The Mariners Played Two Games I Didn’t Get To See

If that title doesn’t scream out, “Hard-hitting, intelligent baseball commentary,” I don’t know what does.

Actually, kind of a lot happened these past two days.  Chone Figgins has officially been temporarily benched.  Can’t say that’s the most chocking shocking thing in the world, after all, if a guy is struggling that much, chouldn’t shouldn’t he be given some time to breathe?  Likewise, it chows shows Mariners fans out there that we’re not necessarily held hostage by our worst contracts.  At least, for a few games.

Besides, that game on Monday was pretty brutal for Chone.  Every little thing he did elicited a chorus of boos like he was a best man telling inappropriate jokes during his wedding speech.

In the meantime, Luis Rodriguez has gone 0 for 5 in his place.  That’s quite the black hole we’ve got there at third base.

Also, HERE HE COMES TO SAVE THE DAY!  Justin Smoak jacked a 3-run bomb I didn’t get to see because I was too busy sleeping in my bed!  That gave us the 8th inning lead, 3-2, and ultimately the win, 3-2.  That was Tuesday; at the time Brandon League had 2 saves in 2 opportunities.  He slayed (slew?) his demons from earlier in the month against Baltimore; the only cherry on top would be a 3 for 3 series in today’s afternoon contest.

Only, it wasn’t to be.  Because Adam Jones went 3 for 4 with the go-ahead home run.  I’m starting to REALLY hate that guy.

Tomorrow we have our first look at Tampa.  And saints be praised, I’ll finally get to watch a game!

Managers Serve A Purpose … Sometimes

Most of the time, managers of baseball teams don’t really have a whole lot to do.  You write out the day’s lineup – which is usually the same every day – you let the pitcher pitch, and you take the pitcher out when you feel that he’s done.  Aside from that and the occasional team meeting whenever you’ve fallen on hard times, I don’t really see the baseball manager doing a whole lot.

Until, that is, you get into games like we had here last night.  That’s when you get down to the REAL baseball decisions.  Like Pinch Runners, Pinch Hitters, matching up your bullpen to the other team’s batters, hits & runs.  We had it all yesterday!  And I’m going to highlight just a few that made all the difference for the Mariners in their comeback win last night.

The first one’s probably the simplest move of them all, but it’s the move most managers hate to do:  pinch hit for the catcher (because, you know, you’re screwed if your second catcher gets injured and it goes to extra innings).  In the 8th inning, Chris Gimenez was due up with two runners on.  Thanks to our 6-man bullpen, we now have an amazing number of bench players ready to be thrown in at a moment’s notice.  So, enter Adam Kennedy, who is quickly endearing himself to this Mariners fanbase as the anti-Eric Byrnes.  You know, a guy who tries just as hard, but actually manages to SUCCEED once in a while.  Anyway, Adam Kennedy singled to bring the game back to 7-5; we would go on to make it 7-6 before the eighth inning was over.

The second move by Wedge was a little more radical.  In the top of the 9th, still down a run, Justin Smoak led off the inning with a single.  Now, this isn’t the first time he’s pinch ran for Smoak, but it’s always playing with fire because if you succeed and tie the game, and it goes into extras (as it did yesterday), then you’ve just taken out your best hitter.  And, for this team, that means your only legitimate threat to end the game with one swing of the bat.  It’s risky.  Fortunately, Michael Saunders was able to swipe the biggest base of his life, and with two outs, Carlos Peguero – THE ROOKIE SENSATION – knocked him in to tie the game.

Those were two moves that paid off bigtime.  Those were two moves, also, that are pretty much no-lose moves.  Nobody’s going to second guess pinch hitting for Gimenez or pinch running for Smoak.  You’re playing the odds, and in this instance the odds paid off.

The final move was NOT made by Eric Wedge, but by Ron Gardenhire of the Twins.  This one had me shaking my head, but I wasn’t going to protest.  He made a dumb move, plain and simple.  And it cost him the game.

In the top of the 10th inning, Jack Wilson led off with a single.  After flailing miserably at two bunt attempts, Miguel Olivo roped a single into centerfield to put runners on first & second.  Ichiro, bunt master that he is, sacrificed them over to second & third.  With Chone Figgins entering the batter’s box, Ron Gardenhire had a decision to make.  By intentionally walking Figgins, Gardenhire made the WRONG decision.

It’s like he’s never heard of the Mariners offense before!  Has he NOT seen Figgins at the plate the last season and a third?  Figgins is pretty worthless.  The odds of Figgins hitting it out of the infield was practically zero.  Yes, by putting him on you’re setting up the double play, but you’re not taking into account the fact that Luis Rodriguez has done nothing the past two years but lift fly balls to the outfield.

Which is what he did last night, sacrificing in the game winning run.  Just stupid.  I was convinced Figgins would roll one over to the second baseman.

Now THAT is the type of move everyone can second guess!  I hope the Minnesota media gave Gardenhire the business for that one.

Helluva game, though.  The Mariners had a 4-1 lead – including Jack Cust’s first ever Mariners home run in the first inning – then the Twins roared back to make it 7-4 (thanks to Jim Thome’s two rockets), and finally the Mariners got to their bullpen for the win.  Meanwhile, Jason Vargas did indeed break the streak of starters going 7+ innings and giving up 2 or less runs.  Walks & homers, what did I tell you yesterday?  He walked 4 guys, gave up 2 bombs, and left before the end of the 5th inning having given up 5 earned runs.

The streak of wins continues, though.  Let’s see some more of that good stuff.

Two Interesting Developments

The first would be:  we saw Jack Wilson start a baseball game at second base.  He went 0 for 4 at the plate, had zero errors, and then was pinch-hit for late in the game.  Looks like Wedge really DOESN’T hold a grudge.  How about that.

Really, that’s not so interesting, I just thought I’d comment on it (and how wrong I was in the title of this post).  Still, you know he’s going to be traded at some point this season, so let’s move on.

The other thing is:  Guti’s back!  Well, not BACK back.  But, he’s up in Seattle, he took batting practice yesterday, and he’s soon to be exploring the minor leagues in a rehab assignment.  Down 15 pounds – and still without a formal diagnosis as to WHAT the fuck he actually has wrong with him – Guti’s at least feeling better.  He can eat again, which is pretty important, I’d say.

So, that’ll be exciting, huh?  Having our Gold Glove center fielder back out there?

Well, here’s something slightly troubling:  whose spot is he going to take on the roster?

Michael Saunders has seen increased production at the plate since his new batting stance AND he leads the team in RBI.  Ryan Langerhans is the prototypical 4th Outfielder type; a guy who can sit on the bench for days and days, then come in and play any spot in the outfield AND handle his business at the plate.  The guy leads us in Home Runs for Christ’s sake!

I don’t want to see either one of them leave, but what are you gonna do?  You can’t have 5 outfielders on your team!  Or can you?

Ideally, one of our bullpen guys (Wilhelmsen) would be sent down to Tacoma to make room for Guti; but I don’t think anyone has any reason to be confident in our starters’ abilities to go long in ballgames.  We can’t get rid of any of our bench infielders – Kennedy or Rodriguez – as they’ve both been incredibly productive.  And, if we’re ever going to rest our infield starters, we’re going to need both of their bodies on this team.

I’m afraid there’s just no other options.  It’s either Langerhans or Saunders.  I know for a fact Saunders still has an Option left (and I’m pretty sure he was going to get chopped before the season anyway had Guti not had a relapse).  But, I dunno.  I wish there was a way to pass Langerhans through waivers and hang onto him for later in the season.

I mean, shit, you just KNOW Milton Bradley’s going to get injured at SOME point.  I’d really like to know I had Langerhans on this team when that certainty happens!

Jack Wilson, Former Second Baseman

Add this to the list of shit you can ONLY find in a franchise with its head up its ass.

I can’t remember all the crazy shit I’ve NEVER heard of happening before on a baseball team that happened last year.

Milton Bradley losing his shit, walking out of the clubhouse after getting taken out of a game, then promptly asking for psychiatric help that put him on a “restricted list” for a few weeks to get his head right.

Eric Byrnes simply destroying what should have been a relatively routine sacrifice bunt to lose us Cliff Lee’s first start in a 10-inning game, then before he could be questioned by the media, he rides his bicycle out of the clubhouse.

Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune publishes a story where a couple of unnamed teammates accused Ken Griffey Jr. of sleeping in the clubhouse during a game (and being so groggy that he was unable to pinch hit for Rob Johnson), which leads to Griffey and manager Don Wakamatsu not speaking for a month, Griffey being benched for Mike Sweeney, and (my favorite), Mike Sweeney challenging the unnamed teammates to step forward so he can fist-fight them in order to defend Griffey’s honor.

A few games (or maybe just a single game) after Jose Lopez makes a baffling base-running mistake, Chone Figgins does something else almost as brainless and instead of punishing both equally, Wak opts to take Figgins out of the game.  This leads to a physical altercation between Figgins and Wak (in the dugout, during the game) that ultimately leads to the MANAGER being fired.

I might be missing a few other oddities, but go ahead and throw this week’s freakshow onto the pile.

In Felix’s last start, there were two errors in the bottom of the second inning.  They were back-to-back, and they were both made by Jack Wilson at second base.  Either one could’ve prevented what ended up being the losing runs from scoring (had he been able to turn a simple double play, that is to say), but in combination, they added up to yet another loss for Felix.

By the time the bottom of the third inning came around, we found that Jack Wilson was no longer in at second.  At the time, I thought it MIGHT have been possible he was out for an injury – he was taken out a little hard at the bag as he tried to turn and throw to first base on the second of the two errors – but more likely he was pulled and the EXCUSE would have been that he was a little banged up on that play.

In a surprising revelation later that afternoon, it was pointed out by manager Eric Wedge that Jack was feeling a little “hazy” and was pulled for, I dunno, safety precautions?  DID he get hit in the head?  Didn’t look like it to me, but what do I know.

Later, Jack pointed out that he wasn’t feeling hazy at all, that he was just pulled from the game by the manager for the errors (to which he added that he didn’t blame Wedge, as he was doing nothing to help the team with his play).

Well, it turns out as of yesterday that Jack Wilson wasn’t pulled at all.  He ASKED to be taken out of the game, and Wedge was just trying to cover for his player.  Because teammates (or, really, anyone who’s played the game) will lose respect for a player who ASKS to be taken out, especially if he’s not totally crippled by injury.

This leads us to yesterday’s game, when Adam Kennedy was starting in place of Wilson.  Now, had none of these events of the past few days transpired, I would’ve chocked that up to Kennedy being left handed and Cleveland’s pitcher being right handed.  But now, it’s pretty clear:  Jack Wilson has played his last game as a Mariner.

Honestly, I think that’s a damn shame.  I’ve always kinda enjoyed the guy since we traded for him.  Great defender, if a little lot injury-prone, makes good contact with the bat, AND he’s literally in the best shape he’s been in since he was first breaking out in baseball thanks to losing a bunch of weight and strengthening his legs.  He’s been stealing bases, being productive at the plate, and in his penultimate game he turned what has to be the most impressive 4-3 double play I’ve ever seen.

But, there’s no excuse for taking yourself out of a game.  You’re a professional baseball player.  Yes, you had a terrible half-inning where you blew two plays that could’ve saved some runs.  You know what, it happens!  We didn’t see Kevin Kouzmanoff ask to be sat down when we played Oakland in the first series!  Jack Wilson isn’t the first guy to have a couple errors in an inning.

Of course, the difference there is that Kouzmanoff was playing his natural position and (supposedly) has a track record of successful third base defense.  Jack Wilson has been playing second base for all of a few weeks.  If you don’t have that comfort level in your position, I suppose I could see one’s confidence spiraling out of control.

I dunno.  All I know is that Wilson’s in the wrong here and I think it’s ultimately going to cost this team big.  They can’t put him back out there!  And who’s going to trade for the guy?  If they did, we certainly would be the ones unloading a problem and wouldn’t get a damn thing in return!  It looks like we’re either going to get a steady diet of Adam Kennedy, or a strict righty/lefty platoon.  Either way, I think I like Wilson’s bat and hustle more.

Jesus.  How much more crazy shit can happen to this team?  At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Mariners involved in some sort of human trafficking sex scandal!

Looks Like We’ve Got A Roster

Sorry for the website sucking dick; at least I can finally start posting again. 

Josh Wilson is gone.  I guess I didn’t really see that one coming.  Then again, it’s not shocking.  I’m not falling out of my chair in disbelief.  He’s a poor man’s Willie Bloomquist; you can find them on any street corner for two bits a gander.

Luke French has been sent away.  Again, nothing we haven’t come to expect over the last couple weeks when Michael Pineda started asserting his dominance like a rottweiler over a poodle.

Some crappy relievers were pushed aside to give young bucks who like to fuck a chance to show their smoke.

It’s Wednesday, a little after 7am, and thus far no word on any trades coming down the pike.  It LOOKS like … we’ve got an Opening Day Roster!

The Batters/Fielders:

C – Miguel Olivo
1B – Justin Smoak
2B – Jack Wilson
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Chone Figgins
LF – Milton Bradley
CF – Michael Saunders
RF – Ichiro
DH – Jack Cust

The Bench:

C – Adam Moore
Inf – Adam Kennedy
OF – Ryan Langerhans
Inf – Luis Rodriguez

The Starting Pitchers:

1. Felix
2. Vargas
3. Fister
4. Bedard
5. Pineda

The Relievers:

Closer:  Brandon League
Set Up:  Chris Ray
Set Up:  Jamey Wright
Set Up:  Josh Lueke
Lefty:  Aaron Laffey
Long:  Tom Wilhelmsen
Long:  David Pauley

Disabled List:

CF:  Franklin Gutierrez
Closer:  David Aardsma

It’s certainly going to be interesting to see who gets chopped once Guti is ready to come back.  Before this whole stomach cancer thing (or whatever it is got Guti so gone), Michael Saunders was all but a lock to start the season in Tacoma.  Meanwhile, Ryan Langerhans did everything to play his way into the 4th Outfield slot in Spring Training.  However, Saunders has showed greater discipline and greater ability to hit the low-and-away fastball over the last couple of weeks since he adopted his new stance.  If he continues this torrid streak into the first week or two of the regular season … who knows!

I’ll get to position breakdowns in the next couple of days (website or no website) with my official 2-part Seattle Mariners Preview.  In the meantime, I’ll just say this:  from a pure aesthetic standpoint, I like looking at this team more with Pineda over French and Wilhelmsen over Cesar Jimenez.  Now if we could only do something about Jamey Wright.