On Geoff Baker Live! tonight, I sort of took issue with the whole idea the M’s can’t “afford” any mid-season add-ons. Sounds like excuse-making for doing nothing. Eric Wedge discussed, again, the fact that his team hasn’t been stringing together hits in multiple innings. We saw it again tonight. Mike Carp came through with two hits tonight, including a needed double. We talked about Carp on the show and how he needs to make the most of this limited playing time. A viewer asked me why Ichiro is “never held accountable.” I tried to answer as best I could. Somebody asked whether there’s a chance Erik Bedard might re-sign here. Another viewer asked me about the differences between Eric Wedge and the success Don Wakamatsu had as manager in 2009.
On to the post…
Had a chance to catch up with Chone Figgins tonight after most people had already left the Mariners clubhouse. I went to him, he didn’t come looking for me. But he stood there and answered questions.
Figgins didn’t win any converts in the stands during tonight’s 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Figgins was already persona non grata to many Mariners faithful before he got an increasingly rare start at third base tonight and popped out in the fifth inning with a runner on third base and only one out.
The boos came hard and harsh after that. They were already there when he stepped to the plate for the first time in the third inning and intensified after he went down swinging.
Figgins is now in an 0-for-16 slump, his batting average down to .186.
The Mariners clearly can’t keep playing a guy with those numbers every day at third base. But Figgins also isn’t likely to improve much playing as sporadically as he has.
There’s also that four-year contract, now only one and a half years done. But this isn’t even about that. It’s about a Mariners team that’s been matched over its last six games by the Seattle Sounders soccer team in scoring efficiency.
That’s right. The M’s have 11 runs their last six games, the Sounders have scored 11 goals.
Figgins does hear the boos.
“Everybody has their opinion,” he said. “You can’t do anything about it. It’s hard to go through it. But it’s part of it.”
It’s also hard to get back into a rhythm when you’re only playing a couple of days a week. But that’s also something Figgins says he has to play through.
“I’ve always been a rhythm type player, so it’s a little tough,” Figgins said. “But it’s just the situation I’m in right now. We’re winning ballgames and playing well, so I’ve just got to grind this thing out.”
Well, they’re not really winning all that often anymore. They’ve won only three of their last nine games, scoring two runs or fewer in seven of those contests.
Figgins does feel he was starting to improve slightly before the team finally sat him out and began going with Adam Kennedy more at third base. Part of that was out of need, as Dustin Ackley was called up, meaning Kennedy needed a place to play other than second base.
Part of it coincided with Figgins getting booed every time he bobbled a ball in the field or missed one at the plate.
Figgins said he felt things coming together for him on the last road trip to Chicago and Detroit and then the Angels series when the team returned here.
The stats show he had hits in three out of four games he played in during the Chicago series and the first night in Detroit. He also had two walks during that stretch.
His first game in Detroit — after sitting the prior night — was when he replaced Ichiro at leadoff and notched two hits, includign a double. Figgins went hitless the final two games in Detroit but did draw walks in each contest.
Figgins then had hits in all three games versus the Angels, going 4-for-9 with two doubles and a walk.
But then, Ackley got called up. Figgins went hitless against the Phillies that first night Ackley was here, getting booed each time he popped out or struck out in a particularly poor showing. He played only once the next three games after that and has been limited in his playing time since.
“It’s just so weird because that stretch…I swung the bat real well and then I started not playing every day,” he said. “I felt like I was getting my rhythm. On the personal side, you just keep battling. I always say, I’m not going to change my work ethic. I’m just going to hang in there.”
What did the team say to him?
“Just be ready,” he said. “They said ‘We don’t know what we’re going to do yet, just be ready.’ ”
In fairness, Figgins was still hitting just .195 after that first Phillies game in which Ackley made his debut.
Figgins himself admits that his defense has not been up to its previous standard. I asked him whether he thought this played into the decision to start sitting him out.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That (defense) hasn’t been where it should be and that’s not like me. I realize that.”
He said it’s “been an adjustment going back over there.”
Figgins doesn’t like the boos he hears from fans whenever a ball goes off his glove. He adds that some of the plays have been a lot tougher than they’ve looked and they aren’t all terrible mistakes by him.
But again, he added, people have their opinions. There’s nothing he can do about it. Other than try to get better while not playing a whole lot.
His manager, Eric Wedge, was not at all pleased after tonight’s game.
“We had a very poor night offensively,” Wedge said. “We’ve had some tough nights this year, offensively, but tonight was particularly disappointing. We gave away some AB’s. We didn’t have people step up when they needed them to step up. We had some opportunities.”
Wedge said his players will have to “find a way to get tougher up there” and square some balls up. But he’s said that before, with few results.
“You’re going to keep having discussions you need to have, whether it be collectively or privately,” he said. “You’ve got to stay positive, you’ve got to stay optimistic. But you’ve also got to be realistic about what the hell you’re seeing out there. What I don’t want to see and the biggest disappointment for me is, when I see certain individuals going up there and doing the same thing time and time again and expecting different results. That’s just ridiculous.”
Wedge said he still believes in his players and their ability to pull out of this funk they’re in collectively and individually.
He had a lot of good things to say about Figgins and Cust and the professionalism they’ve shown throughout this period in which their playing time has been cut. And Wedge admitted it’s going to be tough for Figgins and Cust to find their games when playing less, but that’s the reality of what both face.
One thing’s for sure. Somebody on this team will have to start hitting the ball soon. A group of hitters will have to start stringing things together in multiple innings.
If not, no matter how good the pitching is, all of this hand-wringing will be moot. When you keep scoring one or two runs per game, it’s easier to fall from two games back to six or seven back over a few weeks.
And if that happens, the M’s won’t have to worry about adding payroll mid-season or trading away players or prospects to get help now. They will already be too far out of it for such moves to be considered.
At that point, they can just continue to do what they’d planned to do all along when spring training ended. Move parts for future pieces at the deadline and keep rebuilding. That’s probably what will happen if this status quo continues.
Not saying it’s what the M’s front office and ownership wants. Just stating the reality. Keep scoring one or two runs per night and the losses will pile up. Unless this group of hitters starts to change or gets help from outside.
That’s about it.