A look above at Rickey Henderson, Joe Rudi and Dave Stewart, from left to right, on the field pre-game as part of the Oakland A’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Off to the right, out of the camera’s view, is Mariners GM Lee Pelekoudas, waiting with pen and documents, hoping to sign them up in time to play today’s game and try to snap a 10-game losing streak for Seattle.
It’s all over but the crying for the Mariners now, as Miguel Batista came on and torched an afternoon’s work by Brandon Morrow in the span of just a few batters. Morrow’s second hit of the game allowed, a run-scoring double by Bobby Crosby over the head of Raul Ibanez, was followed by the pither’s fifth walk of the day. Morrow was then pulled at 113 pitches and Batista promptly yielded a two-run double by pinch-hitter Aaron Cunninghan, again over Ibanez’s head.
That tied the game and saddled Seattle with 31 blown saves this year — worst in the majors.
Then came the eighth inning, with Batista still on the mound. He walked leadoff man Rayn Sweeney, then surrendered a two-run homer to left by Jack Cust on a 2-0 pitch. Can you say “Yuck!”? The M’s sure can. They trail 5-3 as we head to the ninth. Three outs away from an 0-11 trip.
Ibanez has looked unusually off today, striking out four times and not looking all that sharp on either of the doubles, letting the ball carom off the wall and by him both times.
3:09 p.m.: Some key hits for the Mariners in the seventh, singles by Ichiro and pinch-hitter Yuniesky Betencourt, off reliever Jerry Blevins, has given the M’s a 3-0 lead. Brandon Morrow is still out there to start the seventh with a pitch count of 94. The bullpen is getting ready. It’ll have to be. This is Morrow’s final inning and he was fortunate to escape the sixth. The M’s might need another run or two.
2:51 p.m.: Brandon Morrow saw his no-hit bid end with one out in the sixth inning when Carlos Gonzalez doubled over Ichiro’s head in right. Jeff Baisley had drawn a leadoff walk and took third on the double. But Morrow fought back and struck out Ryan Sweeney — his sixth strikeout of the day. That brought Jack Cust to the plate and he popped out foul to third baseman Miguel Cairo. An excellent job by Morrow of preserving a 1-0 lead as he takes his one-hitter into the seventh.
2:17 p.m.: Seattle has a 1-0 lead after back-to-back doubles by Jose Lopez and Jeremy Reed to start the fourth inning. The Mariners have been getting baserunners in this one, with three hits and two walks off A’s starter Sean Gallagher, who came over from the Cubs as part of the Rich Harden deal. But the M’s have been unable to fully capitalize. Case in point, with Reed on second and none out in the fourth after his RBI double, Miguel Cairo hit a ball to shortstop Bobby Crosby. Reed could have held his ground, but instead headed to third and was thrown out by a good five feet. Maybe he thought Bill Miller would call him safe? Too bad Miller’s umping at second base today. Anyhow, looks like it’ll all be on Brandon Morrow’s shoulders.
Morrow has allowed just one walk his first three innings and appears to be displaying better command of his breaking pitches. He threw a nasty power curve to Travis Buck just moments ago that the latter somehow managed to foul off. Morrow later struck Buck out to end the third inning. Having some good breaking balls is key for Morrow today because we saw what happened to him in Kansas City — three home runs allowed — when he has to go to his fastball. You can throw 105 mph and the hitters are going to catch up to it if they can set themselves, knowing that Morrow can’t throw his breaking ball to counter them.
12:58 p.m.: Some changes in the lineup today as Tug Hulett replaces Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop. No, this is not “punishment” for Betancourt turning in that stinker of a performance on offense and with that throw to the plate on defense. I spoke to manager Jim Riggleman about it this morning. Riggleman had planned to give Betancourt a day off at some point on this trip. He was going to do it for the final game in Kansas City, but then Betancourt made a game-altering error the night before. At that point, Riggleman didn’t want Betancourt — who’d played slightly better of late — to think he was being benched for the one miscue.
Fast forward to today and Riggleman had no choice. If he waits until after Betancourt has a flawless game before resting him, the season’s going to end. So, he sat him today, despite the bad performance yesterday. It wasn’t his first choice, but he wants to get Hulett in there and rest Betancourt. So, there you go.
Brandon Morrow goes today. I had an interesting conversation on the flight out here with a marketing student from Central Washington University. We were discussing where I thought he should take his career path after graduating. His father runs a fairly successful construction business and wants him in it. But he was thinking of maybe starting from the ground floor someplace else. The talk turned to higher educatiuon and pursuing a Master’s Degree and he wanted to know whether I thought it would be worth it to him to spend more years in school, when the “real education” as he put it, can be just as valuable getting learned in the street.
Here’s the point of all this: when discussing with him the merits of getting a degree from an Ivy League school out east, I referenced Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith. I told him that the working world, like major league baseball, is all about performance. Eventually, no matter who you are or what your degree says, you will be judged by performance and your ability to make money for your employer. In other words, your ability to compete and survive.
An Ivy-League school, I told him, offers advantages in that it can put you on the fast track to where you want to go. It can help you skip a few years and get you opportunities to showcase yourself that you might have to wait years to do if you come out of another academic institution.
Sort of like being a No. 1 draft pick, like Morrow, compared to an unheralded signing like Rowland-Smith. When you’re a first rounder, like being an Ivy Leaguer, doors are opened for you. You will have multiple opportunities to succeed. You will have people paying attention to you from Day 1 and monitoring you for signs of success.
When you’re Rowland-Smith, you will have to spend years toiling in the minors before ever really getting a true shot. You will have limited chances to succeed. Every step you take will be scrutinized for possible failure, and, if that happens, it could be a while before you get another look.
But in the end, I told my seat mate, it’s all about performance and results. Morrow may be a first-rounder now, but in the end, he’ll still have to produce. History is littered with first round failures. When it comes to putting a winning team out there, GMs will expect players to produce. Eventually, they won’t care what round a player is drafted in. Eventually, if there is no production, a top draft pick will be cast aside.
So, the working world, I assured my college acquaintance, is one where everybody is more or less equal to a degree. Just like in major league baseball. Those who produce and generate real value will survive and thrive. From there, where they go is up to them. Those who fail to deliver value won’t make it, or will be mired in a rut.
This is not meant to pit Morrow against Rowland-Smith. On the contrary, it’s simply meant to show that although one is a No. 1 pick and the other a longshot from Australia, they are both on equal footing. Morrow may have the higher ceiling, but will still have to produce in order to thrive. And Rowland-Smith shows that those who can deliver value can eventually — through years of work — be put on the same stage with the “Ivy Leaguers” of top picks. At this level of baseball, everybody is good. Some, like Morrow, have a little bit of a higher ceiling. But the competition is fierce. And the margin for error is real slim for everyone. Morrow will get a few more chances than the rest because of his draft status.
But ultimately, every game is about delivering. Every game is about taking that next step. So, there is indeed some degree of pressure on Morrow today. Not “make or break” pressure. We’re a long way from that. But the pressure to show progress. To keep turning some of that promise of value into actual results.
Anyhow, I thought it was an interesting conversation. Makes today’s game just a little more interesting than seeing whether the Mariners go 0-11 on a road trip for the third time in franchise history.
SS Tug Hulett
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Jose Lopez
CF Jeremy Reed
3B Miguel Cairo
DH Bryan LaHair
C Kenji Johjima
2B Luis Valbuena
RHP Brandon Morrow
LF Travis Buck
CF Carlos Gonzalez
RF Ryan Sweeney
DH Jack Cust
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Cliff Pennington
SS Bobby Crosby
1B Daric Barton
3B Jeff Baisley
RHP Sean Gallagher