were paying to this notion of limiting the exposure of our starting pitching, and utilizing this massive bullpen we’ve accumulated.  But, Scott Servais has really just been managing like every other fucking manager since the dawn of time.  We’re in the midst of 4 off days in 2 weeks; there will never be this many rest days outside of the All Star Break the rest of the season.  Also, we’re rocking a 4-man rotation, which means we have an 8-man bullpen.  No one as of yet has been worked to death.  And we ALL know the numbers of just about every single hitter when he sees the same pitcher for the third time in a game.  And yeah, I get it, Paxton’s pitch count was low, and he was kicking ass up to that point.  But, how many times do you see that?  It happens ALL THE TIME.  Guys dominate, then they get into the 6th inning or whatever, and all of a sudden the other team is hitting tee shots off of him.  All it takes is a weird bloop single and one bad pitch that catches too much of the plate, and BAM, 2-run home run.  A 2-0 game becomes a 2-2 game.  Then, you try to squeeze an extra few outs out of Dan Altavilla, and BAM again, you’re down 3-2.  Then, the stupid fucking umpire botches an OBVIOUS called strike 3, followed by the hitter taking that gift and turning it into another solo homer on the very next pitch, and BAM, it’s 4-2 and you’re sucking Fernando Rodney’s arrow-shaped dick in the ninth.

Just stop pissing down my leg and telling me it’s raining, that’s all.  If you’re going to talk about lightening the loads of these starting pitchers, then STICK TO IT!  Pull them after the second time through the lineup (unless the offense has it out of reach, but only walk that tightrope if we have a 3 run lead or more).  THIS IS WHERE THE GAME IS GOING!  Shorter starting stints, and supplement that with longer bullpen arms.  Altavilla is never going to be a competent multi-inning reliever; he’s a 1-and-done guy.  I’m talking about having more Wade LeBlancs, more Casey Lawrences, and save those hyper-power arms for the 8th and 9th innings.

One more note about the offense before I close this out.  8 hits, none of them for extra bases.  That’s fucking absurd.  I know with Cruz and Zunino out, our power is limited, but where are the doubles?  Yeah, it’s nice that Vogelbach had 2 more hits to add to his hot start, but where’s the power?  What about Jean Segura?  He had 30+ doubles the last two years; he’s got 2 through 6 games so far.  And Ryon Healy, so help me God, what a fucking BUST this guy is!  WHOSE DICK DO YOU GOTTA SUCK TO BRING IN EVEN A DECENT-HITTING FIRST BASEMAN???  Also, you still spell your name like a fucking asshole.

Another Friday off-day.  Cool.

Holy Schnikes The Mariners Are In A 3-Way Tie For The Second Wild Card!

Caveat:  it’s only August 9th.  But still.

The Seattle Mariners are 2 games over .500 for the fourth time this season, but this one was pretty special.

For starters, Jesus Christ God Dammit Ariel Miranda sure did suck again!  6 runs in 5 innings, including 2 more home runs to give him 29 home runs given up on the season, which is the MOST in the entire Major Leagues.  29 homers in 23 games for Christ’s sake!  29 homers in 131.2 innings!  Or a homer every four and a half innings.  That’s un-fucking-sustainable!  You can’t give up this many homers in a season and expect to keep your job!  I don’t care how low your WHIP is, or how many of those homers are solo homers, eventually that shit’s gonna catch up to you and you’re going to blow up spectacularly!

Take last night, for instance.  Bottom of the first inning, he gave up a double and a walk before Khris Davis’ 3-run bomb to put the Mariners in a HUGE hole.  I’ll accept watching a Miranda start where he battles, or where he looks great those few and far between times, but I absolutely will not accept watching a start where he looks like every other non-Paxton starter in this fucking organization.  No thanks.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty much done with the game after that (and, with my crazy schedule, that’s not a huge sacrifice, considering I would go to bed at 8pm anyway).

What I missed, apparently, was one for the ages.  The M’s got one back in the top of the third when Zunino scored from third on a groundout, but the damage was limited, and the deficit would increase in the bottom half by a couple more runs.  Dyson punched an RBI single to left to make it 5-2 in the fourth, but the A’s would extend it back to 6-2 in the fifth on a solo homer.

With Ariel Miranda sufficiently knocked out of the game (at 86 pitches no less, because he’s efficient even when he’s fucking terrible), that’s when the real fun began.  Gamel knocked in two runs on a double in the sixth, Cruz knocked in another run in the seventh, and Valencia hit a sac fly in the eighth to tie it up.  Along the way, the Mariners got some remarkable relief pitching from the likes of Casey Lawrence, Nick Vincent, and Scrabble to push this game into extras.

Then, in the top of the tenth (after the Mariners walked three times in the ninth and somehow still didn’t score), with two outs, Leonys Martin continued his hot streak since being called back up, jacking a solo homer to right field to give the Mariners the lead.  Edwin Diaz got into a little mini-jam, but got himself out of it for his 24th save on the year.  That puts him 18th all time in Mariners history in most saves in an individual season.  His 42 career saves over his two-season career is 12th on the Mariners’ all time saves list, just a hop and a skip behind the likes of Brandon League, Bobby Ayala, Eddie Guardado, and Fernando Rodney.  So, you know, if you’re expecting Edwin Diaz’s career to go up in smoke, just give him another month or so.  History dictates once a Mariners closer gets between 50-70 saves, he automatically forgets how to get guys out.

What a crazy, VERY important win!  I mean, with the way the A’s are giving up on this season, there’s absolutely no excuse to lose either of these games in this 2-game series.  I know it’s baseball, and anything can happen, but if the Mariners are going to somehow shock the world, they’re going to need to beat up on teams like the A’s.  This is where you EAT!

If it’s all right with you, I think I’ll close by stopping and smelling the roses a little bit.  It’s, frankly, mindblowing how the Mariners are still hanging around in this Wild Card race.  I know there have been other seasons where the Mariners have been in contention in recent years, but this one definitely feels more special given all the Mariners have had to overcome and all that they’ll continue to have to overcome.

First and foremost, it looks like Felix has the same injury he had earlier this year.  They’re saying he’ll be out 3-4 weeks, which puts us into September, but if it’s as bad as the last one was – where he ended up missing almost 2 full months – we might not see him again in the regular season, if at all this year.  I hope the rest of the team can pick him up and carry us into the playoffs, for Felix’s sake, but I’m going to be heartbroken for him if we FINALLY get there for the first time in his career and he ultimately can’t go.  From a psychological standpoint, that might actually be worse than not going at all.

We also got word that David Phelps will miss 2-3 weeks, so it sounds like he’s not as bad off as Felix.  I’m going to hold my breath if it’s all the same to you and hope we get him back on the shorter end of that range rather than the longer.

In Recent Transaction News, Yonder Alonso made his Mariners debut last night, going 1 for 5 with a single, batting in the 2-hole.  Many Yonder jokes were had by all on Twitter.

In Active Roster News, I couldn’t even begin to tell you when this started, but the Mariners are rolling with a 12-man bullpen again.  With Alonso and Valencia effectively platooning at first base, Danny Espinosa as our only utility infielder, and Leonys Martin as our fourth outfielder, the Mariners really can’t afford to go with anything less than a 4-man bench.  With 20 games left in the month – before rosters expand in September – look for the M’s to start shuttling relievers back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma.  At some point, they’re going to have to figure out how much more Erasmo Ramirez they want to see in the rotation; I think my breaking point happened about 3 years ago, but I’ll give the organization another start or two before I start taking bids from local pipe bomb makers.

Terrorism jokes are still funny in this day and age, right?

What The Hell, Scott Servais?

I don’t rail against the manager very often, because honestly the manager doesn’t have that great of an impact on the game.  He sets a lineup, and he manages the bullpen.  Everything else is on the players themselves, the GM who brought us these players, and the umpires – who are really more of a constant than a variable – who generally do a good job, but tend to fuck up more than robots would.

So, when Scott Servais does something dumb with his ONE JOB, I’m going to say something about it.  Because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Top of the 8th inning, Mariners up 3-2.  Paxton did a pretty good job, but let his pitch count get the better of him thanks to some bad home plate umpiring and a lack of command of his fastball.  The combination of Nick Vincent and Scrabble got us to the 7th, and Tony Zych got us a couple outs into the 8th.  He hit the leadoff hitter, though, and after getting the two outs, left-handed bat Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate.  Lefty reliever James Pazos had been warming up since way back in the 7th inning (or maybe earlier, who can recall?), and was sufficiently ready to go.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Apparently fucking not, as Scott Servais had the brilliant fucking idea of bringing in our closer to get the 4-out save.

Let’s start here.  I think we all understand why someone would bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  Scott Servais has this bug up his ass about getting Edwin Diaz more work.  He’s a young guy and therefore his arm is ready for a bigger workload.  People have taken this to mean that the Mariners are going to use Diaz like the Indians use Andrew Miller – not necessarily to get the final 3 outs of the ballgame, but to come in during the most important late-game situations, regardless of whether it’s a save situation or not.  But, that’s false.  Servais just has no confidence in this bullpen (because why should he?) and knows he’ll need to lean on the guys he can trust to work more than just the one inning per appearance.  Diaz is still this team’s closer, but now he’s going to have to get more than three outs to get his saves.  It’s still all catering to the save statistic, so this isn’t fresh or new thinking whatsoever!

Edwin Diaz has done nothing to deserve this type of confidence, by the way.  Maybe if we were talking about Mariano Rivera in his prime, we could discuss bringing him in to work multiple innings.  But, so far, Diaz hasn’t even worked a full season’s worth of games in the Majors yet!  He won the closer job because his first month or so was electric (and Cishek really screwed the pooch), but guys know how to hit him now!  He’s not throwing 100 mph anymore.  He’s still wild, but not effectively wild like he was when the league was still getting to know him.  And, quite frankly, he’s blown too many saves to be considered an elite closer.  He’s no different than Fernando Rodney, Brandon League, Steve Cishek, David Aardsma, Tom Wilhelmsen, or any of these other jokers who have yet to be good for more than one season for the Mariners.

So, of course Edwin Diaz gave up the go-ahead 2-run homer to Kole Calhoun!  And of course the Mariners tied it up in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras!  And OF COURSE James Pazos came into the game in the 11th inning – about 4 innings after he’d started warming up in the first place – and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the first batter he faced was the very same Kole Calhoun!  Did he give up a homer to the man?  NO!  He struck him out!  Because he’s a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter, and that’s generally what tends to happen in those situations, SCOTT SERVAIS, YOU PUTZ!

Granted, Pazos would go on to give up two runs in the 11th inning to lose us the ballgame, but that’s not on him.  If he were used properly, in the top of the 8th, when he was warmed up and fresh, his command may have been a little more on par with the rest of his appearances this season.

Also, not for nothing, but if Pazos was brought in for just Calhoun in the 8th inning, THAT WOULD’VE BEEN THE ONLY BATTER HE WOULD’VE FACED, BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE STRUCK THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT!

I have no idea what Diaz would’ve done if he’d just come in fresh for the 9th inning with no runners on base, but that’s a hypothetical for another time.  In this universe, Scott Servais botched the fuck out of this one, and cost the Mariners a win they desperately needed.

Repeat after me:  Edwin Diaz is NOT the be-all, end-all of this bullpen.  He’s probably not all that much better than anyone else down there, if we’re being honest.  His consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s trying to get away with just his natural gifts, and that’s not going to fly in the MLB, because those hitters have a lot of natural gifts too, and they tend to expose pitchers who throw it up there without knowing where it’s going.

God damn this season is frustrating as fuck.

I’m not going to title this “Edwin Diaz Is A God” because that would just jinx him and the Mariners don’t need that kind of hoodoo right now

“I’m A god.  I’m not THE God, I don’t think.”

We’ve all seen the numbers.  27 innings, 53 strikeouts, 26 hits allowed, 8 walks allowed, and his 6th earned run allowed last night in a 3-1 victory.  Most importantly, he’s yet to blow a single lead (both of his losses were in tie ballgames on the road).  But, I’m not here to obsess about numbers.  Read literally every other baseball-centric blog, because if they haven’t already opined about the genius that is Edwin Diaz, they will soon.

I just want to talk about how jacked up I am to have Edwin Diaz in my life.  I haven’t felt this way about a Mariners pitcher since Cliff Lee dawned the blue, grey, and white for two healthy pre-trade months.  I haven’t felt this way about a Mariners reliever since … ever?

So, you know what?  Fuck it.  When is the other shoe gonna drop?  Let’s get real here!  The Mariners can’t seem to have more than one season of quality closing before these guys turn into pumpkins (and in Cishek’s case, not EVEN a full season!).  Let’s look back at the long list of crap:

  • Steve Cishek (2016) – Great start, but lost his job after 4 months and 25 saves
  • Fernando Rodney (2014-2015) – Great 2014, but lost his job HARD in 2015 to a combo of Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Danny Farquhar (2013) – Finished the season as the closer, replaced by FRE, was never good again
  • Tom Wilhelmsen (2012-2013) – Finished 2012 & started 2013 as the closer, then fell apart
  • Brandon League (2011-2012) – Was solid in 2010 as an 8th inning guy, was an All Star in 2011, fell apart quickly in 2012
  • David Aardsma (2009-2010) – Was great in 2009, was okay in 2010, but ultimately much worse and eventually lost his job to League (and injuries)
  • J.J. Putz (2006-2008) – Was legitimately great in 2006, had one of the all-time greatest seasons for a reliever in 2007, then had an injury-plagued 2008 before being traded
  • Eddie Guardado (2004-2005) – Had an injury-shortened 2004, was rock solid in 2005, then fell apart in 2006 and was traded away
  • Kaz Sasaki (2000-2003) – Was a 32 year old Rookie of the Year, then had two All Star appearances in 2001 & 2002, before falling apart in 2003 and leaving the country after his 4-year career.  Put up solid all-around numbers, but I never really felt comfortable with him protecting a lead in a big game (particularly the playoffs)

Before that, it was all bums and The Sheriff.  The point is, unless you want to count Sasaki (which I really DON’T), the Mariners have never really had a long-term solution to the closer problem.  They have good, great, even epic seasons here and there, but ultimately nothing LASTING.  I want LASTING, God dammit!

I want Edwin Diaz to be the real thing, and I want him here for the next decade plus, is that too much to fucking ask?

Steve Cishek Fucking Sucks

And don’t give me any lefty/righty shit, he’s been bombed against batters hitting from both sides of the plate.  He fucking sucks, and he needs to be off this team before 2017.

This has everything to do with locating pitches, and Cishek sucks dick at that aspect of pitching.  Just because he throws sidearm, he seems to think it’s okay to lob sliders right down the middle of the fucking plate.  That is, of course, when he’s not throwing them off the plate, outside of the catcher’s grasp, behind the left-handed batter’s box, and into the fucking stands because he can’t control for shit!  Or, when he’s not throwing his oh so intimidating fastball.  You know, the one where he has NO FUCKING CLUE where it’s going to end up once it leaves his hands.  (here’s a hint:  it’s going to end up IN THE FUCKING BLEACHERS, YOU ASS CLOWN!)

You thought Fernando Rodney was bad?  He was fucking Mariano Rivera compared to Cishek.

Hey Steve Cishek, maybe instead of sucking Jesus’ dick on Twitter all day every day, how about you learn how to control your fucking pitches?  Your God schtick can eat my asshole; no one gives a fuck!  Pray for no more blown saves.  Make that your prayer of the day, you fucking miserable cunt.

Edwin Diaz needs to be the closer, starting to-fucking-day.  Cishek needs to be put on waivers.  If someone claims him, then fuck it, good riddance.  If no one claims him and we have to eat his salary, then fuck it, it’s only money and the Mariners own the fucking network they televise on, THEY’LL SURVIVE!

You want to improve the fan experience?  Kick Steve Cishek’s worthless ass off the team and find literally anyone else who has an arm capable of throwing a ball.  He will be less enraging than our former closer.

All Star Week Finale: Mariners Shit Stains

I TOLD YOU I’D SHOOT, BUT YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE ME!  WHY DIDN’T YOU BELIEVE ME?

Yesterday, I hit upon the good things we’ve seen in this Mariners season.  Today:  the rest.

Like yesterday, let’s start on the hitting side.  Nori Aoki is the obvious huge disappointment, as he entered this season on the heels of not only a fruitful career in Japan, but a solid and productive 4-year MLB career as he bounced around from the Brewers to the Royals to the Giants.  I mean, like clockwork, the guy was batting in the .280’s every season, with solid on-base numbers, minimal power, and enough defense to make the whole package pretty enticing.  This year, however, his power has gone completely in the toilet, and his batting average is 40 points lower than normal.  His stolen base output has declined every year since coming to America, and this year is no exception, as he has 4 stolen bases against 7 caught stealing.  His left field defense is suspect at best, and his centerfield defense was a God damn neverending sewage-eating contest.  It’s been so bad for Aoki this year that he was sent down to Tacoma (where, to his credit, he’s regained some of his old form at the plate, albeit in only 11 games), which all points to one thing:  age.  He’s 34 years old, and it’s very reasonable to boil all this down to him just being on the downslope of his career.  Don’t take it hard, Aoki, plenty of players even better than you have come to Seattle in their twilight years only to die the True Death.

Adam Lind is my other everyday player (or quasi-everyday) catching some shade today, although I have a hard time really disliking the guy.  He seems like a really cool dude, and I like him as a player a helluva lot more than I did Smoak, LoMo, or Montero.  I do still think he’s got a bit of a turnaround in him this year, but I’m not sure that belief is entirely based in reality.  Lind had a pretty awful April, playing most every day.  He started to pick it up in May, but then he went right back in the toilet in June, so I dunno.  As noted yesterday, Dae-ho Lee is rightly eating into Lind’s playing time, as the team is trusting Lee more and more against right-handed pitching.  Should Lee continue to prove he’s capable of playing and producing on an everyday basis, we could be looking at a situation where Lind is relegated to backup status (getting occasional starts against righties, and/or when the team opts to put Cruz in the outfield and play Lee & Lind at the same time).  It’s just a bummer, because I figured Lind, of anyone we brought in this year, would be a guy you could count upon to play to his career norms.

***

And that’s it!  I’m moving on to the pitchers, because they’ve been a neverending source of rage and agita in my life this season.

Right at the top of the list – indeed, the most disappointing development of the entire 2016 Mariners season – has been the health of Felix Hernandez.  I mean, he’s far and away my favorite player on this team, and far and away my favorite local athlete playing today (he also sits on my local Mount Rushmore next to Gary Payton, Steve Largent, and Edgar Martinez, but that’s neither here nor there).  Going into any Mariners season, my worst nightmare has always been if King Felix gets injured.  By and large, over the previous ten seasons, I’ve mostly managed to dodge that harsh reality, but this year, both myself and the team has been cock-slapped by his absence.  This year’s team has EASILY had the best lineup of hitters we’ve had ’round these parts since Felix has become a Major Leaguer.  And, at least through the first couple months, this team as a whole looked like it had the best chance to make the post-season in the same span.  As a die-hard Mariners fan, all we’ve wanted to see over the last decade was Felix Hernandez pitching in the post-season.  To reward him for his baffling loyalty to this organization, and prove to the world that he made the right decision (or, at the very least, to show that it wasn’t all for naught).  The panic in all of our hearts has always been, “WE NEED TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS WHILE FELIX IS STILL IN HIS PRIME!  WE’RE WASTING HIS MOTHERFUCKING PRIME, YOU GUYS!”  So, to have him go down with this calf injury, when – 1. we have the best team around him we’ve ever had, and 2. our pitching depth is as poor as it’s ever been, and ergo he’s never been more needed – is truly a cosmic Fuck You to every Mariners fan still foolish enough to follow this team.

I didn’t mean to push this section into a second paragraph, but here’s my point:  where would the Mariners be if Felix had never gotten injured?  He went down on May 27th.  We’ve gone 17-25 ever since.  In the starts that he missed (counting every five days, assuming no rotation shuffling), the Mariners have gone 3-5, including Paxton’s initial disaster of a start on June 1st, a mediocre Miley start on July 9th, and a few hard-luck defeats where the offense didn’t necessarily show up (or, commonly known as your average Felix start).  A healthy Felix would conservatively get you two more wins in that stretch, with a very reasonable possibility of him pitching a shutout in there and squeezing out a third.  But, a healthy Felix also slots out some of the shakier pitchers who have made appearances in the rotation.  Maybe a healthy Felix – combined with Paxton’s resurgence down in Tacoma – bumps Karns out of the rotation sooner.  Maybe it prevents Adrian Sampson’s call-up (and subsequent arm injury that cost him his season).  Maybe we don’t have a potentially-useless LeBlanc to kick around.  MAYBE, it allows us to DL Taijuan Walker sooner – which I’m on record as saying we should have done in the first place – because we’re not so obsessed about our awful pitching depth.  There are endless What If’s out there, all surrounding the injury of our Ace.

But, it also bears mentioning that even when Felix was healthy this season, he didn’t look quite right.  Dating back to last year, Felix has been prone to getting knocked around a little bit in some starts.  His velocity is way down (even more than usual), and his command hasn’t quite been there.  Was the injury causing that?  Is it the natural effect of aging (he may only be 30 years old, but he’s got a billion miles on his pitching arm right now)?  It’s something to watch, as he makes his rehab starts ahead of an expected return to the Majors next Wednesday.  Please be healthy and good again, Felix!  We need you more than ever before!

***

I devoted more of this post than I’d anticipated on King Felix, so let me run through the rest of the pitching disappointments as quickly as possible.

Wade Miley – Fuck You!

Joel Peralta – Good Fucking Riddance!

Wade Miley – Fuck You Again, I can’t wait until this team cuts your ass!

Joaquin Benoit – Over-priced, spent time on the DL, has been garbage since his return.  Not the 8th inning enforcer we traded for.

Nathan Karns – 5 & Dive specialist we haven’t seen since Erik Bedard.  Not a long-term solution to our rotation woes.

Hisashi Iwakuma – A .500, middle-of-the-road pitcher who might be an okay 3rd or 4th starter, but is past his prime and no longer a viable #2.

James Paxton – Has the stuff to be an ace, but for some reason always gets killed by dribblers, dinks, and dunks (and poor defense).

Taijuan Walker – This injured foot has killed what was once a promising season in his development; a chronic set-back that likely won’t resolve until after the season ends.

Tony Zych – Probably this team’s 2nd best reliever (after Diaz), whose injury issues will cost him almost the entire season.

Charlie Furbush – Has been out the whole year, is set to return soon, but will probably be terrible.

Tom Wilhelmsen – Has returned, has been okay in his first few appearances, but the other shoe is right here, just waiting to drop.

Fernando Rodney – A HUGE Fuck You!  Pitches like dogshit last year for the Mariners, gets demoted, gets released, then comes back this year to have his very best-ever season?  What the fuck?!  Eat all the dicks, you turd!

Steve Cishek – For making me long for the days of the Fernando Rodney Experience.  Whereas Rodney’s appearances were always a slow bleed for 30 minutes, followed by complete disaster; Cishek just stabs you in the gut, then comes back two days later to jam his thumb into your festering wound.

Should The Mariners Mortgage The Farm On 2016?

My mid-season, All Star Week review of the Mariners continues.  Today, we’re talking about the farm, of which I don’t know a ton.  I hear names occasionally – sometimes on the Root broadcast, usually on Twitter from the beat writers – and my opinions are shaped thusly.  The more a player is portrayed in a positive light, the higher I regard that player, even if I’ve never seen him before (which is practically everyone).

So, that question again:  SHOULD the Mariners sell the farm to go all in on this year?

Well, it’s really a 2-pronged question.  1.  Do we want to part with what coveted pieces we have in the farm system, and risk them becoming stars elsewhere, for the chance of glory in the short term?  And 2.  Is this season even worth salvaging in the first place?

Let’s take that second question first.  If you’d asked me this question two months ago, I would have given a resounding YES!  Sell it all off, let’s get that ring in 2016!  What’s changed?  Well, for starters, the draft happened (which I’ll get to later), and the Mariners have gone a whopping 15-23 since June 1st, to fall to 45-44, third place in the West (8.5 games back), and 5 games back in the Wild Card race.  This, from a team I’ve repeatedly argued already needed to trade for help BEFORE all the injuries struck!

At this point, it’s impossible to say whether the Mariners will – for starters – even get healthy enough to get back to their early-season form.  Some guys are bound to return, but will they last through to the bitter end?  Or, will they have to go back on the shelf because their injuries never had a chance to fully resolve (or, are worse than first appeared)?  Other guys likely are gone for the season, rendering the team at a significant disadvantage.  At its best, when most everyone was healthy, the depth on the 25-man roster was razor thin.  Now that we’ve hacked away at a good chunk of it, with some never to return, the Mariners need outside help just to get back to the point where they’ll need MORE help to be serious World Series contenders.

At that point, you just have to throw up your hands and cry uncle.  Enough is too much!  Even if we WANTED to sell the entire farm, it’s likely not good enough to get the type of players back we need to win this fucking thing.

The flipside to that argument is:  no one is getting younger.  The Mariners are one of the oldest, most veteran teams in the league, and the window for a lot of these players will be closing shortly.  You figure Kyle Seager will still be in his prime for the next half-decade at least.  But, Cruz is getting up there.  Cano is getting up there.  King Felix (GASP) is getting up there.  We’ve got, what, 2-3 more years TOPS for those guys to be in their primes?  Many project even less.  Many people say that the core of this team has through the 2017 season before we seriously gotta start worrying about guys getting considerably worse.  That’s the rest of this year and all of next year, and then the great unknown.  If the team falters again next year, do they blow it all up?  You gotta wonder.

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that these players, by and large, won’t be much better than they are right now (when healthy).  Again, Seager might still have room to blossom, but everyone else has seen his peak or is at his peak right now.  The pressure’s on!  Time is of the essence!  If you’re EVER going to go all out for a ring, now is the time!

Again, though, as I’ve said before, I’m over the idea of a 2-month rental.  Any quality veterans you trade for have to – at a minimum – be under contract through the 2017 season.

Anyway, getting back:  is this season worth saving?  To answer that, I’d say yes IF we get the right guy back.  I’m talking a serious impact player (likely a starting pitcher), who will be here at least through next year.  But, in reality, we better get not only a starter but an impact reliever, like a veteran version of Edwin Diaz, who’s not prone to melting down like a Fernando Rodney type.

Which takes us back to the first question:  how much do we like what we have in the farm?

You can be a know-nothing like me when it comes to the Mariners’ minor league system and still be aware that the M’s are not flush with talent down there.  It’s ranked near the bottom in all of baseball, and will probably be so for at least the next few years to come.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s totally barren.  So, I’ll just talk about a few guys who have caught my eye.

D.J. Peterson (2013 first round pick) has skyrocketed in recent weeks, starting the year in AA, struggling at first, then turning on the jets, getting promoted to AAA, and continuing his massacre of all things minor league pitching.  Granted, it’s only been 11 games in Tacoma, but he’s hitting off the charts.  There’s still plenty of reasons to be concerned that he’ll never take that next step to be a bona fide Major League star – his lack of defensive polish, his high strikeout rates, his unimpressive walk rates – but the kid was drafted for his hitting, and if he makes it, he could be the right-handed first base power bat we’ve been waiting for (apologies to Dae-ho Lee, who you’ve gotta figure will move on to better things at some point).

On the one hand, I like D.J. Peterson the way I like all highly-drafted prospects the Mariners bring in:  they have all the potential in the world, and then they get called up to Seattle where they suck all the dick in the world.  If we keep him, odds are probably 90% or more that he disappoints; if we trade him, odds are probably 90% he kicks major ass (okay, probably not that high, though it seems like it, right?).  If he brought back the right piece (that I’ve talked about above), I think I’d be okay with him going away.

Alex Jackson (2014 first round pick) has been mired in A-ball.  His ceiling is a poor man’s Bryce Harper, only without the obvious fast track to the Majors.  He’s flashed in small bursts, but has yet to really break out, and appears to be far away from putting it all together.  And, if his questionable work ethic doesn’t improve (allegedly, of course, because what do I know?), he’ll probably never reach his potential.  I don’t think I’d mind trading him away either (he is a Jackie Z draft choice, after all), but his stock is probably pretty low, in which case I’d rather hang onto him and see what happens, than trade him for peanuts on a low-upside Big Leaguer.

Tyler O’Neill (2013 third round pick) is blowing up in AA this year.  Bigtime power bat & corner outfield player with (allegedly) the good kind of work ethic you like to see.  This could be a guy we talk about, in the next year or two, making the jump and having a longterm impact on this organization.  Best case scenario is he turns out to be a Nelson Cruz replacement in right field, who actually plays plus defense and slots into the middle of the order in the lineup.  The way people talk about this kid, I’d REALLY hate to see him go, so we’d have to get someone really special in return.

To round things out, I’ll talk about this year’s main picks, Kyle Lewis (first round) and Joe Rizzo (second round).  I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of an organization trading a draft pick in the same year as when they drafted him, so you gotta figure these guys are simply off the table.  Kyle Lewis so far is dazzling down in Everett (A-ball); he should be quickly shooting up the prospect rankings not only in the Mariners organization, but in all of minor league baseball.  The kid appears to have all the tools, and could very well see himself on a fast track to the Majors in the next couple years.  Rizzo (rookie league) is more of a project in that he still doesn’t have much of defensive position (with third base off the table as long as Kyle Seager is around).  But, as projected, he’s got one of the sweetest swings in the org, so he’ll go as far as his bat takes him.  If he can just figure out first base, he could be a better version of D.J. Peterson.  If he can figure out a corner outfield spot, he’ll be worth his weight in gold.

Who Are The Real Mariners?

I use this logic a lot when I’m describing a team:  good teams find a way to win close games.  Conversely, bad teams find ways to lose those games.  In the first two months, by and large, the Mariners were finding ways to win those 50/50 games they would’ve lost in years past.  In June, where we’re halfway through and the Mariners are already 4-9, the Mariners are finding every way imaginable to lose the games they were just winning a few weeks ago!

Last night, the Mariners did everything right.  They jumped all over a good pitcher early, locking in a 5-2 lead before Walker fell apart and had to be pulled due to an achilles injury.  Still, it was 5-4 heading into the 7th inning, and you know what?  That should be enough.  The bullpen has one fucking job.  Each guy in that bullpen, ALL they have to do, is get somewhere between 1-3 batters out when you’re at that point in the game.  Generally:  one guy pitches the 7th, one guy pitches the 8th, and Cishek comes in to close it out in the 9th.

HOW FUCKING HARD IS IT TO GET THREE HITTERS OUT?

A one run lead heading into the 7th should just be a victory for your team, period.  If you can’t hold that down, then you have no business playing in this league.

But, fine, you know what?  The Mariners did this bullpen a huge favor by tacking on TWO MORE runs in the top of the 7th!  So, a 1-run lead became what should’ve been an insurmountable 3-run lead, and at this point you’re just TRYING to give away baseball games if you blow a 3-run lead with three innings to go!

So, in trots Nick Vincent, he of the 87 mph fastball that lopes gently across the plate; it’s a wonder how he’s not hit harder more often.  He, of course, gave up a hit and a walk before allowing the game-tying 3-run homer, and it was all academic at that point.  Mike Montgomery came in and proceeded to suck the dick of everyone in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and what was once a sure-thing victory turned into yet another demoralizing defeat.

Did you know the Mariners are winless in the last five games decided by 1 run?  That, of course, is dating back to the series with the Twins, where all this misery started in the first place.  So, what is it?  Who are the REAL Mariners?  Was it the team rocking and rolling through most of the first two months of the season?  Is that team just hitting a rough patch?  Or, are THESE the real Mariners?  And THESE Mariners just happened to have been playing an unsustainably-good brand of baseball for the first 8 weeks of the season?

I’m afraid I’m out of answers on this one.  Trying to figure out the Seattle Mariners makes my head hurt.

Again, I hate to be a broken record, but I have no problem whatsoever with the hitting.  Granted, the Mariners were 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position last night … BUT THEY SCORED SEVEN FUCKING RUNS!  I don’t give a SHIT how they score them; if they’re consistently averaging over 5 runs per game, they’re doing their jobs!  If they score SEVEN runs in a game, they should damn well win that motherfucking game!  So, shove your devil’s advocate argument up your fucking asshole, because I’m not buying it!

This is all on the pitching, which is – for the record – the part of the team that was most overhauled in the offseason.  I’ll praise Jerry Dipoto until the cows come home for the way he invigorated the lineup and our defensive presence; but by the same token, you have to criticize him a little bit for the way the pitching was handled.

If you even want to call Iwakuma a “positive” presence on this team, then I’ll give you that, but you’ve got to give ME the fact that Dipoto was lucky to have him fall in his lap.  Iwakuma was all but a Dodger until they backed out of the deal, at which point suddenly Mariners ownership found a few extra sheckles to give him a deal.  But, I wouldn’t say that was Dipoto working his Dipoto Magic.

Wade Miley has been a disaster to this point.  That’s not to say he won’t turn it around, but halfway into June, Miley sucks.  To get him, we gave up a young, cheap starter with lots of club control (Roenis Elias, who by the way, we’ll be seeing start against us when we hit Boston this weekend) and a potentially-elite reliever in Carson Smith, who is awesome when healthy (and also cheap, with lots of club control), but obviously hasn’t been this year.

I’m not actually mad at the Karns deal at all.  I’ll give Dipoto a pass on this one, considering he got Karns by trading away a lot of our garbage from the previous regime (Brad Miller, LoMo, and Danny Farquhar).  Karns still has upside, and/or could be trade bait for someone better in the short term.

That takes us to the bullpen, which was largely overhauled.  A couple of guys haven’t even pitched for us yet, so their injury-plagued seasons are on Dipoto.  Benoit missed a bunch of time, and hasn’t been the lockdown set-up man we all thought he was going to be (he also has a ridiculous salary to boot).  Peralta was a disaster who we kept around for as long as we did due to injuries to other guys.  Cishek has 3 losses and 4 blown saves on his record already.  Nick Vincent has looked okay, but he’s probably not fit for the advanced bullpen role he’s been thrust into.  Am I missing anyone?  I guess Steve Johnson is a thing, and not a very good thing at that.

I dunno.  We’re talking about a lot of guys who are coming off of down years.  The Mariners under Jackie Z were largely predicated on bringing in guys on value deals, who were good TWO years ago, but struggled the year prior, thus why they were so cheap to bring in to begin with.  I hate that line of thinking, even if it’s probably best applied to the bullpen, whose wonky nature will see guys dominate one year, then look like total and complete ass the next year, while largely throwing the same exact stuff (see Benoit, for instance; or see Fernando Rodney in San Diego, who has STILL not given up an earned run, after sucking all ass around town for the Mariners last year).

Are these good Mariners having a bad run, or bad Mariners finally showing their true colors?  I suspect the answer is somewhere in between.  These are the Mariners.  Sometimes they’re going to look like world-beaters, sometimes they’re going to look like the worst team in baseball.  They’re a whole lot closer to being a .500 team than anyone wants to believe, especially considering exactly 3 weeks ago, we were 10 games OVER .500.

I hate sports.

Welp, The Mariners Really Mariners’d Their Way Through That Rangers Series

Did the Mariners climax on the evening of June 2nd, when they made that huge comeback against the Padres to go to 31-22 on the season?  I remember, right around that time, feeling a level of excitement I haven’t felt since 2001 or so.  We were riding high, and we had a stretch of 6 games in 10 days against the Rangers, to see if we could prove that we’re the real thing or not.

In those 6 games, we went 1-5, and for the most part looked pretty bad against the clearly-superior Rangers.  After getting swept on the road half of the 6-game series, there was hope of the Mariners flipping the script on them – and their season as a whole – by doing the opposite at home (particuarly with Adrian Beltre on the shelf).  We got off to a good-enough start by winning on Friday (in spite of our best efforts to blow that game; luckily, the Mariners managed to play add-on in the bottom of the 8th inning to make the Rangers’ would-be game-tying homer in the 9th obsolete).  And, for a while there on Saturday, it looked like that sweep might be within reach!

I was there on Saturday, having come into a suite ticket with all the fixin’s, and it looked like a night for the ages.  James Paxton followed up last Monday’s performance with another gem, going 6.1 innings of shutout ball, allowing 6 hits & 2 walks against 7 strikeouts.  The Mariners scored their lone run in the 5th off the bat of Adam Lind (who failed in his attempt to set the Major League record by being the 5th Mariners player in a row to hit multiple homers in a game), and the bullpen did its job to keep the Rangers scoreless headed into the top of the 9th.

With Beltre out, it was Prince Fielder who picked up ABs this weekend.  Fielder had rightly been benched for being an overpaid tub of goo, but of course, with this being the Mariners, he busted out to completely dominate.  In this case, Steve Cishek decided to go right after him (as you should, because walking a .200 hitter would be a disaster), and Fielder turned it around and knocked it out of the park to tie the game.

The last couple of innings were a blur, but suffice it to say the Mariners’ bats stayed quiet.  The Rangers took the lead in the 11th and that was that.

As for yesterday’s game, what can you say?  Another Wade Miley dud.  And Steve Johnson showed you what he’s capable of doing when you give him lots of opportunities (hint:  he sucks).  The offense didn’t get its shit in gear until the last couple innings, but by that point it was far too late.  I guess the game ended with Cano trying to stretch a single into a double, but if you’re really going to get upset about that – in a series where the Mariners were pretty awful in a lot of different areas – then you do you.

I guess one silver lining is that we don’t have to play the Rangers again for a while.  We went from holding a marginal lead over them, to now being 5 games back.  Maybe by the end of August, we’ll have figured out how to beat them.

We’re now a modest 5 games over .500, and firmly in the Wild Card race, but it’s plain to see the Mariners need some help on the pitching side of things.

How much longer of a leash can we extend Wade Miley?  He’s got 4 quality starts out of 13; that type of production isn’t going to keep us in contention.

Is there any way we can trick some other team into taking Karns off our hands as one of the primary prospects in a Rent-A-Starter deal?  Karns is who he is, and that’s pretty much a Five & Diver who might ultimately be better suited as a reliever.

Considering Felix is looking like he could be out as much as 8 weeks (or until the end of July), the Mariners are probably going to have to make a deal for a starter sooner rather than later.

Also, I can’t be the only one who has no belief in Cishek’s ability to close out an important game.  Not in the way Fernando Rodney would get abused – either via the walk, or the dink n’ dunk variety of hits, before a full-on explosion – but in the way that Cishek is either on fire, or he’s giving up a bomb, and pretty much nothing in between.

Is it just me, or does this season feel like it’s going down the shitter?

Do The Mariners Have Any All Stars This Year?

Yeah, the All Star Game isn’t until mid-July (and, frankly, doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things), but you and I know these things are determined in the first couple months of the season.  One good early-season hot streak can seep into the minds of the voting public (not to mention the fantasy baseball-playing public), and shape everyone’s opinions even if that player isn’t doing quite so hot by the time July 12th rolls around.

So, should we expect to have any Mariners on the team this year?

For starters, I think you gotta make Robinson Cano a lock.  Granted, he’s coming off of a down year, but he’s been not just one of the best second basemen in the league, he’s been one of the best all-around players in the league!  The early-season tear that he was on has cooled off a little bit, but he’s still 2nd in the A.L. in home runs, and tops in RBI.  This is pretty much a no-brainer, even with Jose Altuve’s high batting average.

Beyond Cano, I think you can make a sound argument for Nelson Cruz as the DH.  Even though the game is being played in San Diego’s Petco Park, the American League is still considered the “home team” and as such, the game will feature the DH (unless that rule has changed, and they stick with the DH regardless of who is considered the home team; in my mind, it’s home team-dependant for some reason).  I think Cruz is a solid second option behind who will surely get voted in as the starter, and that’s David Ortiz.  Ortiz is supposedly retiring after this year – so his sympathy vote will be off the charts – plus he’s just having the all-around best year as a designated hitter.  He leads Cruz in all hitting categories (except walks), and Cruz really hasn’t had any sort of hot streak to put his name on the map.  I still think Cruz makes it as a backup (because he still is one of the top power hitters in the game), but it would help his cause to have a really blistering June.

Seager has been coming on of late, but he still finds himself around 4th or 5th in most pertinent hitting categories among third basemen.  The thing is, his month of May has been re-DonkeyLips, and if he were to keep that going through most of June, he might hit his way back into the conversation.  Otherwise, there are a couple guys in Baltimore and Detroit with something to say.

That’s pretty much it, as far as hitters go.  Ketel Marte would’ve been an interesting argument before he went on the DL, as he was starting to play himself into more national recognition.  But, there are so many really good short stops in the league, Marte is probably a year or two away from really getting the sort of attention he needs.  Leonys Martin is another, what with his power numbers, but he’s never going to supplant a healthy Mike Trout, and I just think there are too many other big names out there for him to become a reserve.  He’d have to somehow maintain this hot stretch – maybe start batting in the .270s overall – and continue out-playing his career power number norms for him to make a dent.  It also wouldn’t hurt for the Mariners to keep winning.  Teams that lead the league in wins tend to have among the most All Star representatives (see:  2001 Mariners, with 8).

On the pitching side, I know a lot of fans are down on him, but Felix Hernandez is currently third among qualified starters in ERA.  It hasn’t been totally pretty, but he’s been getting the job done, and figures to be as close to a lock as there is among starting pitchers on this team.

Walker might have an outside chance, but he’s going to need to start putting up more zeroes, and start pitching more innings.  Iwakuma and Miley are both non-starters.  Indeed, if you want a REAL dark horse, Nathan Karns is currently 17th among American League starters in ERA.  He’s in a similar boat as Walker – and probably a year behind him from a national recognition standpoint – but that might be someone to keep an eye on over the next month.

As far as relievers go, it’s a little too soon to properly rate and compare among the league leaders.  I will say that Steve Cishek is tied for the A.L. lead in saves, and we all know closers are WAY more likely to make an All Star team than non-closers.  Cishek is also tied for 2nd in the league in blown saves, so that could be trouble.  If he can keep his blown saves under 5 or 6, keep his ERA below or right around 3.00, and be among the top two or three in saves, he should get in there.  Again, the more the Mariners win, the more it’ll help someone like Cishek.

And, the more it might help any relievers behind Cishek.  Like I just said, it’s really hard for a non-closer to make it.  You kinda need numbers that will blow everyone else away.  Like, an ERA under 1.00, or a fuckload of strikeouts or something.  I know Nuno has the better ERA, but if I’m making an argument for any other reliever besides Cishek, it would be Nick Vincent.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s almost nothing Vincent can do to be an All Star this year, aside from strike out literally every batter he faces between now and the end of June (or whenever voting ends for the ASG).  But, he’s got an ERA under 1.50, he’s pitched a lot of innings, he’s being used in higher-leverage situations, and he’s striking out WELL over a batter per inning.  For a guy like Vincent to make the team, we’d have to be looking at a crop of very mediocre relievers around the rest of the A.L. and I just don’t see that being the case.

In tl;dr, look for Cano to be a starter, look for Felix to be one of the top starters (but likely won’t actually start the game as long as Chris Sale has anything to say about it), look for Cruz to probably be a reserve DH after Ortiz, look for Cishek to be one of the top closers selected, and probably figure everyone else has too long of a shot to make it.

Still, that’s probably four Mariners in the All Star Game this year.  When was the last time we could say THAT?

(2014.  It was 2014.  Felix, Seager, Cano, and Fernando Rodney.  God Bless America)