The Mariners Keep Losing Guys & Somehow Winning

I’m starting to think if we just murder the entire team and fill it with cast-offs and Rainiers, the Mariners might finally win the World Series!

(that was only for humor, please don’t murder the entire team)

We’re in the middle of the world’s best – yet dumbest – road trip:  three whole games, from Seattle to Oakland and back again.  Considering all the travel the M’s have had to do – to such exotic locales like Minnesota, Kansas City, Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Minnesota again, et cetera – it’s actually kind of cool they only have a couple of 2-hour flights to deal with this week.

Anyway, yesterday Dee Gordon went on the DL.  Over the weekend, Nelson Cruz was hit on the elbow and he was missing from last night’s game (hoping to play tonight, but we’ll see).  Then, during the game, Mitch Haniger was also hit by a pitch and had to leave.  It’s a forearm bruise and not a tumor fracture, so we’re all hoping he’ll be back soon; but nevertheless he’s set to miss a few days at least.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, as Jean Segura slid head-first into home to score the winning run, he bashed into the catcher and fucked up his shoulder, so HE could also be missing some time and/or be sent on the DL.  Ain’t that some fucked up shit?

39 year old Jayson Werth was pulled from last night’s Rainiers game, so he figures to play for Haniger for at least a few days.  He hasn’t exactly been tearing it up down in Tacoma – hitting .193 with 4 homers and 5 doubles in 24 games – but I guess you could say he’s been better of late – hitting 3 of those homers and 4 of those doubles since May 14th.  I don’t know how much faith I want to put into those numbers, but maybe it means he’s starting to get his timing back?  Not for nothing, but he really hasn’t been good since 2014, so just because you’ve heard of the name doesn’t mean you should get your hopes up.

As for last night’s game, what a hum-dinger!  (yeah, I didn’t watch it)

Mike Leake pitched around a couple of jams and got into the 7th inning having given up only the 2 runs.  Mike Zunino jacked a game-tying 2-run homer in the top of the 7th off of Trevor Cahill to eventually send this thing into extras.  Pazos and Vincent did their jobs (Vincent getting the win with his 1.1 innings of work), the aforementioned Segura scored from first on a Guillermo Heredia double, and Edwin Diaz had no trouble locking down his 16th save in the bottom of the 10th.  Just a gritty, grind-it-out, hardscrabble, come-from-behind Mariners-type victory!

Today, the A’s have a AAA call-up (who has apparently struggled mightily against the M’s) facing off with Marco Gonzales.  I’m loath to say this – because I know it’s going to bite me in the ass – but I actually feel sort of confident about tonight’s game!  There’s no quit in this team!  Of course, the prospect of having Andrew Romine and Gordon Beckham in the same lineup gives me the willies, so get well soon Jean Segura and Dee Gordon!

Good: The Mariners Won The Season Series Against The Tigers

The Tigers aren’t good, man.  They’re just not.  And yet, we came out of Detroit a week ago having lost 2 of 3, followed by losing the opener to this home series over the weekend to make it 3 of 4.  It just looked dismal at that point, and you had to wonder if all the injuries and suspensions and shaky pitching had finally caught up to this team.  Let’s face it, playoff teams win season series against inferior opponents like Detroit; whereas Mariners teams – that inevitably always fall short of the playoffs – find ways to lose these series to inferior opponents like Detroit.

I mean, this is a team that’s actively tanking 2018 to try to build a better ballclub in 2019 and beyond!  The Mariners, conversely, have been building to this year for a while now, and are pretty actively trying to go for it all, farm system be damned!  With two franchises going so clearly in opposite directions right now, it couldn’t be any more demoralizing to lose a bunch of games to this team.

Before we get to the Tigers, I should point out that the Mariners split their 2-game set against the Rangers.  Honestly, with all the travel, the make-up game, and the weird scheduling times, I’m more impressed that the Mariners avoided a sweep at all.  We came back to win that 9-8 thriller on Tuesday, only to shit the bed on Wednesday afternoon, but who can get mad about that?  Sure, the Rangers are crap, but circumstances, man.

It was that Thursday loss to the Tigers, though, that really got to me.  Marco Gonzales did his thing (and might’ve even gotten through that sixth inning had Kyle Seager not made a run-scoring error), and in spite of the run, we were still up 2-1 headed into the eighth inning.  With Juan Nicasio being held back to work on his stuff, Nick Vincent came in off of quite a roll, only to blow it.  Will anyone ever take command of the 8th this year?

I was at a comedy show on Friday, so I missed this one, but things looked pretty dire heading into the 7th, down 4-0.  Thankfully, turnabout is fair play, and the M’s put on a 5-spot in the bottom of the 7th to take the lead, with Nicasio and Diaz able to hold the fort for the save.

Saturday was just a marvelous night all the way around.  James Paxton got his second career complete game (the first being his no-hitter a few games back) as the Mariners won 7-2.  He struck out 8 while giving up just a walk and 3 hits; I could’ve done without the 117 pitches – particularly with the game so well in hand – but we’ll see if that matters or not.  I know Paxton is a big, strong animal and everything, but if he goes on the DL in a week, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  I mean, maybe it’s a nice morale boost or whatever, but we were beating them by 5 runs; seemed unnecessary to throw an extra 20 pitches on his arm just to get that 9th inning.  It’s not like the bullpen was massively overworked or anything; you still had a guy warming up just in case someone got on base!

That brought us to Sunday, where Francisco Liriano damn near no-hit us.  As it was, he went 8, giving up just 1 hit and 3 walks, before he gave way to the team’s closer, up by a comfortable 2-0 margin.  The Mariners once again saw Wade LeBlanc pitch into the sixth inning, giving up both of those runs, and got clean bullpen work from newly called-up Ryan Cook, as well as Pazos, Altavilla, Nicasio, Diaz, and Vincent.  With one out and Segura on second, Mitch Haniger stepped up in the 3-hole and belted a massive game-tying homer to ultimately send this game into extras.  Then, in the 11th, Dee Gordon singled, swiped second, and was hit in by Segura to send the fans home happy.

I’ll say this:  Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger have been absolutely carrying this team so far this year!  With Cano gone, and with Cruz being a magnet for opposing pitchers to hit on damn near a daily basis (as well as with Seager not doing a whole helluva lot at the plate, with Healy being his streaky self, and with the rest of the outfield being more Small Ball than Long Ball), it’s been a godsend to see Segura and Haniger develop into not just The Future, but The Present.  Could that Taijuan Walker trade have gone any better for the Mariners?

Now, here we are – with a Monday off-day – 27-19, in second place in the A.L. West (2 games behind the Astros and 1.5 games ahead of the Angels to lock into that second Wild Card spot.  I’m still not convinced this is a playoff team and probably never will be until it actually happens, but this is as good as I’ve ever felt about a Mariners team this late into the season for a long, long time.

Getting back to winning that season series against the Tigers, we’ve also won the season series against the Indians, and are 2-1 against the Twins, Royals, White Sox, and Blue Jays.  We’re 3-2 against the Rangers and 4-2 against the suddenly-surging A’s.  The only teams we have losing records against are the Angels (1-2) and the impossible Astros (1-3).

Obviously, the hitting is the story of the season.  Segura, Gordon, and Haniger are leading the way.  Cano was having a fantastic season until he got popped and broke his hand.  Zunino, Cruz, and Seager could be better, but are still providing the power this lineup needs.  Healy overcame a disaster of a start to be a dynamic force towards the bottom of the lineup.  Heredia has not shied away one little bit with his increased playing time.  All we need is for Gamel and our bench guys to pick it up just a tad and the offense should be able to weather the storm (for the most part) of losing Cano for 80 games.

I’ve been a little intrigued by the pitching of late, though.  Obviously, Felix and Leake have been pretty big disappointments, even based on my lowered expectations, but they’ve kind of been keeping us in games for the most part.  He never looks great, but Felix has only looked BAD a couple times; other than that, he has a bad inning here and there, but is usually able to limit the damage and hold it down until the offense can pick him up.  And, while I think most people expected Leake to be better heading into the season, he’s only a little bit worse than what I predicted, based on his overall experience in the MLB (and not just his last 2 amazing months of 2017).

On the flipside of things, James Paxton has been on the roll of all rolls in the month of May.  Wade LeBlanc continues to be on the run of his life (and absolutely should not be returned to the bullpen if/when Erasmo Ramirez gets healthy).  And even Marco Gonzales continues to be the most economical of starters that we have.  If he EVER figures out how to make it through the sixth inning without handing over the lead he’s been given – and God forbid starts working his magic into the seventh inning and beyond – I might actually be able to one day forgive this GM for trading away future superstar Tyler O’Neill.  That’s not even getting into Christian Bergman’s 7-inning 0-run start and Ariel Miranda’s 5-inning 1-run start.

As for the bullpen, that’s always going to be volatile.  Scrabble hasn’t been anything close to what we need from a lefty specialist.  Nicasio has had moments of greatness, but too many slip-ups for comfort from an 8th inning guy.  Vincent has been a little bit up and down (probably right on track, from my pre-season expectations).  But, Diaz has been extra-special, Pazos has been very stout, Altavilla’s been a little better than expected, and if Ryan Cook can hold it together, he could be a pretty big addition to this group.  Also, Chasen Bradford has been a nice innings eater and someone I didn’t even come close to expecting anything from.

All in all, I think the bullpen will have its bad moments (as they all do), but is overall better than I thought.  And, while the starters are far from elite (aside from Paxton), I’m coming away very impressed with this unit.  I’ll never be confident with these guys, but I think they’re managed very well.  If that continues, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility for this to be a Wild Card team in 2018.

Cano’s Fucked & The Mariners Are Gone

Not too long ago, it was a broken bone in Robinson Cano’s hand of unknown severity that was causing all of our sleepless nights this week, fretting the fate of a Mariners team seemingly on the verge of breaking a playoff drought longer than any other in major American professional sports.  Yesterday, we learned of his 80-game steroid suspension, and it doesn’t even matter that the Mariners beat the Rangers in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th last night.  This season has gone so far sideways that we can’t even sit around and mope about one thing for a single day before some other atrocity befalls this cursed franchise.

I mean, seriously, on the same day Cano gets clipped, some dickhole hits Nelson Cruz on the foot with a breaking ball?  Sure, he should be back in a few days, BUT WE GET IT BASEBALL GODS!!!  It can always get fucking worse for the Seattle Fucking Mariners.  ENOUGH!

The earliest Cano can come back is mid-August.  He should be weeks healed from the broken bone by then, but I’m not sure all that matters much.  The real ramifications are, of course, that this essentially doubles his time away from the Mariners this season, which severely affects their chances to sneak into that Wild Card game.  What’s even worse, of course, is that even if by some grace of the baseball gods the Mariners do manage to somehow grab that second Wild Card spot, Cano won’t be allowed to play in it.  Or any of the other possible post-season games this year.

Just when you thought it was safe to be a Mariners fan again.

I’m obviously much less concerned with how this affects Cano’s legacy.  I’m also less concerned with how or why it happened.  Did he knowingly take something against the rules and then try to cover it up?  Sure seems like it.  Even if he didn’t knowingly take something against the rules, he’s an idiot and SEVERELY negligent for not knowing what’s going into his body.  Either way, I guess this is a black mark on his otherwise Hall of Fame career, but again, what do I care?  He did most of his Hall of Fame damage in a Yankees uniform anyway, and Hall of Fame inductions don’t win the Mariners any World Series titles, so fuck all that noise.

Before the season, I was dubious at best about the Mariners’ chances of making the post-season; with the hand injury, my doubts only intensified.  With this suspension now?  Forget it.  While my overarching opinion hasn’t changed – this isn’t a playoff team, and more shit like this will chip away at the good start they’ve enjoyed – I have an even more concrete opinion of the 2018 Mariners and it’s absolutely unimpeachable:

Even IF the Mariners make the playoffs in 2018, as it’s currently constructed, there’s no hope of even sniffing the World Series, let alone winning it.  Not with the level of competition that looks to vie for the other playoff spots.

So, Cano can get injured, he can get suspended, he can even retire in disgrace, it’s not going to matter.

What I hope for is that the Mariners take this $12 million they’re going to save and rent a quality starter for the remainder of the year.  Might make things more interesting.

As for all the talk of moving Dee Gordon back to second base, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance that it would happen until the team acquired another proper starting outfielder.  I mean, this was a team already too uncomfortable to play Guillermo Heredia on an everyday basis (settling on someone in Ben Gamel who’s been the fucking worst since the All Star Break last year and hasn’t re-adjusted to the way the rest of the league has adjusted to him), now we’re going to start BOTH of them?  I guess when you take a look at our second base alternatives, it doesn’t sound totally crazy, but at some point I have to believe this team goes after a better outfielder (likely to stick in left field, with a platoon in center until Cano returns and Dee can move back).  I know this team has more pressing needs elsewhere (like up and down the pitching staff), but figure outfielders are more prevalent and shouldn’t necessarily cost as much to acquire in trade.

Just a rotten, rotten day any way you slice it.

The Mariners Won A Crucial Series Against The Blue Jays

And we’re back!

I was listening to the Brock & Salk show this week, and one of the callers bemoaned the fact that the Mariners keep winning these series, but they’re totally incapable of sweeping them.  And, while obviously the hosts were right to laugh at him because when you think about this organization … I mean, your expectations can’t be that high!  It’d be like the Cleveland Browns starting to turn around their fortunes and being upset they’re not immediately in the Super Bowl.  These are the MARINERS, just be happy they’re winning any games at all!

And yet … I kinda sorta get where that caller was coming from!

Dating back to the first series of the year, the Mariners had chances against the Indians in that loss, but the offense couldn’t push us over the top.  Then, in the finale against the A’s, we lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to lose out on the sweep.  There was the finale in Texas where Erasmo Ramirez stunk up the joint; the opener against the lowly White Sox where Mike Leake stunk up the joint; and once again against the Indians, where a late rally against Kluber & Co. fell just short.  Then, we had Paxton’s 16-strikeout game against the A’s that should’ve given us the sweep, until finally we get back to this Toronto series.

Game 1 – no hitter.  Glorious.  Game 2 – sigh.

The headline of Game 2 was:  Juan Nicasio melted down in the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead, giving up 4 runs and costing us the game.  But, I’m here to argue it never should’ve come to that.  The Blue Jays were running out a starter on a terrible streak – Jaime Garcia – and we had MULTIPLE chances early in the game to put him away.

Bases loaded in the first, but only managed 1 run.  Multiple runners on in the third, but again managed just 1 run.  Two more walks in the fifth, but couldn’t push a runner home.  Garcia allowed runners in 4 out of 5 of his innings pitched, but in the end all we could muster against a guy who walked 5 and hit 1 batter was a measly 2 runs (1 earned).  I mean, that was the game right there, and it was vastly overshadowed by people bemoaning our bullpen woes.

And I get it.  We have two guys – Nicasio and Diaz – and right now Nicasio, I’m not sure, is the guy we thought we were getting.  He’s been fantastic most nights, but he’s been shakier a whole lot more often than we were hoping.  And I don’t know if anyone else is really stepping up.  Nick Vincent maybe, but I feel like we need more right now.  Hopefully James Pazos can be a guy like that, though he’s got to handle all of our left-handed duties with Scrabble sucking as hard as he is.

It’s a shame too, because we wasted a really good start out of Wade LeBlanc.  Sure, he only lasted 5 innings, and sure he threw less than 60 pitches, but he held the Blue Jays to 1 run off 4 hits with 0 walks and 3 strikeouts, and I agree with the decision to turn it over to the bullpen at that point, with a narrow 1-run lead.  The fact that the offense let it remain so close is what’s really the overriding factor of why we lost that game.

Too bad, too, because we ended up crushing Game 3.

7 out of 9 guys had at least 2 hits (only Cruz and Heredia lost out on the fun).  Seager hit two homers, including a first inning grand salami, and most importantly everyone kept piling on the rest of the way, scoring in 6 out of 9 innings.  We knocked J.A. Fucking Happ’s ass out of there in a hurry, and went on cruise control the rest of the way.

Mike Leake rebounded in a big way, going 7 innings, giving up just 2 runs.  And, some shaky bullpenning in the 8th inning notwithstanding, we got out of the series with a much-needed win against a potential Wild Card rival.  I said it before, but keeping the Blue Jays at bay is going to be critical to our chances, as we need to keep it to a 2-team race for that second wild card, between us and the Angels.

The Mariners are in Detroit right now and already had one rained out, so there’s supposed to be a doubleheader today.  We’ll see how this goes.  The Tigers are bad, so we gotta find a way to squeeze out another non-sweep series win!

The Mariners Had Their Asses Handed To Them In San Francisco

Look, this just isn’t going to be the greatest road trip in the history of the world unless the pitching shows up.

The Mariners are 2-1 since Nelson Cruz was injured, but don’t let the winning record in the small sample size fool you.  This team is severely hamstrung without their best power hitter locking down the middle of that lineup.  Haniger and Cano, God bless ’em, are doing the lord’s work driving in runs; as are Gordon and Segura, getting on base.  But everyone Seager and below in the lineup is pretty mediocre right now, and I don’t care if you’re the cluster-luckiest team in all of Major League Baseball, you’re not going to win many games with only 4 guys producing.  Thankfully, the stupid series with the Giants is over after only 2 games, so we don’t have to suffer our stupid pitchers trying to swing a bat again until the middle of July.

Of course, you’re not going to win many games if your starting pitcher gives up 8 runs in 4 innings either.  It hurts my heart whenever King Felix struggles, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much.  I mean, what sort of cold-hearted bastard gets mad at Old Yeller for succumbing to rabies; IT’S NOT HIS FAULT ALSO I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE THE ONE WHO IS CRYING!

We had a less-than-stellar James Pazos sighting, as well as an inning-gobbling appearance out of Wade LeBlanc to save the rest of our bullpen ahead of today’s sub-freezing game in Minnesota.

On the hitting side of things, guys sort of got theirs, but Johnny Cueto did an excellent job of spreading out the damage and avoiding the big inning (which, unfortunately, with zero command of his fastball, Felix couldn’t match).  Gordon and Cano both had a couple singles apiece; Haniger had a hit and two walks to rub it in everyone’s faces that he’s got the best approach at the plate right now; Mike Marjama had the first hit of his 2018 season (and a double to boot); but Dan Vogelbach was the star of the show (so to speak), with his two hits, including an RBI double (the only run the Mariners would score all day).

Look, these things happen, and I get that.  But, as I’ve been preaching all week, this team is in desperate need of the bottom of its lineup to start pulling its weight.  I hope, like I’ve never hoped before, that we eventually get to see this team at full strength, with Cruz, Zunino, and Gamel all back to full strength and starting everyday (along with all the other starters we have going now).  I have no doubt Cruz is a major upgrade over anyone else at DH; same with Zunino over anyone else at Catcher; same with Gamel over the likes of Ichiro or Heredia in left field.  At that point, I think the weakest part of the lineup is at first base, and I’m not so sure we wouldn’t be better off with Vogelbach getting the lion’s share of starts over there (with Healy in a strict platoon against left-handed pitching).

Also, I’ll say this:  if Ichiro doesn’t get hot at the plate in a hurry, I think he could be waived just as soon as Gamel is ready to come off the DL.  Clock’s ticking for our Hall of Famer; I hope the Mariners do the right thing here.

Mariners Offense Continues Humming Along

With Nelson Cruz joining Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel, David Phelps, and Erasmo Ramirez on the DL, I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the Mariners yesterday.  We’re rolling with two nobodies at catcher, left field and first base haven’t provided a whole lot on the offensive side of the ball, and there we were in San Francisco, playing in a National League park.  With Seager’s usual early-season struggles in full effect, it seemed like a day where the offense might shit the bed.  And, with Marco Gonzales on the mound, I more than have my doubts that he can hold it together this season.

Happily, my fears were unfounded, at least for a day.  Though, with these injuries to Cruz and Zunino, the bottom of the order is pretty pathetic.  The bulk of the damage yesterday was done by hitters 1-5 (Gordon, Segura, Cano, Haniger, Seager).  Sure, Healy & Heredia both had their first hits of the season, but neither is really going to be an offensive force this year (or ever); more like complementary players who might chip in some production here and there.

While it was nice to see Seager get a couple hits and a walk, the top four guys are really dominating so far this season.  Dee Gordon was 3/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Jean Segura was 3/4 with a walk and 2 runs scored.  Cano was 1/4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.  And Haniger continues to be this team’s MVP through four games, going 1/5 with a run and 2 RBI.  Here’s hoping his hot streak continues at least until Cruz can come back.

Marco Gonzales looked about as impressive as I’ve ever seen him through 6 innings yesterday.  At that point, he’d only given up 1 run off of 4 hits, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on a measly 80 pitches.  So, it made perfect sense to try to squeeze one more inning out of him.  Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the M’s were up 6-1.  Gonzo struck out the leadoff hitter, but that was followed by a single and a 2-run homer (on a pitch that was about as middle-middle as they get) to unceremoniously end his day.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great way to start his season (probably the most important season of his professional career), but God damn would it have been a lot cooler to see him only give up the 1 run.  Not that I think a late-game 2-run homer will completely shatter his confidence, but I do think confidence is his friend, and the more of it he has, the better off we’ll all be.  Don’t forget, he’s out of options.  It’s not like we can just stash him in Tacoma for another season to work on his craft.  It’s now or never!

Nick Vincent got us out of the seventh with a couple scary-looking fly-outs.  Juan Nicasio struggled in his second consecutive appearance (giving up 3 hits and 1 run to make things interesting and get Dan Altavilla warming up in the bullpen).  It did look like he was starting to throw harder than before, so maybe he’s still rounding into shape.  I’m still sort of expecting him to land on the DL any day now with arm issues that will explain away why he’s looked so mediocre through three outings.  Thankfully, Edwin Diaz is still red hot, as he closed out the game with no trouble.

I still have a lot of concerns about this offense as we continue on this week without two of our biggest boppers.  Things look okay now, because we’re 3-1, but after we leave Frisco we’ve gotta go to Minnesota and Kansas City before we start to see some guys return.  In that time, we’re gonna need some of these guys who aren’t hitting to pick it up in a big way.  I don’t think cluster luck is going to be our friend for too much longer.

A Cool Thing Happened At The Mariners Game Last Night

They won!  One down, 64 left to go, RIGHT SHEEPLE???

I can be as sour on this season as I wanna be, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a delightful Opening Night Mariners game with a sold-out crowd (apparently the largest regular season crowd ever for a Mariners game in Safeco Field?  Even though I’m pretty sure it holds 48,000 seats and last night’s number fell just short of that?).  I met up with some friends at Slugger’s for a few rounds of Coors Banquet Beer tallboys right around 3pm until it was time to mosey on over to the stadium.  I don’t know if the fans were smarter about getting inside earlier, or if the Mariners organization was indeed moving things along at a faster clip, but I was inside in a matter of moments and I didn’t need a CLEAR membership to do it.

I like to get 200-level seats whenever we’re going to a game that’s going to be at or near a sellout.  What you sacrifice in food options, you more than make up for with better seats, clear sightlines, less people getting up and getting in your way every inning, and a quicker time in and out of the bathroom.  It’s really a no-brainer.  Also, as I really wanted to try the new donut place (spoiler alert:  couldn’t find it), it was easy to just walk downstairs and make a loop around the stadium before the game started.  I actually did this during the pre-game introductions, which is fine.  Red carpet, lots of clapping and fireworks, I get it.

I had a pizza slice, a couple of hot dogs, and I got to try Dippin’ Dots for the first time ever.  I’ve always been partial to, you know, actual ice cream, though I tend to gravitate to soft serve in a mini-helmet when I’m at the game, but I think at the time the soft serve machines were still “warming up” so to speak.  I’ve always wanted to try Dippin’ Dots and even though I’m not a child, I decided to get a cup at an open stand.  BOY were they disappointing!  I don’t know what I was expecting, but the ice cream of the future can suck it!

Then, it was gametime.  Felix Hernandez pitched to contact, kept his pitch count relatively low, limited hits and walks, and still found 4 guys to whiff.  All told, he was pulled after 5.1 innings (after he gave up his second walk of the evening) of shutout ball, and the game was put in the hands of the bullpen.

The M’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Cano had a 2-out single and Cruz followed with a first pitch bomb to dead centerfield.  The score stayed that way until the 7th, when the Indians – off of Nick Vincent – got 3 hits to manufacture a run.  He held the damage there, Juan Nicasio did his job in a clean 8th, bridging us to Edwin Diaz.  Sugar worked around a couple HBP’s, striking out the side with the go-ahead runs in scoring position.  It was a tightwire act, to be sure, but it was good enough to hold up for a 2-1 victory.

The Mariners’ offense did about as well as I could’ve hoped against the likes of Corey Kluber, who went the distance for the Indians, sprinkling around 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 8.  It was a hard-luck loss for the ace, but it’s impossible not to come away impressed with how the Mariners pitched in this one.  I know it’s 1/162, but still.

While all the games won’t be as low scoring as this one, I think this is a textbook example of what most Mariners wins are going to look like.  Felix more or less controlled the game through 5 innings, but at the very first sight of trouble in the top of the 6th (that 1-out walk), Scott Servais was out of the dugout and had no qualms about pulling his Opening Day starter.  I know that Felix was more or less on a pitch count regardless – as he didn’t have much of a Spring (coming back from that hit on the arm) – but I think it says a lot that he made it through 5 innings at less than 80 pitches, and the team automatically had guys warming up in the bullpen.  I feel like that’s going to be the norm for a lot of starters on this team; I doubt we’ll see Servais out there asking Felix how he’s feeling, or if he’s got one more left in him.  Similarly, I don’t think we’ll see Felix argue his way into staying in games once he’s reached that point.  It’s a new day, Seattle!

The bullpen shook out like I expected.  Dan Altavilla came in for Felix and got a double play to end the threat.  Scrabble started the next inning, got his one out, and was pulled for Vincent.  Vincent struggled, as I thought he might (he too didn’t really have much of a Spring, after being over-worked in 2017).  I hope he’s able to work through this and turn back into the guy he was for most of last year, but I’m fearing for the worst at this point.  Hopefully Altavilla will be able to take that next step and be our 7th inning guy (and 8th inning guy when Nicasio can’t go).  Nicasio’s stuff didn’t look too electric, but it’s tough for me to tell from where I was in the stands.  I feel like he knows how to pitch, though, and he went right after the batters in front of him.  Consummate 8th inning guy; here’s hoping the combo of him and Diaz are able to really shorten these games.  As for Sugar, I guess we’ll see.  It was an adventure last night (I was convinced he was going to give up the tying run and we’d head to extra innings), and I think it’s going to be an adventure on most nights.  He’s 1 for 1 in save opportunities, so that’s all that really matters I guess.

All in all, a really fun day.  That was pretty much the only way the Mariners were going to beat someone like Kluber, so I’m glad the pitching staff was able to hold it together.  Now, we head into the weekend (with a stupid off-day today) at a pretty good advantage, with Paxton set to go tomorrow, and Leake there to go on Sunday.  If you gave me 2 of 3 right now, I’d gladly accept and fast forward to next week.

As for the hitters, we saw Dee Gordon get his first in a Mariners uniform (as well as a walk), but no stolen bases just yet.  Segura had a rough night, going 0-4 and grounding into a double play.  Those first inning hits were the only ones for Cano and Cruz, but boy were they massive!  Mitch Haniger was the rest of the offense, going 3 for 3 with a double.  On pace to bat 1.000 with 162 doubles!  Zunino was a late scratch with some tightness, and Mike Marjama stepped in like a champ.  Hope Z’s okay going forward.  And Ichiro got the start in left field (which was weird to see).  He made a nice catch at the wall and had a chance to drive in a run, but ended up going 0 for 2 with a strikeout before being pulled late for defensive reasons.  He’s still coming back from injury too, so I don’t know if I’d read too much into that.  I do think Heredia is a better defensive outfielder at this point – and if the M’s had their druthers, he’d get the bulk of the playing time over Ichiro – but I think for now they’re going to go with a straight platoon in left until Gamel returns.

Here we go!  Baseball’s back!  We’re doing it live!

My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Expectations For 2018

Wish in one hand, shit in the other.  You get the idea.

And so here we are, Opening Day.  We’re all overflowing with optimism.  Well, not all of us.  Super annoying baseball fans are overflowing with optimism, but what do they know?  They’re just excited baseball’s back, as if it’s not the longest death march every fucking year.  Six months of this shit, plus a month of playoffs (or, hell, maybe more).  It starts today and lasts the rest of our fucking lives.

You want my opinion on the 2018 season?  MOOD.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve written this same exact fucking preview every year for the last decade.  Honestly, I can see this season going one of two ways:  either the Mariners do shock the world and break the playoff-less streak, or they completely and totally fall apart and end up with a Top 5 draft pick next year.  I don’t think there’s a middle-ground, at all.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ol’ farm on the latter.

So, let’s get into it.  Let’s talk about the plan; the bundle of twine and duct tape holding the season together.  Let’s see how Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais try to MacGyver their way to contention.

The Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Leake
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Andrew Moore
  • Rob Whalen
  • Chase De Jong
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Hisashi Iwakuma?

Normally, I just hit you with a 5-man rotation (in this case, the top five names, whenever Ramirez gets healthy), but why bother stopping there?  Ramirez is ALREADY injured, and while they say they won’t need the fifth spot in the rotation until April 11th or some damn thing, you know he won’t be healthy by then, so that puts Ariel Miranda (blessedly starting the season in Tacoma, where he belongs) in line for at least one start.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s called up sooner than April 11th because someone ELSE got injured.  I’m looking at Felix, I’m looking at Paxton, I’m looking at Marco Gonzales.  Pick your poison!

And believe me, they’re all poison.  I’d start aligning your expectations with mine pretty soon, because there’s no saving this rotation.  It’s abysmal.  Felix is not the Felix of old and he’s never going to be.  He’s going to give up annoying dingers with his nothing fastball, he’s going to walk a ton of guys because hitters have been told to lay off the changeup, and he’ll kinda sorta keep the Mariners in a lot of games, but only if the offense comes to play.

Paxton is great, but obviously can’t stay healthy and never will.  It’s always some damn thing, and the saving grace has always been that it’s never anything really serious.  It’s never a bad shoulder or elbow injury … but you know they’re coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, when those injuries hit, his career is pretty much over.  Maybe just rent property in the Maple Grove, don’t buy.

I like the IDEA of Mike Leake more than I think I like the actual pitcher.  I think he’s just okay, but far from special.  He’ll be like Felix in a different way; he’ll probably keep this team in a lot of games (again, if the offense shows up), but he’s rarely going to wow you with his stuff or blow other teams away.

I don’t even really like the idea of Marco Gonzales, much less the actual pitcher.  I think it was a bust of a trade that brought him here, I think he’s only in the rotation because he’s out of minor league options, and while he had a good Spring Training, we all know that means nothing.  These types of pitchers (go ahead and throw Erasmo Ramirez into the mix – who had a great stretch of starts last year, but don’t expect THAT to last), who are just gifted a spot on a 25-man roster due to being out of options, RARELY end up panning out.  If they were worth a damn, they would’ve solidified their status as bona fide Major Leaguers a long time ago.  What are the odds they manage to put it all together – COINCIDENTALLY – the same year they run out of minor league options?  You see my point.

The rest of those guys are just guys.  Iwakuma will never pitch in the Major Leagues again.  Wade LeBlanc has been brought in to be a long reliever, but I could see him getting a spot start or two.  Andrew Moore sucked last year, and didn’t really wow anyone with his Spring.  Chase De Jong is just a guy.  And, while Rob Whalen turned some heads (until his disaster of a final start back on the 18th), he also appears to be just a guy.

The plan with this rotation is to try and limit their innings to 5-6 per start, in the hopes of keeping guys fresh and healthy, and limit the damage opposing offenses can do the third & fourth times through a lineup.  So, the day-to-day management on Servais’ shoulders is going to be pretty hefty.  That’s also going to put a high burden on the bullpen to pick up the slack.  And, since Major League Baseball has stubbornly refused to expand gameday rosters beyond 25 players (in spite of the fact that the game is obviously going in this direction, and therefore teams will need more arms than ever before), that either means over-working your ‘pen, playing with a smaller bench (as it is, there’s usually room for no more than 4 players on your bench, and 1 of those guys has to be a backup catcher), or running guys back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle.  The problem, of course, is when too many starters have too many games in a row where they’re not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is gassed, there aren’t any off-days, there aren’t any guys to bring up from Tacoma, and you’re essentially throwing games away because you just need the starter to pick the team up, regardless of how terrible he is.  With a team like this Mariners team – that often finds itself (in recent seasons) only a handful of games out of the playoffs – they can ill-afford to just throw games away.  Sure, it’s a marathon and all that, but it’s a marathon that ultimately comes down to a couple seconds at the finish line.

I think the Mariners are doing the best with what they have, and the plan is sound in my mind.  But, the pitchers just aren’t good.  And the ones that are good aren’t reliable.  It’s easy for me to see a similar deluge of injuries happening this year, and the whole season just falling apart.

The Bullpen

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • Nick Vincent
  • James Pazos
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Casey Lawrence
  • Wade LeBlanc

There are obviously a number of guys starting out in Tacoma, so I’ll stick with the Opening Day 8 for the time being.  Right off the bat, the Mariners lost David Phelps for the season, as I believe he’s going in for Tommy John surgery.  That was going to be a huge part of our late-inning dominance.  Recall we just traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins for his services before the deadline last year, where he made all of 10 appearances before being shut down with an injury.  Now, he’s out for all of 2018, and this is the final year of his deal before he’s a free agent.  So, not only did we throw a bunch of prospects away, but we wasted $5.5 million dollars this year, just so he can go out next year and pitch for somebody else.  Why would he stay?  Why would the Mariners commit to spending more money on him?  This is Drew Smyly all over again.  GREAT TRADE DIPOTO!

As for the guys who are here, there’s a lot to like about Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.  But, of course, when will Diaz turn back into a pumpkin?  All our other closers – dating back to, I want to say, Kaz Sasaki – have had 1-2 good years before falling apart.  Well, Diaz has been up here for around 1.5 years, so it’s time for him to suck.  As for Nicasio, I’m getting a real Joaquin Benoit vibe.  Remember that guy?  He was around forever, never got hurt, was always a reliable 8th inning guy?  Then, when he donned a Mariners jersey, he was hurt within the first month of the season?  I’m just saying, let’s see the guy do something for a couple months before we get too excited.

Nick Vincent was a workhorse and our most reliable pitcher in 2017.  Of course, he got tuckered out in September, due to all the overuse, so they took it easy on him this Spring.  Yeah, I feel like that’s a bad sign.  If he’s not an arm injury waiting to happen, he’s certainly a terrible pitching season waiting to happen.  Pass.

Lefties Pazos and Scrabble should be okay, but you never know.  Tony Zych was finally shit-canned because he can’t stay healthy; that’s a bummer.  I loved his stuff and thought he had really dominant potential.  In his place, Altavilla has won a job.  He was all over the place last year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him settle down and have a good year.  Might take a while for this team to realize how much better he is than someone like Vincent (who I expect to struggle early and often), but they’ll probably have no choice but to use Altavilla in some high-leverage situations before too long.

Then, we’ve got a couple of long relievers.  The Mariners brought in Wade LeBlanc, who I guess has been converted to relief?  He’s got no minor league options, so either he comes here and eats up innings like a champ, or he’s cut.  The problem with this signing is, if he’s not absolutely terrific, I have a hard time seeing him stick on the 25-man roster.  This team likes to bring guys up from Tacoma far too often, and needs relievers with minor league options so they can dick them around.  That’s why I like the chances of someone like Casey Lawrence (who I assume still has options, but I refuse to go online to research).  Lawrence had a bonzer Spring Training and essentially came out of nowhere to win a job in the Bigs (he was a starter last year, brought up & down a few times when guys got injured, but wasn’t anything special).  I assume if he does well, he’ll STILL be sent back and forth to and from Tacoma, because Mariners gonna Mariners.

Having a couple of innings-eaters in your bullpen is going to be critical, so here’s hoping those guys manage to keep us in enough games to be relevant.  But, the more of our back-end of the bullpen guys get injured or otherwise have terrible years, the higher the chances this entire house of cards comes crashing down.  To make the playoffs, the Mariners will need to have one of the 5 best bullpens in the American League (maybe even Top 3), to compensate for that disaster of a starting rotation.  Do these guys inspire that sort of confidence?  I gotta say, replacing David Phelps with Wade LeBlanc is a BAD start to this season that’s only going to get worse from here.

The Everyday Players

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ichiro (LF)
  • Mike Marjama (C)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B)
  • Guillermo Heredia (OF)
  • Andrew Romine (INF)
  • Ben Gamel (OF) – DL
  • Taylor Motter (OF/INF) – Tacoma

I like that lineup.  I like it a lot more with Ben Gamel in the fold, but we probably won’t see him at his best for a while.

I expect Gordon to be fine defensively, but I do expect him to struggle at the plate.  That’ll be rough.  I think Segura will be fine.  I think Cano will be okay (I think we’re still in the gradual stage of his decline; I don’t believe the cliff is here yet).  I think Cruz will have his ups and downs (I could see him succumbing more to injury this year than his past 4 years combined).  Kyle Seager is what he is and I’m going to stop trying to wish into existence another level to his game.  I think Hangier will be good when healthy, but again I think he’ll rarely be healthy.  I think Healy is sort of a nothing guy who might have a few good games here and there, but for the most part will be mediocre.  I think Zunino will be great!  I like him to make a big jump in his game!  Not only will he NOT be sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing, but I think he’ll be in the conversation for the All Star Game (and might even make the team as a backup).  As for Ichiro, I can only see it ending badly.  Final year with Griffey bad.  Like, waived in the first month or two bad.  He’s got no power, he’s down in speed, he had pretty much no Spring Training, and he’s coming off of a minor injury.  Just seems like a recipe for immediate disaster.

I’m interested to see what Marjama brings; I have no opinion one way or the other on what his season will be like.  Vogelbach is the story of Spring Training, but that won’t last.  He won’t get much in the way of playing time, and when he does get a start, he won’t make the most of his opportunities.  Heredia is a nice bench outfielder; hope he’s fully healthy.  Romine is a guy; I could see him getting waived in favor of Motter (who also is just a guy, but a younger, cheaper guy).

This season will go down the toilet in a hurry if guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager all struggle.  I like Segura to hit, but I could see his power continue to be limited by Safeco and this cold Seattle weather.  And, of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that younger guys like Haniger and Zunino do struggle at the plate (injuries aside) and this team is left scrambling.  For the most part, I believe the offense will be okay, and I don’t think ALL those bad things will happen, but I don’t think the offense is good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching.  Frankly, I don’t think ANY offense would be good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching on this team.

The last couple times the Mariners really bottomed out, we went 61-101 (in 2008 & 2010).  I could see something around that number yet again.  My prediction?

65-97

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  Feel The Excitement It’s Faaaaannnn-Tastic Suck Our Dicks, You’re Just Here For The Beer & Fried Crickets Anyway!

Ichiro! Is Back!

So, I’ve been less than totally invested in the Mariners’ Spring Training this year, because Mariners.  I follow a bunch of beat writers and the like, and during their press conference tweet storms, I catch glimpses of what’s going on.  Erasmo Ramirez got injured pretty early on.  Mitch Haniger swung a bat too much and got sore?  Jesus Christ!  Other guys, like Heredia, Vincent, Phelps, and many others I’m forgetting right now are coming back from offseason injuries or a 2017 season of gross overuse.  Felix got hit on an arm, and so on and so forth.

The latest fucking tragedy to befall this cursed team is Ben Gamel straining an oblique somehow (again, I don’t care, about any of this).  He’s out “4-6 weeks” which really means “6-8 weeks, and will continue to suck as he tries to work his way back into shape, so probably count on him being useless and actively hurting this team for a full 12 weeks”.  For those of you counting at home, that’s three outfielders – Heredia, Haniger, and now Gamel – all dealing with injuries of varying severity.  Our only remaining starting-calibre outfielder is Dee Gordon, who has literally never played an inning of outfield in a regular season Major League game.

Neat, huh?  So that means the team really needed to go out and get another guy.  Preferably a guy with Major League experience, a guy who’s prone to stay healthy, a guy who won’t cost a whole lot, and a guy who’s had recent success at the Major League level.  And yeah, I guess you could argue Ichiro checks off all those boxes.

  • Major League experience?  How about 17 years?
  • Healthy?  I really only remember one or two bad years where he had some injuries with the Mariners, but he’s certainly not a guy living on the DL.
  • Won’t cost a lot?  How’s $750,000 for a 1-year deal?  That certainly won’t break the bank.
  • Recent success?  Well, that’s debatable.

Let’s dig into that a little bit.  Obviously, we’re not getting Prime Ichiro.  He was past his prime when we traded him away to the Yankees back in 2012.  It’s 6 years later!  He’s essentially been a part-time player ever since, with his plate appearances dwindling every season for the last 3 years.  He had a couple decent years with the Yankees, one really bad year with the Marlins in 2015, then bounced back to have a pretty good year in 2016.  Last year, he had that dreadful first half, but bounced back with a second half that saw him hit .299.

Obviously, he’s got zero pop in his bat whatsoever.  I mean, he was never all that big a power hitter, but this is insane.  Nevertheless, he’s never really tried being a power hitter; that’s not his game.  He knows his game, and so he should be fine doing what he does.  We won’t be counting on him to leadoff; he’ll almost certainly be batting 9th in any regular season lineup he’s in.  He keeps himself in great shape, he still plays quality defense, and honestly I take great comfort in having another solid professional in the locker room.  I don’t care about leadership or anything like that – though, I’m sure he won’t shy away from helping out a teammate when asked – I just want a guy who goes about his business, does his job, and will hopefully come up big in big moments like he used to.

And, when those other guys come back healthy, he’s a nice 4th or 5th outfielder to have.  Because none of these fucking guys (especially Haniger) can stay healthy for a full season.

This isn’t the same as Griffey returning.  This isn’t a PR stunt to sell tickets and get fans to sit around remembering 1995 all over again.  Ichiro can still play.  Not as Ichiro!, but sort of as Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back.  Old, wise, a little loopy (I mean, seriously, playing until he’s 50?), but can still school your ass on occasion.

Some Reasons To Maybe Check In On The Mariners Once In A While 2018

It absolutely sucks being a Mariners fan.  This team has either been terrible or mediocre every year since the 2003 season came to a 93-win playoffs-less end.  I haven’t had much opportunity to write about the M’s this offseason, because they haven’t done much this offseason; it’s very un-Jerry Dipoto-like, someone should check and see if he’s still alive, or if all these podcasts he’s doing are like a Wolfman Jack situation.  The last time I wrote about the Mariners, I wasn’t very happy.  That should be nothing new, of course, but specifically I wasn’t very happy because the starting rotation this year looks like complete and utter shit.  And, that’s the thing about the Mariners:  timing isn’t their strong suit.

How many years did we slog through a lineup that couldn’t hit its way out of a wet paper bag?  How many elite Felix years did we squander?  Remember when we had both Felix and Cliff Lee in their primes, together, on the very same team?  Want to feel old?  That was 46 years ago.

Anyway, this year, it’s the flipside:  the pitching stinks, but the hitting is kinda, sorta okay.  Or it isn’t, I dunno.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side here, and give you some reasons to live.  MIND YOU, don’t try to twist this into some ill-conceived belief that I think this team has something to play for.  In this division, as this team is constructed, the playoffs are not in our immediate future, so go ahead and cast those thoughts right out of your head.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you some reasons to maybe check in on the Mariners once in a while 2018:

Mike Zunino is coming off of his very best season as a professional baseball player, which is VERY exciting to me.  I know it could very well be an aberration, and he could turn right back into a pumpkin this year, but I like to believe he’s really turned a corner in his career, and will be a reliable player for us for many years to come.  Probably not a superstar, but if he can keep it up and get hot at the right times, I could see him making an All Star Game or two.

As long as they’re healthy, guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager are always worth watching.  Sometimes they run into horrendous cold streaks, but when they get going, they’re pretty fun.

I’ll be curious to see how Jean Segura looks, fresh off of his mid-season contract extension last year.  He finished the season pretty cold from a power perspective, but he still hit .300 and played some solid defense.

Of course, the biggest story as we head into Spring Training (and on into the regular season) is how Dee Gordon is going to look as this team’s starting centerfielder, making the conversion from middle infielder.  I’ll be as interested in his hitting ability as I am in his defensive ability, since so many times you see a drastic reduction in offense when a player makes a Major League position switch.

I’ll be curious to see if Mitch Haniger blossoms this year, after an injury-plagued 2017.  He has all the tools to be a great one, now he’s gotta stay healthy and put it all together.

I was surprised to see Ben Gamel featured pretty prominently in the 2018 promotional give-aways, as those were announced very early on in the off-season.  That was a big indicator that he was going to remain on the Mariners, and not traded for pitching help like a lot of us thought.  I’m torn, because this team absolutely NEEDS pitching help, but I don’t think Gamel alone gets us the quality starter we need, in which case I’m glad he’s staying.  He made a huge leap in 2017, and I’ll be curious to see if he can continue that upward trajectory.

Guillermo Heredia figures to platoon with Gamel in one of the corner outfield spots (or give Dee Gordon an occasional day off), and he too made a nice jump in his production in 2017.  He’s always fun to watch, and seemingly does something amazing almost every time he’s out there, either in the field, at the plate, or on the basepaths.

While the pitching as a whole is pretty suspect, the bullpen has the potential to be pretty awesome.  It’s going to have to be, if this team wants to be a winner.  It’ll require no less than being one of the three best bullpens in all of baseball for this team to simply contend for a Wild Card spot, so there’s your glimmer of hope if you were looking for one.

  • Can Edwin Diaz continue to stay healthy and dominate?
  • After a shaky September, will the Good Nick Vincent return?
  • Will David Phelps be healthy and return to form?
  • Will newcomer Juan Nicasio be our 8th inning lockdown reliever?
  • Will lefties Pazos & Scrabble continue to be reliable?
  • Will we get anything out of Tony Zych or Dan Altavilla?

Finally, I’ll be interested in how this team is managed.  There’s talk of a 6-man rotation.  There’s talk of an extended bullpen.  There’s talk of really limiting the number of innings per start – even more than we’ve already done, out of necessity, thus far in Servais’ Mariners career, because our starting pitching has been so mediocre – and having the bullpen do all the heavy lifting.  What will that translate to?  Seems to me, at the very least, we’re in for more of the same when it comes to shuttling guys to and from Tacoma on the daily.  But, going into the season, with the bullpen knowing it’s going to carry more of the load, how will they respond?

I think the game of baseball is really on the brink of a revolution.  Starters are pitching fewer innings than ever before, and that number might continue to fall.  How will that affect roster construction?  Will the game adapt and finally increase roster size?  Will there be 6-man rotations?  Or, perhaps 3- or 4-man rotations (pitching 3-4 innings per start), with extra long relievers in the bullpen?  The way guys are getting injured every year, this might be the way to limit those arm injuries and keep guys fresher throughout the season.  Essentially, treat the pitching staff like you do in the World Series, all year long.

Everything is on the table.  I don’t expect it to be to that extreme, of course, but it’ll be interesting to look at the trends the Mariners start to implement.  If they can somehow “hide” their rotation by limiting its importance on the game, maybe they can get something going.  Or, maybe they’ll tire out their bullpen and flame out after a couple months.

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  come for the toasted grasshoppers, stay for the trainwreck!