It’s hard to tell whether the Seattle Mariners are that concerned with their lackluster play to start the 2010 campaign. For the most part they appear rather indifferent. Now, I fully realize that it is early in the season, but from what I’ve seen this season out of the club, there isn’t a ton of upside to grasp onto. The starting pitching has been solid, but that’s little consolation when the offense cannot generate any run support and the closer can’t hold a 1-0 lead.
The obvious problem that the Mariners have is that they have no offense. Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays the Mariners had not hit a homerun in over a week. As a team they trail Paul Konerko (by 3) in homeruns for the season. That is beyond sad. On multiple occasions the M’s have put runners in scoring position or even loaded up the bases and have been unable to generate any kind of timely hitting. In their last 5 losses they have scored 7 total runs. So, basically, that’s the problem. They can’t hit and there isn’t much in the way of hope that they will find a big bat somewhere on the roster or in the minors.
However, taking the offense and putting it aside, I’m not satisfied with solely blaming the bats right now. As a team, the Mariners look discombobulated and disinterested. They are committing costly errors, suffering past balls, and just generally playing like losers. Their eyes are down, their shoulders are slumped, and nobody is willing to show the least bit of emotion to vent their frustration. The tension is written all over their faces in the dugout. Now, for me, the casual fan, emotion is not the problem. I’m more than willing to fly off the handle and start throwing people under the bus whenever it suits me. Perhaps that means I wouldn’t make it on a major league roster. Oh well.
The real breaking point for me was on Sunday. After Doug Fister threw 8 shutout innings against the Texas Rangers, only using 100 pitches to do it, the M’s manager Don Wakamatsu chose to pull Fister to allow the closer, David Aardsma to pitch the 9th. This, despite the fact that Aardsma had already blown a few saves this season and is not pitching the way that a closer should (ie – getting ahead in the count). But, be that as it may, He was given the ball for the 9th inning to try and secure the W and avoid an embarrassing home sweep against a team within the division. Aardsma walked the first hitter, and after having done that, he was allowed to face the next batter. At that point, I lost it. How inept does a Mariner’s player have to be before they are no longer allowed to be on the field? In my humble opinion, Wakamatsu made an incredible error leaving Aardsma in that game. The rest, of course, is history. Aardsma gave up the tying run and the Rangers won the game in extra innings thanks in part to the 2 past balls that Mariner’s catcher Rob Johnson allowed.
I fully understand that being a MLB manager is a hard gig (actually I don’t understand that at all – it seems simple as hell, but I’m sure that’s just because I don’t get it and not because it really is that easy). You are dealing with a lot of egos and players who are mentally fragile. However, what the hell is the problem with yanking a player who isn’t doing his job? What’s the issue with that? If I’m managing the Mariners and we are in a 1-0 game after a fantastic effort by my starter, and I’m looking to avoid a home sweep to the Texas Rangers, there’s no way I’m letting the closer go in and blow the game after I’ve watched him do it several times in the past 2 weeks. No chance. The rest of the team deserves my best effort as manager and I owe it to them to do what’s best for the squad. Accordingly, when Aardsma walked that first batter in the 9th, I would have walked out of the dugout and up on the pitcher’s mound and told him, “can’t walk batters right now.” And then I would have taken the ball from him and went to the pen. Message sent. We are not going to lose games because guys aren’t doing their job. We are going to win games. I didn’t have to yell or scream or get in a player’s face to make clear that as a team, we’re going to play the game to win.
I don’t see anything wrong with doing that. Aardsma can’t complain. He knows as the closer that it’s unacceptable to walk batters late in the game. That’s not news to him. And if he’s upset with Wakamatsu for going to get him in a situation like that then it’s just too bad. He isn’t being publicly called out or made a fool, he’s just being shown that if you don’t do your job, the team will find someone who will. And that’s appropriate isn’t it? That’s what should be done.
Instead, however, the Mariners aren’t doing those types of things. They are grinding it out one loss at a time. They are making errors, playing sloppy, and the only repercussions so far have been that Eric Byrnes has been released and Matt Tuiasosopo has been sent back down to Tacoma so that he”can play everyday.” To me these moves are a fairly impotent response. Byrnes was obviously not a major league talent anymore and his .092 batting average was just pathetic. The fact that he was on the roster for opening day is more surprising (perhaps disturbing) than the fact that he was released so early in the season. And Tui is still a young player that the franchise is attempting to develop. Sending him down to Tacoma under the guise that it’s so he can play everyday is just a cover-up. The real reason is because he looks awful fielding the shortstop position and the franchise needs to find a place to put him. So, sorry but the moves the team has made don’t impress me. Those moves don’t win games.
What I’d like to see the next time the Mariners take the lead in a game (and it won’t be tonight as the Mariners have 3 errors, 1 past ball, 1 wild pitch and have scored 1 run against the Devil Rays, headed into the 9th inning), is that they actually try to win it. And if they begin to waiver, I’d like to see some leadership from a few players and/or the manager in the form of someone stepping up and taking control. Not allowing the team to fail.
The season is young and the Mariners are no farther out of first place than one would expect from a team of their caliber. However, unless and until someone on that roster chooses to give a damn, and proves it through their play on the diamond, it’s looking to be a long and frustrating affair.
(If I had any concept of who owned this team I would think about writing a letter. As it is, I probably just won’t go watch them)