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

July 15, 2011 at 11:30 PM

Mariners manager Eric Wedge talking some good talk, but his hitters are not responding at the plate

One thing becoming very clear in watching manager Eric Wedge witness his first crash-and-burn moment as a Mariners manager is that the urgency is sinking in. Wedge knows what is happening out there on the field and has to realize that all of the progress made towards winning back the hearts and minds of fans this season is in grave danger of being wasted.
His team has now gone 26 innings without scoring. It was barely scoring before that.
And when you don’t score, you don’t win. Seven losses in a row have ended his team’s shot at contention.
But there are 69 games to play. The Mariners are 43-50.
If they go 29-40, they will lose 90 games. If they go 19-50, they will lose 100 for the third time in four seasons.
Before you laugh that off, consider that the Mariners, since opening a series in Chicago on June 6, have gone 12-22 since.
That’s .353 baseball over a span now in its sixth week. The Mariners will lose 100 if they play .275 baseball between now and season’s end.
Remember, they were actually scoring a few runs in some games back in June. Not anymore. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Keep scoring one or two runs per game, you will lose eight in 10 every time.
For those foolish types who want to celebrate and go “Hooray, another top draft pick!” remember please that this is not a computer fantasy league and that real paying customers actually follow these results. People who might become non-paying customers real fast with any more 100-loss seasons. If you don’t believe me, look at the Tampa Bay Rays and where their “brilliant” strategy of compiling top draft picks over nearly a decade of 95-and-100-loss futility wound up getting them from a business perspective. They made the World Series and had empty seats at the ballpark. I know because I was there and easily scored tickets.
Wedge saw how years of futility impacted attendance in Cleveland, even as he and his staff rebuilt that team the so-called “right” way.
You need to show progress. Another 100-loss season is not progress. It’s not rebuilding. It’s replacing pricey veterans who are underperforming with cheap rookies who are underperforming. Helps an owner’s bottom line as far as yearly payroll. But it can have a devastating long-term impact on a franchise.
And this team, with an offense that is now missing hittable pitches almost every inning, is in danger of doing harm to the franchise by letting a once-promising season go down the garbage chute.
This was Wedge post-game.
“It’s frustrating, it’s upsetting,” Wedge said. “I know it is for them, too. But ultimately, the guys with the bats in their hands, they’re the ones who have to control it. I don’t care if they have to get mad at me or whoever. Ultimately, they have to get up there and have more of an edge to them. We’re fouling off too many pitches we should hit. We’re taking too many pitches we should hit.
“We’re putting too much heat on our pitching staff. Ultimately, we win as a team and we lose at a team, but obviously this is glaring, with regards to our offense. And it’s been that way for quite a while.”

Prior to the game, Wedge didn’t mince words when he put the blame squarely on his hitters. He knows that his job will ultimately be on the line at some point — not this year, but in the future if this type of play continues — but simply shrugged and stated this obvious: he’s not the one up there with a bat in his hands.
“When you’re up here, if you’re not hitting pitches and squaring up pitches that you should, it’s just not going to happen,” Wedge said. “It’s been that way for 100 years. These guys are going to have to be a little bit more honest with themselves. They’re going to have to accept the fact that what’s going on is real and fix it.
“We’re going to keep pushing them and keep helping them. But ultimately, when they’re up there in the box, only they can control their minds and only they can control the decisions and the game plan they’re working with up there.
“It’s not just a little bit this way, or a little bit that way. That’s not where we are. As bad as we’ve been offensively, that’s not where we are. Where we are, is, we’ve got to make some changes. A little bit of adjustment here or there, just isn’t going to get it done.”
Wedge also said something that I think a lot of people who email me privately on a nightly basis ought to take note of: it’s not everybody else’s fault when your favorite player or team doesn’t win. Sometimes those players just stink and have to be held accountable.
‘The effort’s there, the work’s there, the attitude’s there,” Wedge said. “But you know, I think they’re going to have to be more brutally honest with themselves as to what the hell is going on. It’s not the umpire. It’s not always the opposing pitcher. It’s ultimately them. They’ve got the bat in their hands. They’re in the box. They can control their own destiny.”
Wedge added: “There are a lot of positive things going on here. Hitting isn’t one of them.”
Winning isn’t one of them either. Not anymore.
We can continue digging deeper than the players, as we have all week. Yes, there is room to blame a lot of people, from a front office that did virtually nothing to improve this offense since last year, to an ownership group that wants to make its yearly profits no matter how disproportionately some players are paid in regards to their total team contribution.
But if you’re in the majors, you have to hit a fastball right down the middle. Bottom line.
That part isn’t all “Chuck and Howard’s fault”.
And what we’ve seen for weeks are major leaguers not getting the simple things done. As Wedge later said pre-game, it comes down to two things — something’s not working and you have to fix it as a hitter, or…you’re just not good enough.
Doesn’t get any more basic than that.
This team will have to weed out the good from the bad in coming weeks and hope it doesn’t create another 101-loss disaster in the process. Or, hope some of these guys figure it out all on their own.
I don’t mind seeing the heat turned up on the players, no matter how well the team as a unit performed in May and June. Seattle sports have been too passive a scene for years, without that type of heat.
Yeah, some people get upset after losses, but I’ve seen too much of the “Oh, it’s OK, we all expected them to lose” and “Oh, this is fine, as long as we get to see the kids” kind of fluff spouted off around the internet the past week.
No, losing this way is not fine. Another 100-loss season is not acceptable when you were 2 1/2 games out of first place days before the All-Star Break. I don’t care whether this is the greatest rebuilding plan known to mankind, there are professional ways for pro teams to go about their business and pro baseball teams have to be able to hit fastballs down the middle and not average 2 runs per game for a month and a half.
We saw this movie last year. No re-runs please. Time to get down to the business of baseball. That’s something this entire organization — from top to bottom — should understand quite well. This city deserves a major league product if you want to charge major league prices, not some minor league squad with a few vets thrown in to babysit. Play the kids all you want. Just make sure those kids and veterans belong on a major league field.
Because this Pittsburgh stuff ain’t cutting it.



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