The Mariners Are Trying To Get Their Season Back On Track With A Series Win Over The Mets

This probably represents the best the Mariners have played over a three-game series this entire season, given the level of competition and our own fan expectations heading into the weekend. We were a couple of breaks away from sweeping this one! Of course, as it is against any quality opponent, we were also probably a couple of breaks away from getting swept. That’s baseball for you; it’s maddening.

It would figure that the only game I saw a significant portion of was on Saturday, when we lost. I was at a concert on Friday, so could only follow along via Twitter. Those who watched must’ve been treated to a delightful pitching duel! Max Scherzer was his usual strong self, going 7 innings, giving up 1 run. But, Marco Gonzales damn near matched him, giving up 1 run in 6.2 innings. The fact that he gave up his run in the first makes the subsequent shutdown all the more impressive.

Our offense managed to manufacture a run in the fourth and again in the eighth to seal the deal in a 2-1 affair. Winker and France had RBI singles; Crawford and Suarez had our only other hits. Meanwhile, Paul Sewald got four outs without giving up a run, and Drew Steckenrider got his second save of the season.

On Saturday, George Kirby wasn’t quite as dominant as his first start, but the defense behind him also let the team down, so who’s to say who deserves more of the blame? Kirby went 4 innings, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) off of 3 hits and a walk, with only 1 strikeout. The M’s were down 4-0 heading into the sixth inning before our offense was finally able to get going.

Newcomer Steven Souza – who was pretty free-swinging in this one, from what I saw – had an RBI single in the sixth for his first hit in a Mariners uniform. He’s here to keep right field warm while Jared Kelenic goes down to Tacoma to get his head (and bat) right, so best not to expect too much. He does have more experience than I thought he would (having never heard of him before), kicking around the Majors since 2014. Of course, the Rays got the most out of him, with a 4.2 WAR season in 2017. Hard to see him getting back to those lofty heights while playing in Seattle.

The big story was a Jesse Winker 3-run bomb in the top of the seventh, to temporarily tie the game at 4-4. The Mets pitching was pretty strong to this point, but we finally broke through against their bullpen. Like the Mariners, Winker is also trying to get his season on track; it’s weird to see how much Mets fans hate him. Presumably because he always kills them? Too bad for him we’re done playing them for the year.

As I mentioned, the tie was short-lived, as Andres Munoz gave up a go-ahead solo homer in the bottom half of the inning. We would go on to lose the game by that very score, 5-4. France, Crawford, and Suarez all had nice days at the plate in this one as well. Not to mention Torrens, who got on base with 2 hits and 2 walks, to drastically improve his slash line.

I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for Sunday’s finale, so I opted to re-watch most of season two of Stranger Things instead. I ended up missing one of the craziest wins of the year! Robbie Ray, once again, was spotty in this one, going 6 innings, giving up 5 runs, but striking out 9 and generating lots of swings and misses.

The Mets went up 1-0 with a solo homer in the first, then the M’s tied it in the third. We went up 4-1 in the fourth off of an impressive rally, but then promptly found ourselves down 5-4 in the bottom half of the inning. That took us to the absurd sixth inning, where Julio Rodriguez hit a massive solo homer to tie it, only to be out-done by Cal Raleigh’s 2-run go-ahead bomb. Julio added an RBI single in the seventh to put the M’s up 8-5, and we would need every bit of that 3-run lead.

Romo and Sewald got us to the ninth with a 3-run lead, but Drew Steckenrider – having a VERY up and down year – struggled to get the lone out he got, while giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. That left Scott Servais in the very unenviable position of throwing Diego Castillo out there, who has been unquestionably terrible of late. Yet, with runners on second and third, he managed to get two strikeouts – sandwiched around an intentional walk – to lock down the win 8-7.

Today, we go to Toronto. We’ve been told ahead of time that there will be certain Mariners unable to play this week, as they’re not allowed into Canada due to COVID restrictions. So that’s fun. We’re already pretty injury depleted, and the Blue Jays have a tremendous offense, so I’m expecting a total shitshow. Thankfully, it’s only three games, and hopefully this rest will do the unvaccinated players some good.

The Mariners Made Matt Brash A Reliever And I’m A Man With Hurt Feelings

My kneejerk reaction is that I hate this move. My measured and composed reaction – after giving this some thought – is that I’m not happy, with equal parts anger and sadness.

To be fair, if I had any interest in being fair, I guess I have to say that there’s a lot that’s up in the air, and a lot we don’t know. From what was reported, this is something the Mariners are trying, specifically for the 2022 season, because they believe they have a need for some bullpen help, and they think Matt Brash can help in that area. That doesn’t mean he can’t spend the following offseason reverting back to being a starter, while working on his pitches that aren’t his fastball and slider (in hopes of building up his overall arsenal, and making him a more viable starting candidate in 2023 and beyond). He could also struggle as a reliever in the short term, and return to being a starter – in the minor leagues – before the 2022 season concludes.

I guess we first have to talk about this alleged “need” for more Major League relievers. That’s debatable. The bullpen was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength heading into the season. But, as we’ve seen already – one month in – there are already some cracks the team is dealing with. Sadler, Giles, and Romo (among others, I’m assuming, who I’ve forgotten for the moment) are missing extensive time. Castillo, Steckenrider, and even Sewald have already gotten blown up a time or three, and those are supposed to be the majority of the A-Team Bullpen. And, as we’ve been talking about since before the season even started, bullpen comes with the highest of variance from season to season, so you can never have enough bullpen help.

Okay, so I’ll buy that. Brash can, most likely, help out our Major League bullpen.

If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he put into the bullpen from the get-go?

Well, because he’s been kicking some fucking ass up and down the minor leagues as a starter! It was only natural, then, to have him go into Spring Training in a competition for the team’s fifth starter job. Mind you, that job was available for one of two reasons: either the team was unable to find a veteran to fill that void, or because they believed someone internally – someone like Brash – was qualified to earn that spot in the rotation. As it shook out, the duel was between Brash and George Kirby. Brash won the job on the merits of his Spring Training (and, again, his prior track record of dominating in the minors).

So, why the fuck do you only give him five regular season starts before demoting him from the Majors and from the ranks of the starting pitcher?

Was this all a sham? Was he only here as competition for Kirby? If that’s the case, either the team always intended for Kirby to win the job, and Brash forced their hand otherwise, or the team always wanted Kirby to lose the job to justify sending him down to the minors until the month of May, thereby allowing the team to earn an extra year of club control. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore – with the new CBA the league is playing under – but it would make a lot of sense if that’s the case.

I don’t think it was a sham, though. The Mariners seem to be all-in on ending this playoff drought, and I don’t think they’d roll with Brash for five turns in the rotation if he wasn’t qualified to pitch at this level.

What I do think is that Brash struggled – as everyone expected, because he’s so young and inexperienced – and now the Mariners are panicking, because they can see things starting to fall apart, and they need to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. For reasons that are sort of unclear, because I don’t think any high-level jobs are at stake. Playoffs or not, I think Dipoto will be back for at least 2023. Same goes for Servais (besides that, Servais isn’t the one making this decision; Dipoto is).

It’s the panicking that’s most frustrating, because this DEFINITELY isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mariners make an asinine move like this. We all remember the Brandon Morrow saga. He was the starter we drafted – ahead of Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner, I might add – who was skyrocketed into the Majors as a reliever because the team thought that would be the quickest way to help in the short term. He was okay, but when it turned out that he wasn’t enough to boost us into the post-season, we opted to try and move him back to being a starter. That ultimately failed and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer. Morrow showed some real bright spots and even dominance as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the damage was done. His growth was stunted, injuries mounted, and he eventually ended his career as a reliever once again.

What a fucking nightmare! And now we’re doing it again to this kid, and he’s powerless to stop it.

My hunch – however misguided it might be – is that the Mariners have had this in the back of their mind for a while now: that Brash was always destined to be a reliever. His performance this season would seem to check that box. If we look at the glass as half-empty, then Brash is a two-pitch pitcher (fastball & slider) with no feel for anything else (change-up & curve), and no real command for any of them. With a limited pitch count as it is – given his youth, and this team’s philosophy to restrict innings on our young arms – we’re not likely to ever get him deep into ballgames. So, instead of killing the Mariners every fifth day, and instead of wasting time in AAA trying to develop his arm as a starter, we’re just going to get a jumpstart on his reliever career now, in hopes that we can salvage what we’ve got and move on (with an outside shot that he develops into a lockdown reliever in late-game, high-leverage situations by season’s end).

But, again, if you believed that about him – that he was always destined to be a reliever – then why not make him one earlier? Did you need him to see incontrovertible proof that he sucks as a starter to get him to accept the demotion? Because, I have news for you: he might NOT suck as a starter! But, you’ve taken away any possibility to the contrary by making this move.

If Brash is great as a reliever, then odds are he’s going to stick to relief work. If he sucks as a reliever, then you’ve wasted a year of his development, AND you’ve killed his confidence. Moving him back into a starter role will almost certainly fail, because he’ll have it in the back of his mind that he not only couldn’t hack it as a starter in his first cup of coffee with the big league ballclub, but he also couldn’t hack it as a reliever. The lowest of the low. The Justus Sheffield’s of the world.

It’s just so short-sighted. This year isn’t about making the playoffs as a fringe wild card team. This year is about sticking to the fucking plan, developing the young guys, and hoping they make a huge leap forward in 2023 and beyond, when we might be contending for the division and maybe even the World Series! I don’t understand why we’re not giving Brash the demotion to Tacoma – that he’s earned through inconsistent play – to get a breather and continue tinkering with his pitch arsenal. Maybe he figures out how to better throw in and around the strike zone (without catching SO MUCH of the strike zone that he gets crushed), and gets his redemption later in the regular season? Instead, we have to hope he morphs into a dominant 8th or 9th inning closer-type, or else he’s just nothing.

And, maybe worst of all, now his trade value plummets! He was once a fucking steal of a trade target from the Padres (for Taylor Williams, whoever that guy is). Now, he might as well be Taylor Williams!

I’m just so disgruntled. This feels like the first domino that falls before a total collapse. Everything was going so well in the big Mariners rebuild, and now … we’ve done what we always do: we Mariners’d everything up.

It’s been a little bit, but the Same Old Mariners are back in action. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know there are certainties in the world. The sun will rise in the morning. Traffic is always going to be miserable. And the Mariners are going to fuck things up and stay as far away from the World Series as humanly possible.

The Same Ol’ Mariners Are Back! Also, The Same Ol’ Mariners Never Left

It’s been so, so, so so so so so so SO long since the Mariners have been relevant. Even when they’ve been in quote/unquote Contention over the last two decades, there were so many clear flaws that you knew they were ultimately going to fall short, even if – at times – you deluded yourself into believing in miracles.

The fact of the matter is: the 1995 Mariners used up a lifetime’s worth of miracles. There are no miracles left.

Which is okay, we don’t need miracles. We need a good fucking baseball team. THAT’S what’s going to put us over the top one day. Is this the start of being that good fucking baseball team? Well, we’ll find out. I’m surprisingly bullish on this group of youngsters, and the job Jerry Dipoto is doing finding viable veteran talent to put around them. But, I’ve been foolish bullish before, and I’ve obviously been disappointed.

Every year, we agree to tie the knot with these Mariners, and every year that B-word leaves us at the altar!

There’s not a lot left to do with the rebuild at this point. We’re in the ascending phase, where the best youngsters are either on the cusp of reaching the Big Leagues, or are already there and gaining valuable experience. The next step is to further weed out who deserves to stay here, and who can be dealt for other veterans/prospects to keep this train chugging along. The next step – on a parallel track – also includes breaking the playoff drought. Using the guys we have now and actually making the post-season for the first time since 2001.

So, that’s the question before us. That’s all that matters really. We’ll find out, in due time, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go. I have my opinions on the matter, which I’ll get to. But, the real question is: will the 2022 Mariners make the playoffs?

We have a week’s worth of games to examine – and a 3-4 record at our disposal – yet I don’t feel like have a very confident take on the matter.

I don’t think the Mariners are as bad as they’ve looked through seven games, particularly when it comes to their offense. But, I also don’t think the Mariners will be able to scrounge up the same record in 1-run games as they had in 2021. Ultimately, I don’t think this is a team that can win 90+ games. Therefore, I don’t believe this team will make the playoffs.

Who I Like

I like J.P. Crawford. He was just signed to a 5-year extension for $51 million. I think that’s a tremendous deal. The guy’s a leader, the guy plays fabulous defense, the guy can handle himself with a bat, and he seems to always be in the mix whenever we have a scoring rally. Granted, his power is minimal, but everything else is good enough to make the overall package a quality value.

I like Ty France. But, we already knew that. Great bat, good power, better-than-expected defense at first base. Just a solid dude.

I like Mitch Haniger. This might be his last year here, which would be a shame, because he has power, he has great defense, and he’s another terrific leader. Oftentimes, he’s the only guy keeping this offense afloat; we need more players like Haniger, not less.

I like Jesse Winker. Though, part of me feels like I have no choice in the matter. He’s a newcomer; I don’t know him from Adam. But, he has a proven track record behind him, and I have to assume he’ll start hitting in bunches. We still don’t know if he has anything against left-handed pitching. And, we’re pretty sure his defense is a deficit. But, assuming the offense comes around, I don’t think anyone will care.

I like Julio Rodriguez. But, talk to me in a year. I will say that his speed should ensure he doesn’t have any 0 for 39’s on his ledger. Speed is the great slump buster in baseball. Other than that, I have a general belief that someone among our young crop of highly-rated prospects will pan out; my guess is it’s J-Rod.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Jarred Kelenic. We had most of a year with him last year, we had the strong finish to the season in September, now we need to see him parlay that into a vast improvement over the course of 2022. If he’s destined to be an All Star – not just a one-time All Star on a shit team, but a regular fixture in the midsummer classic – then we can’t be enduring multiple years of him being a below-replacement player. There are rookies and young guys far and wide who come up and make an immediate impact. And then there’s Kelenic, who’s taking the other path to superstardom. If his 2022 is a carbon copy of 2021, then I think that’s a sign he’s Just A Guy, and will always be kind of a mediocre player (who gets more chances than he probably deserves, thanks to his original highly-rated prospect status).

I’m unsure about Adam Frazier. I need him to be the guy we expected. I need the high batting average and high on-base percentage. He’s never going to be a power bat, and I’m resigned to that. But, he can’t be Chone Figgins.

I’m unsure about Luis Torrens. I’m also, in general, unsure about the whole 3 Catchers thing; that can’t be practical, right? Part of me believes we’re only including Torrens in this rotation as a means to bolster his trade value. His bat plays at this level, but I’m not sure his defense is what you want. Then again, he’s my highest-rated catcher on the team at this point, so maybe he should be getting MORE time.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Cal Raleigh. I just think he stinks and I’m never going to believe he’ll be anything above a Mendoza Line hitter. This is more of an indictment on the Mariners and their ability to develop catchers than anything else. If Raleigh was drafted by the Yankees or Red Sox, I’m sure he’d be a perennial All Star. And, I’m sure when he’s eventually traded to the Rays, he’ll start to figure things out. But, I believe he’ll be nothing but a black hole in our lineup as long as he’s in Seattle.

I don’t like Eugenio Suarez. But, to be fair, I never did. He was a throw-in and a salary dump in the Winker trade. I think we’re stuck with him, and I think he MIGHT approach 30 homers. But, a right-handed power bat in T-Mobile Park isn’t super great, especially when he brings little else to the table. Defense should be a struggle, his average will definitely be abysmal; it’s going to be a nightmare.

I don’t like Tom Murphy or Dylan Moore. I just think these guys are fringe Major Leaguers.

I don’t like Abraham Toro. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of power, and if the average isn’t there, then I don’t know what he does for you.

So, we’ve gone through the everyday players, and it’s a pretty muddy scene! Looks like we’ll need our pitching to step up, but do we have enough?

Who I Like

I like Matt Brash. What a fun pitcher! Hard thrower, nasty off-speed stuff; this guy looks like a star in the making! Of course, that almost certainly means he’ll be majorly injured at some point. I’ll spend every start he makes cringing at every wince, until we find out he needs to go on the IL for arm or shoulder surgery.

I like Logan Gilbert. It’s not surprising I like the young guys, because the M’s have put a lot of effort into this area with their drafting and development. Gilbert was solid as a rookie last year, and already looks like he’s ready to parlay that into steadier improved play. He might never be an ace, but he could be a rock solid #2 starter for many years to come.

I like Robbie Ray. I don’t know if he’ll win any more Cy Young awards, but he’s the Ace we’ve desperately needed since King Felix started to decline. Right out of the gate, he’s pitching into the 7th inning. I’m taking that White Sox game as the outlier that it is; he’ll be a steadying force for our rotation all year.

I like Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald. I think they’ve got what it takes to lock down the later innings and those high leverage situations.

I like Chris Flexen. He’s a bulldog. He’ll give us more Quality Starts than not. That’s all I’m looking for out of a 3rd/4th starter.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Marco Gonzales. Ultimately, he is who we thought he was, which means he’ll be fine. Someone around a 4-ERA type of pitcher. But, he’s going to look REALLY BAD some starts, before he settles into a groove again. It’s better that he’s only being asked to be a 3rd/4th starter – rather than its Ace – because even though he also has that bulldog mentality, he just doesn’t have the arm talent to lead a rotation.

I’m unsure about Diego Castillo. Overall, I like his stuff, but he’s also going to have some meltdown performances, and a lot of times where he has to do a highwire act to get out of a self-imposed jam.

I’m unsure about Andres Munoz. I want to believe – because throwing 103 mph is pretty fucking phenomenal – but I also know he’s young and could be wild. These are Major League hitters, and they can still hit 103 if the ball catches too much of the plate. I also worry about his arm getting blown out. So, there’s a lot of concern there. But, damn, that arsenal is outstanding!

I’m unsure about Sergio Romo. Already, he’s on the IL, having ramped himself up too quickly after signing so late into Spring Training. Clearly, he’s nearing the end of his terrific Major League career. And, towards the end of 2021, he struggled quite a bit. Does he have any magic left in that old silk hat he found? We’ll see.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Anthony Misiewicz. I’ve written about him a lot. The guy is 50/50. Half the time he’ll be fine and we won’t have to think about him, but half the time he’ll suck. He’s our best lefty out of the bullpen, and that’s a real problem.

I don’t like Matt Festa, Yohan Ramirez, or Erik Swanson. All interchangable, hard-throwing righties. They’re all part of the D-Squad bullpen (including whoever we have in Tacoma).

I don’t like Justus Sheffield. Yep, he made the team, and yep, he’s our main long reliever and alternate lefty reliever. He’s washed.

Overall, I dunno, I just don’t believe in the 2022 Mariners. I think we’re a year away. I hope it’s only a year. God help us if we go into 2024 on the same playoff drought.

I’m guessing 84 wins for this team. It’s going to be hard and frustrating to watch, and we’ll probably head into next year with even MORE questions than we had heading into this year. But, I hope I’m wrong.

Given our history with the Mariners, though, if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, you’d be correct the vast majority of the time. So, that’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m walking out on. Really, it’s no limb at all; it’s just the flat ground outside my house.

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”

What The Hell Are The Mariners Doing For A Fifth Starter?

I’m a little concerned, everyone. After the Winker trade, I heard the Mariners were mostly done making moves, at least when it came to adding to the offense. But, I fully expected there to be more moves to be made for pitching. Starting pitching, especially, but you obviously wouldn’t throw another reliever out of bed for eating crackers.

With Casey Sadler going down for the year (underrated VERY important piece to our bullpen’s success last year, and an all-around bummer of an injury considering how much fun he was to watch), the signing of Sergio Romo is a nice little pick-me-up for that bullpen (even though his second half in 2021 was far worse than his first half), but that doesn’t explain the total lack of activity when it comes to the rotation.

I generally like the first four starters the Mariners are planning to roll out:

  • Robbie Ray
  • Chris Flexen
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Logan Gilbert

Nice mix of veteran and youth, nice mix of hard throwing and off-speed savvy, all guys either in their primes or approaching their primes (with no one over the hill).

But, if you look at the rest of the 40-man roster, it’s a shitload of relievers! I see only two, maybe three, starting prospects in that particular bunch:

  • Justus Sheffield
  • Matt Brash
  • Nick Margevicius

Sheffield stinks. He’s washed up. Because he’s cheap, you can conceive of him in a long reliever type of role in the bullpen – making spot starts here and there – but he gets hit too damn hard to be a reliable presence in the rotation. Margevicius is a slightly less-bad version of Sheffield, in that he doesn’t get hit quite as hard, but is still otherwise a pitch-to-contact lefty with little-to-no strikeout ability. The only reason I’m not as down on him is because he spent most of 2021 injured, but shit, I don’t even know if he’s healthy now or not! He might not even be an option.

Then, there’s Brash, a promising young prospect who has never pitched above the AA level. I think we all love his stuff and his potential, but are we really going into this year just handing him a rotation spot out of Spring Training? I think most of us would prefer to give him a softer landing in Tacoma, just in case there are any kinks to work out. But, that would necessitate having a better option in a Mariners uniform for that fifth starter job, and I don’t know if that person exists at the moment.

Another option – off of the 40-man roster – includes George Kirby, an even better-looking prospect who also has never pitched above the AA level. Brash and Kirby look far-and-away to be our best options, but that’s a harrowing thought going into a year where expectations are for the Mariners to finally make it back to the playoffs.

We like Logan Gilbert a lot too, but remember all of his growing pains last year? Prior to September (when he started figuring things out), he averaged 1 start per month of 6 or more innings. It takes a lot of kid glove treatment to get a rookie through his first Major League season without totally obliterating his confidence.

Also, remember last year when we clung to the 6-man rotation for longer than was practical, necessitating many multiple Bullpen Days? Are we going back to this plan, at least to start the season, in an effort to build up rotation arms so they can pitch deeper into ballgames? Because as it is, we don’t even have a great 5th starter option; now we might be thinking of going with a 6th even-worse option?

This is a fiasco! I don’t understand why we haven’t made a move outside the organization to bring in another starter. What are we waiting for?! I’m more or less fine with the accumulation of offensive talent Dipoto has brought in, but he has severely neglected the rotation.

Bringing in another starter isn’t going to “block” one of these prospects. Injuries – especially to pitchers – happen all the fucking time! I’d like to have a little more certainty – not to mention a little more depth – heading into this all-important season. Because, what happens when we go into April with the guys we have now, and THEN the injuries start mounting? What kind of filler nonsense are we going to have to watch until our good arms come off the IL?

This is my nightmare. Welcome to Mariners fandom, for anyone who’s new.