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

July 14, 2011 at 11:17 PM

Mariners do need to right this ship, even if they are indeed already out of the race

On Geoff Baker Live! tonight, seen in the video above, we played you clips of Eric Wedge describing the message he gave his players prior to opening the second-half of their schedule. Safe to say, they didn’t follow through tonight. Somebody asked whether I see Kyle Seager as this team’s third base option long-term. Frankly, I have my doubts. It has to do with the terrible offense, which reared its ugly head again tonight.
On to the post…
Some folks I’ve chatted with in recent weeks have very short memories about how this season actually began. They forgot what the atmosphere surrounding the 2011 Mariners was actually like for the first three-plus weeks of the season, when the team went 8-15 and seemed destined for 100 losses.
Few people back then were talking about rebuilding plans. They were a bit pleased to see Justin Smoak off to a fast start, but the overwhelming concern was that a second consecutive 100-loss season was on its way.
Now, it’s easy to forget what those dark days were like because of the two months of contending baseball the Mariners gave us in May and June. All of the angst over GM Jack Zduriencik and his future? Vanished overnight. Worry that the “plan” wasn’t all it was made out to be? No more. Instead, we all had the fun of watching games that mattered to distract us. That offense thing? Well, hey, it’s Seattle. This franchise hasn’t had real offense since, well, since the team we’ll be celebrating on Saturday night last put on uniforms for real a decade ago.
OK, maybe they’ve had a little since. That 2007 team could score.
But not lately.
Since 2008, the offense has been downright putrid and it’s getting worse.
Worse than in even a historically bad 2010. And if that holds true, don’t rule out another 100 losses just yet. Because this pitching staff is starting to falter just a teeny bit. And with zero margin for error, it can’t afford to.
All of a sudden, a team that could go weeks without losing two in a row has dropped six straight. Just like that.
Want some context here?
The Rangers have outscored opponents 58-22 during their current eight-game winning streak.
Seattle has scored 57 runs…in the last month.
That’s right, go back exactly one month from today to June 14 and the M’s have tallied 57 runs since.

So, if this was a .500 team when it was winning all of its games by 3-2 scores, what’s it going to be if the offense scores one less run and opponents get one more per night?
That’s right. It’s going to be 0-fer a whole bunch of stuff.
And really, Seattle baseball doesn’t need that. Doesn’t need another 100-loss season.
Not after all of the good we were treated to in the first-half. It’s not enough to say “Oh, it’s OK, we’re rebuilding and nobody expected us to do this well.”
Doesn’t matter. The team played much better than many of us expected. The team raised expectations, which means it will hurt even more if the squad regresses to something far worse.
You’ve seen all the empty seats at times this year. You’ve seen where the interest-level in this product had dwindled.
Want to go back to that? Want the fun of the King’s Court to be forgotten and abandonned to indifference? Want to go back to where high school basketball overtakes the Mariners as a topic of daily radio conversation?
Lose another 100 and that Way Back Machine will kick into gear.
Think I’m kidding? I wrote before the break that if the M’s continued on their pace of the prior five weeks, they’d lose 93 games.
They’re a worse team now than they were for many of those five weeks because the pitching is starting to hiccup just a bit.
Hey, don’t take my word for it. Tempt fate.
Just remember that not every paying fan buys into rebuilding plans and is willing to wait the four, five, six or seven years it takes. And even rebuilding plans require some degree of improvement year-to-year. We were seeing that from the Mariners in May and June. Even when they weren’t scoring much in June, they still found ways to win.
Now? They’re finding ways to lose.
Tonight’s loss was easy to dissect. The Mariners couldn’t hit a Derek Holland fastball to save their life. Two-thirds of his pitches were fastballs. Miguel Olivo had two of Seattle’s five hits and both were on offspeed stuff.
The Rangers? They hit the Vargas fastballs. They hit a change-up of his that was at shoelace level into the right field bleachers. They hit other stuff as well.
Fastballs were the least of the Rangers’ problems. Good teams can hit fastballs.
“You’re going to get fastballs to hit,” Wedge said. “The kid’s out there throwing hard and you’ve got to be ready for it. It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about. Until these guys understand that you’ve got to take some risks, get out there and work the barrel off the ball…we’re going to struggle.”
So, the Mariners will have to figure things out. Because they’re already six games under .500. And while that’s not a real good representation of where their season has been at since late-April, it is what it is. Things are coming undone in a hurry.
And rebuilding plan or not, this offense was a historical embarassment last year and now, quite frankly, it’s looking worse. That’s just inexcusable for a team that had this one glaring problem to try to improve over the winter.
You can rebuild and give playing time to youngsters, sure. But there’s a difference between doing that and putting a team that literally can’t score out on the field night after night and charging major league ticket prices for it.
This isn’t Pittsburgh…yet. This isn’t Tampa Bay under Vince Naimoli. There are ways to rebuild without completely humiliating the team and its fanbase in the process.
The Mariners spent the months of May and June showing us how that was done. How you could rebuild and keep things interesting at the same time.
Tonight wasn’t interesting. It was downright boring for the 25,997 fans who showed up. Yeah, I asked all 25,997 of them, even the Rangers fans. Twitter is great.
Now, the Mariners have to get their act together — out of contention as they may be — and play these final two-plus months like they mean something. Because they do. They mean the difference between having the bulk of your pre-existing fan base still around if and when your team is ever ready to “take a shot” at something. Or, having a team that plays in front of empty seats the way they do in places like Cleveland, Toronto and Oakland, even when the on-field product gets significantly better.
This team still has something to play for. It can play out of simple respect for the good things it already accomplished in 2011 and not throw it all away.



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