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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

July 10, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Mariners have a lot more than moral victories to worry about the remainder of this season

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You know, something Eric Wedge said after today’s 4-2 loss and four-game sweep versus the Angels triggered a flashback.
Here’s what Wedge had to say.
“I think all of the experience in these close games, that’s definitely going to come back and help us,” Wedge said. “Because every day is tight. And having the experience of playing those tight games, those tough ballgames – whether it be physically or emotionally or mentally, whatever it is – it’s all taxing. You’ve got to be able to handle it. A lot of times, these guys have really come through for us.”
Funny, but I remember being at this very ballpark in September 2007 as John McLaren talked about how it was tough to see the Angels celebrate on their field after clinching the AL West title. McLaren’s team had been in the division race and led the wild-card in late-August of that year before dropping 15 of 17 to fall out of it.
That September day, McLaren expressed hope that his younger players would take away something from seeing the Angels celebrate at their expense. That it would make his guys hungrier. That at least something good would come out of it.
Instead, McLaren would be fired two months into the next season. The only players still here from that 2007 squad are Felix Hernandez and Ichiro. Yea, they’re probably a bit hungry for the playoffs right now but not because of anything they saw that day.
That’s the problem with moral victories. They’re something you settle for when you can’t get the real thing. And sometimes, there is no substitute.
But hey, I’m not saying this as a shot at Eric Wedge. If he hopes his players gain something they’ll actually use in 2012 or 2013 or whenever they contend for “real” it’s no biggie. It’s a tactic all managers use. Veteran manager Jim Fregosi used it in Toronto after the 2000 season when he talked about how his young players had learned what it was like to play meaningful baseball in September.
Well, that Toronto franchise never played meaningful September baseball again after that. And Fregosi never managed another game after that season.
But I liked him anyway. I like Wedge, too. But like Fregosi and later McLaren, he’s paddling a bit upstream here.
Remember folks. The future always looks bright. Especially when you’ve just lost something in the present.
Anyhow, there is still some stuff for Wedge and his guys to play for present-day. First, they can try to salvage a respectable 2011 season before it gets out of hand again.

Here are some sobering numbers to consider:
Since opening a series in Chicago on June 6 — five weeks ago — the Mariners have averaged 2.5 runs per game.
That’s over a 32-game stretch.
So, while the team, because of an overall 3.3 runs per game average, is on-pace to score 536 runs overall…well, that might not last.
Remember, last year’s squad set a DH era mark for scoring futility with 513 runs.
What would happen if the M’s continue to average 2.5 per game the rest of the way?
They would score 479 runs.
Yes, that would be horrible indeed. Beyond horrible.
Don’t talk to me about the ‘run scoring environment” in baseball being lower, please. The Yankees, last I checked, are scoring just fine, thanks. So are the Red Sox. Yes, the Padres stink because they traded away their only star hitter last winter and the Twins lost both of their star hitters to injury so they are pretty bad, too.
But the Mariners are the Mariners. They’re the ones we have to worry about.
And a sub-500 run season is not acceptable when the team knew that its biggest problem last year was a 513-run offense.
So, there’s that problem.
There is also the overall record problem. Most of us predicted the team would lose between 90 and 100 games this year. Some of us thought they had a chance at a worse record.
Want to find out how much worse?
Keep scoring 2.5 runs per game. The M’s are 12-20 since that Chicago series began. Keep playing that way and they will lose 92.
That would put a real damper on this season. This team has played too well in the first half and found too many ways to win thrilling games to just throw it all away and be the bad team everybody thought they were.
They are not that bad a team. They are better than a lot of us, including myself, thought. But if key players don’t start living up to expectations, they will wind up being that bad team in the end.
And that would be a shame.
Justin Smoak has hit .190 since May sixth. Franklin Gutierrez is .187 on the season. Ichiro’s OPS is second-worst among all qualifying MLB outfielders besides Alex Rios.
They all have to step things up.
Oh yeah, before I go, Wedge said he was aware that Bobby Abreu walked on the three-ball count. But speedy Torii Hunter was on first already with one out and Wedge says he was worried that — with a 3-1 count to Abreu — they could pull off some damage with the open hole on the right side of the infield. Like a hit-and-run to send the runner to third or even score him.
So, he says he swallowed the Abreu walk without saying anything, put two on, and watched Felix Herrnandez get the final two out.
That’s one way of escaping a jam.
I asked Wedge about not having Greg Halman bunt with two on and none out in the fifth. Wedge said he thought about it, but with Josh Bard as the lead runner, he felt the bunt would have to be near perfect to get the slow-moving catcher to third.
So, that’s the explanation there.
Doesn’t really matter where the 2011 season is concerned.
But going forward, scoring some runs will matter if this team wants to feel good about how this year wound up going. It’ll begin next Thursday.



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