There’s two ways you can look at the Seattle Mariners right now. One is to take into account all the excruciating losses, the games they let slip away through one maddening breakdown or another, and hypothesize that they aren’t that far away from having a decent record, once they clean things up. For lack of a better term, I’d call this the Eric Wedge/Jack Zduriencik school of thought.
The other, and I’m going to refer to this school of thought as “Disgruntled Fan Out For Blood” is that this team is fatally flawed, that it doesn’t know how to win and moreover doesn’t have the personnel to do so, that the season is effectively over (and so is their interest in it), and wake me up when Howard and Chuck are gone.
It’s never good to do much analyzing after a game like last night, one that hits every raw nerve and can lead to overwhelming, irrational frustration. I was hearing from people last night blasting Felix Hernandez as overrated and not worth the money, just because he was human and had a bad night (a very bad night). News flash: Felix Hernandez is not the Mariners’ problem in any way, shape or form. He’s their biggest asset, and last night doesn’t change that.
I’ll try to keep this rational. I don’t believe in absolutes in baseball, particularly in the two wild-card era, where you are always one stretch of 13 wins in 15 games from contention. Bad as they are, the Mariners are still in single-digits (barely) games behind in the wild-card standings. But you know it, I know it, the American people know it: This team is effectively out of contention; last night’s game seemed somehow to be official confirmation of that fact even for the stubbornly faithful. Ten games under .500 is not exactly the traditional jumping-off point for a surge. So barring a miracle recovery, the rest of the season will be about what it always seems to be about for the Mariners in the second half: Trying to salvage what they can out of the trade deadline, for which they should have a large supply of veterans who will be available (more on that in due time); and getting a good long look at the kids (shortstop Brad Miller is next in line).
They are fatally flawed. Not enough starting pitching depth (though that hasn’t been their problem of late). An inconsistent bullpen with a closer who is no longer being allowed to close. An offensive attack that is worse than it was last year. A young core that has flamed out. Put it all together, and it’s not surprising that it appears they don’t know how to win. More to the point, they’re not good enough to win.
How far away are the Mariners from being good? That’s the million-dollar question, one that depends largely on the development of the next batch of prospects — the Nick Franklins, Mike Zuninos, Taijuan Walkers, Stefen Romeros, Brad Millers. Obviously, they need to do better, and more quickly, than the Jesus Monteros, Justin Smoaks, Dustin Ackleys and Blake Beavans have done so far (though I’m eager to see the re-invented version of Ackley). Maybe it won’t happen under this regime — their future will be a growing question if the season continues to unravel.
It’s hard to be anything but gloomy after a game like last night’s. Not when so many other games before it have slipped away as well.