Good morning all. If you’d told me before the season that the fanbase and media would be so eagerly anticipating the arrival of Mike Carp from Class AAA, I’d have laughed you out of the room.
Then again, if you’d told me the M’s would be 2 1/2 games out of first place on June 8, I’d have revoked your posting privileges for a week.
So, here we are. Make no mistake, Carp is not coming up here to sit on the bench. The question now is, where does he play tonight?
Well, the team has a number of options.
But one thing he should not be doing is getting a start at the expense of Carlos Peguero. Not tonight, anyway. Mariners manager Eric Wedge painted himself into a bit of a corner last night by speaking out in public about his veteran hitters needing to get going. He’s right, they’re long overdue. We’ll be halfway through the season in three weeks and the sample size is big enough to know that a handful of vets — including the team’s two highest paid position players, Ichiro and Chone Figgins — are not carrying enough of the load.
So, now, the question becomes, what is Wedge prepared to do about it?
Talk is cheap and, over the years, the Mariners — players, coaches, management included — have been full of cheap talk and full of other stuff as well, while coming up way short on the ready-for-primetime scale. This franchise likes to talk the talk without walking the walk.
If it was my call — and it isn’t, so breathe easy — Peguero would start in right field tonight and Greg Halman in left. You could flip-flop them and put Peguero in left and Halman in right, but the team went with Halman in left and Mike Wilson in right two nights ago for defensive reasons, so I’ll assume they’d still apply in this case.
Fine by me.
But Peguero had two more hits last night. I don’t care if his routes to the ball look like me when I was a high school flanker trying to catch passes. If he’s here for his offense and producing some you can’t bench him the next night so that a veteran can claim a lineup spot. Not after what Wedge just said.
That leaves either first base or DH for Carp and honestly, after flying all night (or maybe all day, I don’t know) to get here, you’re probably best off not sticking him in the outfield right away. Justin Smoak has appeared in the second-most games on the team and probably needs a night’s rest. Jack Cust just got a night off on Monday but did not look all that great last night (though he did have a line drive that was caught and a walk) and has been in a bit of a hitting rut since last week.
And after all that travel, you could stick Carp in there at DH and not have to worry about his defense.
But either spot is fine.
Photo Credit: AP
Back to the outfield for a second, yes, I’m well aware that Halman is a right-handed hitter and that there are a slew of right-handed starters coming up.
Ichiro has been a Mendoza-line hitter for 5 1/2 weeks. That’s right, a .200 average, .253 on-base percentage and .237 slugging percentage dating back to May 1.
If it was Jose Lopez putting up those numbers, you’d be demanding the firing of the manager who keeps writing him into the lineup. If it was Figgins, you’d be demanding his outright release.
Yes, I know, Figgins has been even worse all season than Ichiro from May 1 to June 7.
But the team has already taken steps to try to improve Figgins. They haven’t worked yet, but, as Wedge keeps saying, every player reacts differently.
Tonight gives him the perfect opportunity to give Ichiro his first true day off of the 2011 campaign. Even Ichiro’s groundouts last night were far more routine than anything I’ve seen him hit since covering the M’s on a regular basis. There is no justifiable reason to keep running him out there every single night.
And with numbers as bad as Ichiro is putting up, you could stick anyone in the leadoff spot for one night — even Cust or Smoak — and arguably have as good a shot at producing the same numbers or better than Ichiro would give you.
I’d stick Halman in there for one night and see what a lineup of him and Brendan Ryan up top could generate. It’s only one night. His rookie confidence wouldn’t be shattered or anything.
The point is, Wedge knows you have to walk the walk at some point.
And what better way to send a message to the entire team than to point out that nobody on the 25-man squad is untouchable. That everyone is expected to produce on a regular basis and will be given rest when they don’t produce — and even rest when they do so they’ll have a better shot at maintaining production down the road.
Good teams do this.
Again, as we mentioned before, the object here is not to run Ichiro off the team. It’s to get his bat going so that he can be Ichiro again. The team has tried leaving him in there every single day and it isn’t working. Time to try something else by resting him like you do the other 24 players on the team.
As for Figgins, heck, you can rest him again too for all I care. The thing with Figgins is, he can’t just be released as many of you are calling for. And he can’t be benched for the majority of the season. There are more than 2 1/2 years left on his contract and even if the club decides to eventually trade him, you have to play him and hope he recovers his game in order to create a market for that. There is no market out there right now. Even for sixty cents on the dollar. So, forget releasing him or hiding him in the clubhouse storage locker for the rest of the season. That would be financial suicide.
As with Ichiro, the team’s best hope is to get him back to something reasonably decent offensively.
In Cust’s case, he’s been one of the team’s most productive hitters since the end of April and a big reason the Mariners are in contention. You don’t release or regularly bench him now because of a few off nights. Yes, he needs to hit more home runs. But he can’t do that from the bench. You can give him a night or two off, but he also has to play.
None of this is radical surgery.
The point is, there are places for Carp to play without taking time away from the players who do generate offense on any particular night.
Carp is not the greatest left fielder you’ll ever see, so if the opportunity presents itself to play him somewhere else, the team should take advantage of that when it can.
Because it’s one thing to talk about veterans needing to produce as you run them out there night after night. That’s an old re-run of the same movie that’s played in Seattle for much of the past decade.
Patience is a virtue, yes. But as Sherriff Wedge could tell you, sometimes you’ve gotta walk the walk.