The Mariners Finished 78-84

Tied for 14th-worst record in baseball, with the Texas Rangers.  And, by virtue of the Rangers having a superior record than the Mariners in 2016, that means we win the tie-breaker!  Hurrah!  We’re drafting 14th!

Hey, it could’ve been worse.  Sure, it could’ve been a lot better, but I guess we just HAD to win those three games in the final week!

I have nothing to say about the series against the Angels.  I’m just going to run through some numbers.  I’ll have a proper End Of Season Recap when I’ve had time to digest everything that’s happened.

78-84 is good for 3rd in the A.L. West, behind the division-winning Astros and the nothing Angels.  The Astros were 23 games better than the Mariners.  Go ahead and let that sink in.

78-84 is good for 7 games back of the second Wild Card spot.  The Twins ended up taking that, as I believe I’ve mentioned before.  The Royals, Rays, and Angels all stood in our way as well.  Oddly enough, every team out of the playoffs was under .500 in the American League (there were two teams in the N.L. with winning records that failed to make the playoffs).

The Mariners finished 40-41 at home; 38-43 on the road.  The Mariners finished with a -22 run differential (by the Pythagorean winning percentage, we should’ve been about 1 win better).

Here are the Mariners’ records by month:

  • April:  11-15
  • May:  14-14
  • June:  15-12
  • July:  14-12
  • August:  12-15
  • September:  12-16

The Mariners’ peak was 3 games over .500, which I believe they achieved twice; the nadir was 8 games under .500.  The longest winning streak and losing streak were both 6 games.  The Mariners were 7-5 in extra innings games.  They were 26-15 in 1-run games.

Here are the Mariners’ final records against their A.L. West foes:

  • Houston:  5-14
  • Anaheim:  7-12
  • Texas:  11-8
  • Oakland:  12-7
  • Total:  35-41

That means the Mariners were 43-43 against everyone else.  Not great, considering every other American League division had a minimum of 2 playoff teams; we really should’ve done a better job cleaning up in our own division.

Jean Segura led the Mariners in batting average with an even .300.  Nelson Cruz led the team in OBP with .375, and Slugging with .549 (it would stand to reason, then, that he led in OPS with .924).  Cruz led the team in homers with 39, and in runs scored with 91; he led the entire American League in RBI with 119.  Robbie Cano had the team lead in hits with 166.  Cano and Seager tied for the team lead in doubles with 33.  And Ben Gamel took the team lead in triples with 5.  Jarrod Dyson was your stolen base king with 28.

The less said about the pitching, the better, but here are a couple of nuggets.  You want to know who led the team in innings pitched?  Ariel Miranda, with a whopping 160!  Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 156 and in wins with 12.  Yovani Gallardo led the team in losses with 10.  Nick Vincent, naturally, led the team in Holds with 29.  And Edwin Diaz finished with 34 saves.

The Mariners finished 7th in the A.L. in runs scored with 750.  8th in ERA with 4.46.

I could go on and on, but I’ll call it a day right there.  All told, the offense was worse than I expected, and the pitching was as bad as I feared.  Of course, I hoped for the best with the pitching, and it indeed may have been better had everyone not gotten injured.  But, overall this is probably the record the Mariners deserved.  This is probably the best indication of who these Mariners were.  Sure, they might’ve been a bit better with a full season out of Paxton and Felix, and with ANY season out of Smyly, but with their flaws, this was no playoff team.  Not now, not ever.

You want to hear something really sad?  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Lloyd McClendon was 163-161.  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Scott Servais is 164-160.  Over these last two years, the Mariners are exactly 1 game better than they were the previous two years.

God I hate baseball.

Remember This Day: The Mariners Are Alone In The Second Wild Card Spot

Remember it, because it probably won’t last.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because I know the other shoe is about to drop, but this is unbelievably exciting.  The Mariners took down the A’s 6-3 yesterday to complete the 2-game sweep – a feat that should be appreciated with a golf clap rather than hyperbolic sycophantism, because given how terrible the A’s are now, that’s something the Mariners absolutely SHOULD HAVE accomplished – while the Royals and Rays both lost to fall a game behind the Mighty Mariners!

This might very well be the zenith of the Mariners’ season.  3 games over .500 for the first time all year.  All alone in that aforementioned second Wild Card spot.  Just completed a 6-3 road trip to get to within 2 games of .500 on the road on the season.  Heading back to Seattle for the only week’s worth of home games in August, with Paxton on the mound tonight followed by Edgar Martinez Weekend.  If this isn’t as good as it gets, then get the hell away from me because I must be dreaming and I don’t want to wake up!

It all started yesterday afternoon.  Kyle “Corey’s Brother” Seager jacked a 3-run homer in the first to get things going.  Then, Nelson Cruz followed with a 2-run homer in the third and a solo homer in the fifth.  Not for nothing, but Seager has climbed up to 17 homers on the season, 7 of them since the All Star Break.  And Cruz is up to 26 homers, 9 of them since the All Star Break.  Not a moment too soon for either of those guys to get hot, I tell you what.

Staked to 6 runs, what did the Mariners get out of Yovani Gallardo?  More of his same putrid bullshit.  He gave up some mighty solo homers in the first and third to keep the A’s in it, then started to give up a lot of hard-hit contact in the fifth.  A single, followed by a liner that was only caught at the wall because Ben Gamel is literally Superman, followed by a run-scoring double and that was the end of his day.  Luckily, Emilio Pagan bailed him out, as well as the rest of the Mariners, keeping the damage to just what Gallardo gave up.  Pagan went 2.2 innings of 1-hit shutout ball to record the victory.

You know, it’s pretty fucking sad when a guy given six runs of support from his offense can’t even qualify for the fucking win.  It’s 5 innings!  That’s all you have to do!  And Gallardo couldn’t even do that, against the fucking A’s of all teams.  What. A. Piece. Of. Shit.  He does all this good in the bullpen, enough to get his starting job back, and this is what he’s able to manage.  Fucking pathetic.

From there, Tony Zych was able to lock down the eighth, and Edwin Diaz was able to lock down the ninth for his 25th save.  Somewhere out there, some fantasy baseball player got a really good deal on Edwin Diaz right before the All Star Break, and that person has been rewarded with 12 saves against only 1 blown save in a little under 4 weeks.  Simply outstanding!

It’s pretty easy to get excited about this team right now, especially with James Paxton on the mound tonight against the Angels, but again we’re talking about everything riding on this start.  Because have you seen the fucking duds we’ve got going over the weekend?  Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ariel Miranda, in that order.  If we don’t win the Paxton start, again, I think you can kiss this series goodbye, as well as our lead in the Wild Card and everything else.

If Paxton wins, MAYBE you could envision the Mariners’ offense jumping all over the Angels on Friday or Saturday (while getting just enough out of our starter before pulling him after 5 innings), with an outside chance of Miranda having a quality bounce-back start on Sunday and taking 3 of 4.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we need Paxton to come through to make any of our dreams a reality.

I was going through the schedule the rest of the way, picking out the Paxton starts assuming nothing changes and we continue with the 5-man rotation.  I made the argument that if you moved Paxton around in the rotation, pitching him strictly every 5th DAY instead of every 5th game, you could get an extra start out of him, while at the same time slotting him into either pitching the final game of the regular season, or (if we’ve clinched), setting him up for the Wild Card game.  Whereas, if you just pitch him every fifth game as anticipated, he ends up missing a lot of important series against difficult teams, and may not be ready until the ALDS (if we get that far).

My argument is:  you need to maximize James Paxton as much as humanly possible, since he’s your only good starter.  Getting 1 more Paxton start, on what’s ostensibly regular rest (I’m not going crazy here and suggesting he pitch every fourth day or something), could make all the difference in what’s looking like a Wild Card race that’s destined to go down to the wire.

And I understand the arguments against it.  He’s pretty injury prone, so do you want to risk blowing up his arm in this all-important season?  Baseball is a slog!  It’s a marathon, not a sprint; but it’s also just a fucking slog through the muck for six straight months.  It’s punishing.  It’s obscene, really, how long it is, and the fact that they have to play everyday, sometimes going three full weeks without a day off.

But, I mean, do you want this or not?  The Mariners almost certainly won’t do it, because you’re not managing a fantasy baseball roster, you’re managing human beings with feelings and egos and you can’t just single out one starter like that without alienating the rest of the rotation (as shitty as those other guys may be).  But, I thought the motto was “Whatever It Takes”!  Seems to me, guys are going to have to swallow some pride if we want to get this done.  Just ask Danny Valencia, who was benched because the Mariners were scheduled to face a bunch of right-handed starting pitchers in a row.

That’s my two cents anyway.  The way this season is going, Paxton will probably blow out his arm tonight and the point will be moo.  You know, a cow’s opinion.  The single greatest line from the TV show Friends in its illustrious 10-season run.

My other two cents, before things completely fall apart, is that I agree with Mike Salk and Softy (among other local radio personalities, presumably) that Scott Servais should ABSOLUTELY be in the running for Manager of the Year.  I mean, I know nobody cares about those awards, and most people who vote for them are just checking the box of the team with the best record without giving it more than 2 seconds of thought, so, you know, bank on the guy who manages the Astros to win it this year.  But, has anyone done more with less than Scott Servais?  Has anyone had to juggle a pitching staff with so many injuries?  The answer is no, obviously, the Mariners have had the most snakebitten pitching staff in the history of baseball.  But, he’s got this team in contention by playing that rotation like a fiddle.  Sometimes, guys just have bad games and they have to wear it.  But, more often than not, he’s pulling starters at just the right time, squeezing as much as he can out of them before going to the bullpen.  And, for the most part, I’ve liked his bullpen decisions.  He’ll have a brain fart here and there, but who doesn’t?  I’ve honestly been REALLY impressed by how little I’ve complained about his bullpen usage.  Even when it doesn’t work out, I can almost always understand the rationale behind the move.  It’s refreshing, really, after Lloyd McClendon and some of the other doofus managers we’ve had here in recent years.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today.  Voters, give Scott a chance!

Suffering Through The Rookie Growing Pains Of Scott Servais

Look, he fucked up, all right?  He made a stupid decision and it backfired.  But, don’t tell me he had no other choice!

Did he have a choice when he used 3 pitchers in the 7th inning to get 3 outs?  Yes he did.  Did he have a choice to bring back Dan Altavilla to start the 8th inning, as he was the one who finished the 7th and had only thrown 8 pitches at that point?  Yes he did.  But, you know what?  What’s done is done.  It’s the 8th inning now, and Scott Servais is tasked with protecting a 1-run lead against the division-leading Rangers, to help stop a 3-game losing streak in a playoff race.

Do I begrudge him going to his closer, to get the rare 6-out save?  No I don’t.  And, through two batters, it looked like a genius move, as Diaz only needed 5 pitches to get the first two outs of the inning.  Then, it took him about 20 more pitches to get that third out, and here’s where I have the fucking problem.

Scott Servais, I appreciate you’re a man with a plan and you’re sticking to your guns, but it all goes out the FUCKING window when your closer needs 25 pitches to get through the fucking 8th inning!  At that point, traditional closer roles don’t matter.  At that point, only winning the game matters.  And by leaving Edwin Diaz in there to start the 9th, you might as well have thrown Jesus Sucre out there, because he would’ve given us just as good of a chance of winning!

Where the fuck was Arquimedes Caminero?  If you tell me he wasn’t available last night, under any circumstances, then guess what?  Now, I’m calling you out for wasting three pitchers in the 7th.  If he WAS available, then I’m sorry, but you’re a fucking fool for not turning to him in the 9th.  I don’t care if the Rangers would have been a poor matchup against his fastball.  I DON’T CARE IF HIS ARM WOULD’VE FALLEN THE FUCK OFF!  You don’t try to squeeze 50 pitches out of Edwin Diaz just to see if he has what it takes!  You cut your fucking losses, admit your plan failed, and put your 8th inning guy out there in the 9th.  Simple!  Little!  Equation!

This isn’t the first instance of boneheaded bullshit out of Servais, and it certainly won’t be the last, but God damn I had high hopes for him being someone different.  Someone who wasn’t going to be a fucking slave to traditional baseball ethos.  Someone who’d go with the best pitching matchup, regardless of whether it’s the 6th or 9th inning.  Someone who doesn’t believe in the fucking Sac Bunt that NEVER FUCKING WORKS.

Instead, he’s just another Lloyd McClendon clone.  Great.  You know, we had that guy last year!  Did exactly the same shit as Servais, down to the letter.  Could’ve saved yourself some bucks.  Just sayin’, the manager’s job is total bullshit.

Have fun fucking things up again today, Mariners!  Keep fighting, you fucking losers!

I Slept Through The Mariners Game Last Night

What’s the opposite of FOMO?  GTBMO?  Glad To Be Missing Out?  That’s what I have with the Mariners.

I didn’t watch a single minute of the Mariners last night, but I would check in on Twitter, in between catching up on episodes of Another Period.  I wanna say I finally gave up and went to sleep just after the Mariners scored to go up 2-0.  Paxton was cruising along on some crazy-low pitch count, and I figured one of two things would happen:  he’d continue to dominate and we’d get a much-needed shutout victory; or the shit would hit the fan.  And, in the case of the shit hitting the fan, let’s just say I’d rather not stay up and watch.

And so it came to pass.  Apparently Paxton passed up an opportunity to start a double play in the 8th inning, and would eventually give up 2 runs to end his night.  With a 3-2 lead, the Mariners opted to bring in their closer, even though Paxton had only tossed 78 pitches, and really only struggled for the one inning.

Now, if this were the very beginning of the season, I’d be more understanding.  You have a closer, that’s what he’s there to do:  close games.  And, early in the season, you might want to watch your starter’s pitch count or innings load.  But, we’re smack dab in the middle of this thing.  Moreover, you’ve seen what this bullpen is capable of.  It’s not exactly lockdown.  In fact, in the month of June, it was tremendously over-worked!  Now, obviously, the Mariners stunk down in Houston, and as such Cishek has had a nice, long break in between outings.

But, I’m sorry, Scott Servais is a fucking idiot for not at least bringing in Paxton to start the 9th.  This isn’t coming from some macho dude who thinks it should be like the “Good Ol’ Days” where starters finished their games on the reg.  This is from a guy who DOES, however, think it’s ridiculous to pull a starter who has thrown less than 80 pitches in a game he’s sufficiently been dominating.

And I don’t give a flying fuck what the numbers say!  Fuck your numbers!  Teams could be batting 1.000 against Paxton the 3rd or 4th time around; the Royals weren’t going to do shit against him last night!  Not based on what I’ve read, and from highlights I’ve seen.  If there was EVER a time to give your starter a chance to get the complete game, last night was it.

And instead, what happened?  The manager kowtowed to expectations.  Oooo, it’s the 9th inning, gotta get that closer in there!  Bullshit.  This group was supposed to be different, was supposed to THINK differently.  But, Servais is the same slave to convention that Lloyd McClendon was, that Eric Wedge was, that every other schmuck was who has managed the Mariners since their inception.

What a collosal disappointment.  Football season can’t start soon enough.

Jerry Dipoto Is The New Mariners GM

One month to the day that Jackie Z was fired, Twitter started to blow up with word that his replacement had been found.  It was subsequently confirmed by the team, with a press conference taking place yesterday.  Jerry Dipoto – former Angels GM – is your new Mariners GM.

Forgive me if I’m not falling all over myself with joy.  Truth be told, the move that needs to be made – the move that’s needed to be made for well over a decade – is the organization wresting control from one Howard Lincoln.  Preferably, such a move would come via the powers that be unceremoniously firing his sorry, goldbricking ass, followed by locking him in the stocks so every Mariners fan – one by one – can pass by to hurl insults and throw fresh feces in his face.  But, really, I’d even accept his quiet resignation and/or retirement, just so long as he’s out of the way and not running the show anymore.

I don’t know what to make of Dipoto’s background.  He was the GM for the Angels for 3 and a half years.  Last year, the Angels won the division before being swept by the Royals in the ALDS.  But, how much of that was on the dime of his predecessor’s hard work and shrewd personnel choices?

Jerry Dipoto didn’t draft Mike Trout.  He DID bring in Josh Hamilton.  He also signed Albert Pujols (a trainwreck at first, but has somewhat returned to form the last couple years) as well as C.J. Wilson (moderately successful, when healthy).  I have no idea who he drafted, and I really don’t care to know, because they’re Angels and fuck them.  I care about the fact that he has at least led an organization to the post-season, which is really my only concern for the Mariners at this point.

Will he be the guy to get us back to the playoffs?  I tend to have my doubts.  This organization is so fucked from top to bottom, it’s impossible to see a way out of the abyss.  None of our hitters can make contact.  None of them can take a walk.  Our bullpen is a mess, and we’re squandering the best years of Felix’s career.  As usual, there are too many holes on this team to count, and not enough money or available players out there to fill them.

Coming into 2015, the Mariners needed to fill out the DH spot, the corner outfielders, the back-end of the rotation, while hoping that our young infielders took a step forward.  What did the Mariners accomplish in 2015?  Well, we filled the DH spot with Nelson Cruz, and that’s about it.  PLUS, the bullpen fell apart, all the youngsters flopped, and we need to fill all three outfield spots going into 2016.  It’s an impossible task, so I hope everyone is prepared for continued sucking.

Look for this numbnuts organization to retain Lloyd McClendon.  I say that not to bash on the guy – I thought he brought some needed stability at the position of field manager, and I think he gets the most out of his players, even in a lost season like this one – but because he comes with a built-in scapegoat.  The next two years are very likely going to be miserable at the Major League level, as the organization tries – once again – to fill out the farm system.  They might not be in full sell-off mode, but I could definitely see moves being made to look toward the future.  And, therefore, when we punt these next two years, the Mariners can THEN fire Lloyd McClendon and tell the public, “He wasn’t the right man for the job.”  Dipoto will be able to hire His Kinda Guy (because of course it’s not the organization’s fault we will have had losing seasons in 2016 and 2017), and at that point the clock will be ticking.  Dipoto will have a 2-year grace period, followed by a 2-year hot-seat period, followed by him being out on his ass again and this whole process starting all over.

The sport of professional baseball is so boring and predictable, I honestly wonder why I still bother following it.  Welcome to Seattle, Jerry Dipoto.  I hope you like soul-crushing failure, because you’re going to have a front row seat to the worst four years of your life.  At least you don’t have a stupid-as-fuck last name that’s impossible to spell.

I Have Absolutely No Idea Why The Mariners Cut Fernando Rodney

It happened on Saturday night after the Mariners blew yet another save, this time to the White Sox, en route to yet another extra innings loss.  You’ve heard about teams releasing bad news (from a public relations standpoint) on late Friday afternoons, as it tends to be ignored by the regular fans who are getting ready for a fun-filled weekend after yet another soul-sucking work week; but this goes even deeper!  Saturday night, 10pm.  I was on Twitter all night and I STILL almost let the news slip by me!

Also, weirdly enough, Fernando Rodney had absolutely nothing to do with our loss on Saturday!  Granted, he had a major hand in burying us on Friday night (after yet another discouraging King Felix start), giving up 3 runs in 0.1 innings, but that doesn’t totally explain why the hammer went down on Saturday night.

Fernando Rodney has had few brief stretches of brilliance this year, dominated by utter incompetence on the mound.  This is pretty much the exact opposite of his 2014 season, and a major reason why the Mariners are far from contention.  They thought it might have been Rodney tipping his pitches – and when they cleaned up that aspect, he did rip off nine consecutive scoreless appearances – but the fact of the matter is, Rodney has no idea where the ball is going, and he’s being punished accordingly.  This was, of course, an issue last year as well (and has been an issue his whole career).  Sometimes, you’re able to get away with a total lack of command and luck into a few above-average seasons.  But, the piper is always right around the corner, waiting to get paid, and he got his BIG TIME in 2015.

The only upside I can possibly see in releasing Rodney right now is, it gives us a few more opportunities to look at some younger relief pitchers, in hopes that our bullpen won’t be completely worthless again next year.  The problem with that is, I don’t think a lot of these guys are ready for the Big Leagues (if they ever will be), and so it looks like we’re in for a lot of ugly finishes down the stretch.  Yeah, Rodney has been shitty too, and he provides more than his fair share of ugly appearances, but he’s also somewhat capable at times, and compared to some of the younger bullpen guys we’ve seen this year, Rodney is downright serviceable (I defy you to write a more glowing compliment).

I suppose, more than anything, this was done as a favor to Rodney.  He gets a week to see if another team will pick him up before rosters expand, thereby potentially making him eligible to pitch in the post-season (you have to be on a team’s roster before September 1st to be eligible).  Obviously, we were never going to re-sign him next year anyway, so it’s really a courtesy to a veteran who did a good job for us last year more than anything else.

What’s also of note is that you have to wonder if Danny Farquhar has had his last chance with this team.  He had more of a meltdown than anyone not named Carson Smith on Saturday night, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) in the 10th (getting zero outs in the process), and was sent down to Tacoma as a reward.  Obviously, he hasn’t been nearly as sharp this year as he was last year, and that’s yet another reason why this bullpen overall has suffered.  I tend to be flummoxed a little bit at Lloyd’s usage of him, though.  He seems to want to use him more as a long reliever, when Farquhar is probably better suited to be a late-inning set-up man, starting innings fresh more often than not.  Lloyd likes to bring him into high-leverage situations with guys on base, and I don’t know if that’s the role for Farquhar.  Also, 11 of his 30 appearances have seen Farquhar go more than 1 inning, which again probably isn’t his strongest suit.  The longer a reliever pitches in a game, the higher the chances other teams are going to start teeing off.  He also seems to be a guy Lloyd likes to over-use, not giving him enough off-days.

Some of that last paragraph is me trying to make excuses.  Obviously, the guy needs to go out there and pitch and get the job done.  He hasn’t, and that’s why he’s back in Tacoma yet again.  He’s given up runs in 13 of his 30 games this year, which isn’t ideal.  And, when he melts down, he tends REALLY melt down.  He doesn’t throw hard, and when he misses with his cutter, he gets burned.  But, I wonder where he’d be with more of a defined role.  I contend, he’s never been one of Lloyd’s guys, and in 2014 Lloyd had no choice but to use him because he was amazing.  As a result, I think Lloyd has over-used him in 2015, to Farquhar’s detriment, and now his career is in jeopardy.

Maybe a new manager and a fresh start next year will turn things around for Farquhar.  As for Rodney, who knows where he’ll be or what he’ll be doing in 2016?  All I know is, he won’t be here, and he most likely will be on a small, 1-year, incentive-laden, prove-it deal.

The Mariners Traded Mark Lowe & J.A. Happ Also

It’s a Mariners fire sale, and everything must go!

Well, not really.  It WAS a Mariners fire sale, and in the end a couple more guys went.

Neither was a surprise.  Mark Lowe maybe a little bit, but when you consider how good he’s been, and how he’s on a small contract that expires at season’s end, you have to figure you’re getting some good value.  Maybe the best value of the three guys the Mariners sent away.  In return from the Blue Jays, the Mariners received three players:  Rob Rasmussen (lefty reliever the Mariners just called up to the Majors), Nick Wells (another lefty pitcher who has started and relieved, placed in the low minors), and Jake Brentz (yet another lefty pitcher who has started and relieved, placed in the low minors).  Rasmussen is obviously the major part of this trade – with the other two as long-term prospects – and we’ll see how he does.  I believe he’ll be in Seattle until Charlie Furbush returns from the DL, as he’s only made a grand total of 11 Major League appearances in the last two years.  He’s only 26 years old, with lots of team control, so hopefully he pans out.  And, if Mark Lowe should want to re-sign with the Mariners at the end of the season (considering he was looking to get a house in the northwest), this trade might even be a win-win.

A little later on in the day (obviously, both of these trades went down on Friday the 31st), we were mercifully rid of J.A. Happ, who was shipped off to Pittsburgh for Adrian Sampson, a 23 year old right-handed pitcher born in Redmond, WA, who went to high school at Skyline.  He made the jump to AAA last year and has already made a start for the Tacoma Rainiers over the weekend, going 8 innings and giving up 3 runs.  If he pitches well this month, he might be a guy the Mariners want to give a call-up to in September to get an up-close look at their new prospect.

Getting rid of Happ was a no-brainer; I’m just a little surprised the Mariners found a taker.  And as useful of a piece as this Sampson guy to boot!  If nothing else, he represents a little more depth at the upper-minors level, with the possibility of being yet another candidate to fight for a starting rotation job in 2016.

All in all, you have to be at least a little impressed with what the Mariners did last week.  They recognized this was a team going nowhere (a VERY difficult thing, as I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how much better this team was last year, with a lot of the same personnel) and they made the tough decision of going public with that knowledge in the form of three deadline deals.  Ackley had to go, for reasons I’ve gone over already, primarily because who could justify going through arbitration with him for the next two years and giving him raises for accomplishing nothing?  Happ had to go because he’s on the last year of his deal and he’s not someone you’d want to extend long term.  And while Lowe didn’t necessarily have to go, there’s not really much point in keeping him.  Even if we want to try to bring him back next year, I don’t see why we couldn’t still do that just because he spends a couple months playing in Toronto.

In return, we received the above-referenced four pitching prospects (ranging from the A-level, all the way to the upper minors & fringe Majors), as well as the two upper-level prospects we got from the Yankees in right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores.  That’s six prospects of varying talent levels (though, obviously, not super-highly ranked, given the scraps we gave up) for three guys who aren’t helping us much now and don’t factor much in our future (with the possible exception of Lowe, who may or may not come back as a quality middle reliever with past injury issues).  I figure if one of these guys pans out as a useful Major Leaguer at some point (or can be used as trade bait to eventually bring in a useful Major Leaguer), that’s a victory.

All that remains now is to wonder whether or not the Mariners shake things up organizationally at the end of the season.  Was Jackie Z allowed to make these deals because we’re going to give him one more year to try to do this thing?  Or, were these deals the final nail in the GM coffin; a directive to cut as much fat as we can prior to blowing everything up?

I still have to believe the Mariners are going to make a change, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was two weeks ago.  As annoying as it is to say, there really was a lot right with how this team was set up this year.  Obviously, that doesn’t apply to what we had planned defensively (especially in the outfield), but offensively, and pitchingwise, the Mariners should have been better.  The bummer of 2015, and how this season will ultimately be defined, is that nearly everything that could have gone wrong DID go wrong.  When it wasn’t our offense letting us down, it was our bullpen blowing saves.  When it wasn’t our bullpen blowing saves, it was our starting pitching getting rocked around.  Even Felix hasn’t been immune, as he obviously is well off of his near-Cy Young pace of 2014.  Between Felix being a little less Felixy, Paxton getting injured yet again, Iwakuma being injured and inconsistent, Walker just being inconsistent, and Happ being good for a bit and then a complete disaster, this rotation isn’t immune from criticism.  I know the fans have been all over the offense, and the organization has been down on the bullpen, but I would argue that every part of this team ended up failing, from the top of the organization (Trumbo trade) on down to the 25th man (Jesus Sucre) and through the minors (many of our prospects taking big steps back).

What I will say – as this might be the last chance I get – is that I think Lloyd McClendon has taken a big step forward in his managing style this year.  He’s been able to recognize where the problems are and he’s been remarkably efficient in eliminating these problems.  It didn’t take long to remove Fernando Rodney from the closer’s role.  It REALLY didn’t take him long to see the negative regression in guys like Yoervis Medina, Danny Farquhar, and Dominic Leone.  I think his bullpen usage overall has been about as good as can be expected given how many of our guys have struggled.  And, furthermore, his everyday lineups have started to resemble the kind of outside-the-box thinking this team has DESPERATELY needed for the majority of the last decade.  Say what you will about lineup construction, but shifting Seager to the 2-hole, Cruz to the 3-hole, and Cano to cleanup (to take advantage of the lefty-righty-lefty dynamic that tends to pay dividends in the other teams’ bullpen usage) not only sets us up better as a lineup, but it also puts our best hitters closer to the top, where they belong.  Cruz is obviously this team’s MVP, so why not bump him up from 4 to 3 in the lineup?  Seager is one of our all-around best hitters, and he’s been MADE for the 2-hole since he came up here.  Why keep Seager down in the 5-hole where he’s going to receive fewer at-bats over the course of the season?  It took a while for LMC to get there (mainly because he had misguided affection for our lesser hitters like Ackley, LoMo, and Miller for most of the season), but he’s there now, and it’s been interesting to see his maturation as a field manager.

Mariners Tidbit 62: Five Days Until The Trade Deadline

Since the All Star Break, the Mariners have gone … 5-5.  If you’re keeping track like I am, it’s really not surprising, as the Mariners are essentially a .500 team except for one terrible homestand in late May/early June where they went 2-9.  There are now three home games against the Diamondbacks, followed by the start of a 4-game series in Minnesota before the deadline.

Somehow, the Mariners have leapfrogged a couple teams in the Wild Card chase since the last time I looked.  Now there are only SEVEN teams the Mariners have to pass to get into the play-in game (6.5 games back).  As the Angels appear to be running away with the division (with the Astros only a game back), putting the Mariners 9.5 games out of the division lead, it would appear if anyone is hoping for a miracle turnaround, the Wild Card is the better bet.

In the last ten games, have we seen anything that would lead us to believe in such a turnaround?  Well, you could make the argument that the bullpen in this span has cost us as many games as they’ve saved us:  Beimel giving up the go-ahead homer to A-Rod of all people in the first Yankee game; Rodney giving up the go-ahead homer in the third Yankee game – with an asterisk denoting the offense only generated a single run; Lowe – after being remarkably great for the entire season – giving up a lead with a 2-run homer in the 8th to cost us one in Detroit; and finally, Fernando Rodney & Carson Smith combining for a collosal 4-run meltdown on Saturday against Toronto.  You can counter those instances of utter collapse with brilliant outings:  3.1 innings of 1-run ball to save our lone win against the Yankees; 5 innings of shutout ball to win in extras in Detroit; 2 near-perfect innings to lock down Felix’s 12th win of the season, against Toronto; and 4 innings of 1-run ball to help us take the Toronto series in extra innings yesterday afternoon.  The last one might have been the most impressive, considering Saturday was shot through the heart by J.A. Happ’s incompetence.

Obviously, a bullpen getting the job done only half of the time isn’t going to cut it.  But, aside from a couple pieces, the bullpen isn’t worthless either.

Fernando Rodney absolutely has to fucking go.  He had a long stretch of being terrible in May and early June (giving up runs in 10 of 14 appearances), then seemed to turn it around once his closer’s role was taken away (9 straight appearances giving up 0 runs), and since then he’s fallen apart (giving up runs in 6 of 8 appearances, blowing 2 saves and losing another).  Any potential trade value we could’ve gotten out of him has all been lost, and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone in Tacoma to take his place.  So, I don’t know how they’re going to get rid of him, but they need to figure it out.

Also, David Rollins doesn’t appear to be as good as he looked in Spring Training.  Maybe it’s the suspension and the long lay-off of real live pitching; maybe he’s just not ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues.  Either way, the team has a decision to make.  Fortunately for Rollins, there really isn’t anyone busting down the door from Tacoma demanding a spot in our bullpen.  But, if the team – for some reason – feels like it’s still got a chance to make a run at a playoff spot, Rollins could be the odd man out and sent back to the Astros.  If I’m him, I’m probably considering that to be a good thing, given the trajectory of these two organizations, so I guess either way he can’t really lose.

As for the starters since the Break, Felix has been Felix.  Iwakuma has been shockingly effective in his last few starts.  Walker has completely lost it again (of course).  Happ couldn’t get out of the second inning in his most recent start (and has been underwhelming for the most part since the end of April).  And, also of course, Montgomery has been a disaster just as soon as the team sent Roenis Elias back to Tacoma.  So, LMC can rag on the bullpen all he wants (to deflect from criticism of the offense), but the non-Felix part of the rotation hasn’t been so hot either.

Actually, if you want to look for hope, you can look toward the offense.  The Mariners are averaging 4.16 runs per game in the 31 games since Edgar Martinez took over as hitting coach.  The two may not be related, I have no idea, but the Mariners were averaging 3.38 runs per game in the 68 games pre-Edgar, so that’s almost a run per game improvement over that other guy (whoever that guy was).  Key components like Cano, Trumbo, and Zunino have all improved in the last month, which is promising.

So, we’ll see what happens this week.  Part of me wouldn’t mind it if the Mariners maximized the trade value of some of our expendable pieces (while at the same time knowing they aren’t all that valuable & likely won’t generate much of a return).  The rest of me wouldn’t mind the Mariners just standing pat and wallowing in their own poor roster construction; if for no other reason than to ensure Jackie Z is gone by this time next year.

Mariners Tidbit 47: Jack Zduriencik Needs To Be Fired

You’re a fucking retard if you think the Seattle Mariners are making the playoffs this year.  Yes, I’m talking to you, on June 15th:  you’re a retard if you think there’s any way this team is going to right the ship.  7.5 games behind first place; 4th place overall in the A.L. West.  13th fucking place in the American League – meaning we’d have to pass over EIGHT teams just to get to a play-in game – it’s over.  RETARDS!  It’s over.

You know how I know it’s over?  Because this team’s roster is a fucking joke.  The defense is a joke, the hitting is a joke, and the pitching – God bless ’em – just isn’t good enough to overcome the shitty defense and even shittier hitting.

And Jackie Z is the man behind all of it.  He’s had his chances.  He’s MORE than had his share of chances.  The organization would’ve been justified in letting him go after the 2010 season, and yet here we are.  He’s not the sloppy, back-alley abortion that Bill Bavasi was; Jackie Z didn’t completely gut our farm system in some pathetic Win Now maneuver. Jackie Z is terrible in completely new and fresh ways, but make no mistake, he IS terrible at what he does.

At best, with any trade he makes, we have to hope that both teams end up frustrated and unhappy.  Jackie Z is NEVER going to pull the wool over the eyes of another GM.  But, if the guy we get in return can manage to suck just as much as the players we send away, then it’s a victorious trade for Trader Jack.  What was the best deal he ever made?  It was the Vargas/Guti/Putz trade with the Indians and Mets way back when, and look at how well that worked out long term!  Vargas was a solid starter, who we traded away for a season’s worth of Kendrys Morales; Guti was a solid starter until his body completely broke down; and the guys we gave away didn’t totally murder us in the deal.  That’s unquestionably the BEST trade Jackie Z has ever made in his time with the Mariners!

Getting back to the roster construction, just look at this team.  It’s like the guy read “Moneyball” and proceeded to rip out the pages, one at a time, and wipe his ass with each and every one of them.  Anyone who even has a remote ability to work a count and take a walk might as well be screaming the N-word at the top of his lungs while every media outlet in the world is recording, because the Mariners under Jackie Z can’t get rid of these guys fast enough!  John Jaso is the primary example here, but I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.  The point is, this team hasn’t really even TRIED to bring in well-rounded hitters outside of overpaying for Robinson Cano, and look at how great he’s been in just his second season here.

The Mariners have the most myopic front office in the league.  Where have the Mariners struggled?  Right handed dingers!  So, they bring in Nelson Cruz, Rickie Weeks, Mark Trumbo, and they get rid of Justin Ruggiano because he doesn’t hit ENOUGH dingers, regardless of the fact that he’s one of the few hitters on this team who can work a Major League count.  If you’re taking walks and not hitting dingers, YOU’RE OFF THE TEAM!

And therefore, when this team hits dingers, it tends to do well.  When this team hits no dingers, it gets shut out by the likes of the fucking Astros two times in three days.  I mean, just look at these guys!

Austin Jackson – a good-enough role player on a stacked team, but no one you really want at the top of your order.

Seth Smith – another good-enough role player who probably shouldn’t be playing every day, and certainly someone else you don’t need at the top of your order.

Robinson Cano – Good player, probably not $24 million per year good.  But, beggars can’t be choosers.

Nelson Cruz – Good at dingers!  Not going to win you any Triple Crowns any time soon.  Should never be playing in the outfield.

Kyle Seager – Good all-around baseball player.  Literally the only one cultivated by the Jackie Z regime.

Logan Morrison – His slumps make him look like the worst hitter on the planet.  His hot streaks make him look like he belongs for a breathtaking short burst of time.  Better defensively at first base than any of us thought; should never play the outfield.

Dustin Ackley – The Most Disappointing Man In The World.  Can’t hit, can’t work a count (probably because the Jackie Z regime drilled that skill out of him in the name of dingers as soon as he was drafted), is okay defensively but has a terrible throwing arm, so he’s not really a guy you want to have out there because everyone is going to run on him.

Brad Miller – Doesn’t hit enough, is pretty good defensively, but still makes mind-boggling mistakes from time to time.

Mike Zunino – Doesn’t hit enough (but at least he hits a few dingers!), is pretty good defensively, and is playing almost every single day because this team’s backup catcher is literally the worst.

Mark Trumbo – Dingers, and that’s it.

Jackie Z has been a disaster almost the entire time he’s been the Mariners’ GM, except the team lucked into a couple of winning seasons during his tenure that’s allowed him to keep his job in spite of the fact that we’ve burned through three managers and are well on our way to burning through our fourth in Lloyd McClendon.  You don’t have to fire Jackie Z today, you don’t have to fire him tomorrow.  But, you should probably rein him in on any deadline deals that don’t involve shedding salary, and you absolutely MUST fire him by the time the season ends.

The old fucks who run the Mariners need to bring in someone younger and smarter than Jackie Z.  Someone who is willing to think outside the box (and get rid of LMC in favor of a manager who thinks the same way).  2015 better be the last fucking year we’re stuck with Jackie Z blowing smoke up our asses.

Mariners Tidbit 44: This Is Fucked

This feels like the bottom.  Like the worst it can possibly get for the Mariners in 2015.  I know that’s not true; I know there are about a million things that can happen to lower the bar even more.  But, just look at last night and try not to completely give up.

For starters, we had to go with a starting pitcher who’d never played in the Major Leagues before … and he ended up doing all right!  You can take that one of a few ways:  maybe it’s the Safeco effect, maybe he’s a legitimate back-of-the-rotation starter, or maybe the Mariners just squandered one of the few quality starts we’re ever going to get out of Mike Montgomery.  Guess which opinion is my own.

Then, Mike Zunino got tossed and Lloyd McClendon went on the tirade of all tirades.  It’s nice of Zunino to stick up for his pitcher; you could kind of see this coming with all the shitty umpiring we’ve been exposed to – across the entirety of Major League Baseball – but I couldn’t help thinking at the time that maybe Zunino getting kicked out would actually be a positive for this team.  I’d say his approach at the plate is the worst I’ve ever seen, but there are any number of guys who have played for the Mariners in the last decade who’d give him a run for his money (which pretty much says it all).

The Mariners were 3 of 17 with runners in scoring position.  They ended up scoring 2 runs in regulation and losing 5-3 in 11 innings.  So, yeah, that’s about as grotesque as it gets.  The combo of Cano/Cruz/Seager went a combined 2 of 11 for 2 RBI, so you can’t say we didn’t have legitimate chances, and you can’t blame it entirely on the black holes in our lineup.

And, truth be told, we have no more black holes than we had last year.  Only three regulars are batting under .240 (which, I agree, isn’t asking a whole lot).  But, what it all amounts to is guys not getting the job done when it counts.  Call it “clutchness”, call it cluster luck, call it whatever you want; the hitters aren’t driving in runners, and it’s costing us ballgames.

Nevertheless, the Mariners were up 2-1 going into the 9th inning, when Fernando Rodney botched YET ANOTHER save opportunity.  I’m starting to feel like a real asshole for defending the guy, but what are we supposed to do?  We pull the closer’s job from him and he’s more useless than he’s ever been, because he can’t get guys out and now he doesn’t have that extra motivation of it being a save situation.  We leave him in there and CLEARLY he’s not right, so he’s going to continue to blow games for us.  The bottom line is, if you take the closer’s job away from him, you might as well DFA him, because he’s of no use to us anywhere else.

We’ll see.  We’ll see how long the Mariners let this play out.  Apparently, we can’t have nice things a closer who’s worth a damn for more than a single season.  Kinda makes me wonder – if we do hand the job over to Carson Smith – will he turn back into a pumpkin in 2016?  Either way, even if Rodney somehow turns his season around and doesn’t give up a single run the rest of the year, the Mariners better not bring him back next year.  This experiment has been a success and a failure in equal parts.  I can’t wait to never see Fernando Rodney ever again.