Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MARINERS: The obligatory Mariner post

Written by Matthew Carlson

Right from the second game of the season, we knew that these were not the Mariners of 2009. Once we saw Ryan Rowland-Smith take the mound, we knew it was trouble. The team started 1-6, and it just kept falling from there.

The bar was set so high for the team before the season started. The M's had just come off a heartwarming 2009 season in which there were hugs all around. Jack Zduriencik was hailed as the new baseball mastermind because of his apparent good eye for prospects. He made tons of trades and transactions during his first year, which carried over to the next.

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He seemed to be on some kind of transactions high, going out and getting Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins. Jack had his eyes on a playoff appearance and maybe a world series all the while ignoring that this team had lost 101 games two years ago and was still in the process of rebuilding. In the end however, the transactions didn't work, the management didn't work, the team itself, and frankly almost every aspect about it failed to function and produce. They set the bar high, they leaped, they almost made it, they stalled, and then fell flat on their face into their second 101 loss season in 3 years.

The first thing that jumps out at you from this season are the stats. The Mariners broke the Major League record for the fewest runs scored in the DH era at 513 runs. There really wasn't any excuse of injures or anything, they were just BAD. If you have said the M's two best hitters would have been Ichiro and Figgins at the start of the year I wouldn't have been surprised to know it's true. The shocking part is their averages are .315 and .265! You know something's wrong when your cleanup hitter is Jose Lopez (.239).

The mariners were supposed to be built around pitching and defense. We were told that the games may be boring to watch, but that the Mariners would squeak by and win because their pitching would be so good that they wouldn’t even need to score many runs. We were also told that the strategy of the Mariners would “be especially effective because Safeco Field is a pitching park”. Safeco Field my foot, the M’s were 35-46 at home. To put it flat and simple: You win games by scoring runs more than preventing them. The pitching just hasn’t been good enough, and the runs haven’t scored to make up the difference. And when that happens, you have a serious problem.

Let’s get to the chemistry. Last year’s clubhouse was one of the best in all of baseball, with leaders like Griffey and Mike Sweeney. But this year it has been marred by adversity. Here are some examples. Earlier in the year there was a tussle/brawl in which the Mariners fought with themselves (that’s right themselves), not even the opposing team. It started when then manager Don Wakamatsu benched Chone Figgins for lack of hustle, which Figgins disagreed with, and it escalated into a "brawl" from there. It made the Mariners look foolish on a National Stage, and the clubhouse never really felt better until the firing of Wakamatsu. Then there was the very sad incident where Griffey fell asleep in the clubhouse during the game, which has got to be pretty hard to do in the first place. Ultimately, this led to one of the reasons Griffey retired midseason, and one of the reasons Don Wakamatsu was fired. Then there was the apparent lack of effort from Lopez and Figgins all season. One thing is for sure, a confident clubhouse can make the difference in games sometimes, and this was not a confident clubhouse at all.

Ah, Jackie Z's additions. The Mariners acquired new players with high hopes to make this their best season. The players they sent away or failed to resign (Morrow, Silva, and Beltre) all had solid seasons. Morrow fired a 1 hit 17 strikeout game for the Blue Jays and was toward the top of the league in strikeouts, Silva started 8-0 with the Cubs until being eventually sidelined with a heart condition, and Beltre had a MVP quality season with Boston. The players they acquired Figgins, League, Bradley, Kotchman, and Bard, have all had subpar seasons filled with expectations not being met. Cliff Lee is gone, with the Mariners opting to trade him away for a deal in which they received Justin Smoak. The players overall failed to produce, and the Mariners felt the pain of it through the season.
Let’s look at the good. The Mariners have a future first baseman (Justin Smoak), second baseman (Dustin Ackley) and pitcher (Miguel Pineda). The team locked up two of their best players, Félix Hernandez and Franklin Gutiérrez for the next coming years. Plus we always have Ichiro. The Mariners will be better, they just need to take the right steps and not rush the growing process.

Reach Nathan Parsons at nathanparsons98@yahoo.com