Follow us:

Mariners blog

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

June 15, 2012 at 11:50 PM

Jesus Montero the goat tonight, but Mariners problems run far deeper than him

Once again, I’m not going to recap everything about this sixth straight home defeat for the Mariners because it’s just not worth the megabytes. But what I will do, is offer a troubling observation I came away with tonight after being in the clubhouse.
Jesus Montero was there to talk about his baserunning gaffe in the second inning, which was a good thing. What wasn’t so good was his explanation. Montero had led off with a double, then took off blazing (for him) towards third on a line drive to center.
Problem is, the ball was caught. Montero was already two thirds of the way towards third and had as much chance of getting back to second as I do of hosting the USS Mariner blogfest at Safeco Field in a couple of weeks. So, he was doubled off for the second time in three games.
“I was like ‘You’ve got to make it home right now so we tie the game’,” Montero said. “I’m not that fast, so I was trying to get home plate. That was my goal at that moment.”
That’s great, but trouble is, there was nobody out at the time. I like my team’s chances of scoring a lot better with Montero at third and none out than trying to make it home from second on a hard line drive to center.
So does his team.
“That can’t happen,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He has to read that better. As soon as that ball is hit, it’s going to be tough to score on anyway. He’s probably not going to score, so he has to read the ball and make sure that the ball gets down.
“Making a mistake once is one thing, but making it twice is another,” he added. “It just can’t happen up here.”
Look, I’m not going to blister Montero here. He’s a rookie and this is a learning experience and believe me, he’ll learn after this second mistake because folks reading his comments will see to that. But his heart was in the right place. Even if his judgement was lacking a tad.
Now, the much bigger problem we should all be worried about: that rookies like Montero are trying to take it into their own hands to win games by doing too much. This is a clear-cut case of a young player trying to exceed his rather limited footspeed abilities, not to mention line-drive-reading skills and it cost the team big.
Ryan Vogelsong has allowed 10 second inning runs this year. Going into the game, he’d allowed just 10 runs in all other innings after the second. So, if you’re going to beat him, the M’s probably had to score there.
But a young player was pressing too hard because he doesn’t have a veteran capable of picking this team up and taking the heat off the Ackleys, the Seagers and the Monteros. Not yet, anyway.
So, I’m not going to kick a young guy like Montero when he’s down. Not with bigger fish to fry. That’s chickenspit.
The bigger fish have been there all season. This front office did not get any quality veteran position players as add-ons this winter and is paying some of the biggest money to older guys who aren’t doing enough at the plate. Forget the UZR stats. The money in baseball is paid for the bat, not the defense, and losing every game 1-0 or 4-2 because your team can’t score and is wasting money on all-glove, non-hitting veterans is not helping anyone.
Not helping the team win. And not helping the development of players like Montero, Ackley and others who are acting increasingly more desperate at times.
Tonight, the team’s highest-paid position player, Ichiro, came up with two on and one out and popped out in the third. He came up with the bases loaded and none out, down 4-0 in the eighth, and hit a chopper back to the mound on a poorly-swung-at pitch. He was fortunate it wasn’t a double-play or a force out at home.
But the Ms didn’t get enough out of him tonight. Didn’t get enough out of Chone Figgins, who now won’t be playing much, earlier in the week or season. Miguel Olivo had two hits tonight and the Mariners need more from him because Montero can’t go behind the plate every game.

But the bottom line is still the bottom line. The highest paid players on this team are not carrying their share of the load.
Instead, it’s been up to the lowest paid and least experienced guys to break in their careers like seasoned vets. That’s not fair to them. Not fair to anybody.
Ichiro is hitting .259 with a .286 on-base percentage and should not be batting leadoff, no matter what his UZR or DRS score is in right field. That’s the minimum. Any talk about an extension should begin if — and only if — he begins to demonstrate that he can be an asset to a floundering young team in rebuilding mode.
He was an asset once. But that was in the past.
This team needs somebody to step up right now before these young players get demoralized at home and see another 17-game losing streak come their way.
It’s too late to go out and get anybody and Vlad Guerrero and Manny Ramirez are hardly the answer. Ichiro is the answer. Olivo is the answer. Brendan Ryan is the answer. And Franklin Gutierrez — just coming back or not — has to be part of the answer. There is nobody else beyond them because Figgins is barely playing anymore.
Because the time to bring in veterans is over the winter. Not as some desperation June move to avoid 100 losses.
These kids need help. Montero can’t keep trying to win things on his own because guys taking up the bulk of the offensive payroll aren’t getting it done.
Ichiro is the highest paid of this group. He’s the only one going to the Hall of Fame. And he needs to do more. If he no longer can, somebody should move him to a lineup spot better suited to his current skillset and sit him down once or twice a week so Casper Wells or somebody else can have a shot at delivering a clutch, extra-base hit on the same night as Saunders and Gutierrez.
“We need more from him, it’s as simple as that,” Wedge said of Ichiro. “We need him to do more. He’s obviously our most veteran guy and when he has those opportunities to step up. You can’t always put it on the kids. We need the guys who have been around a little bit to step up as well, and obviously he’s been here longer than anybody.”
Enough is enough. If this season is really about development, let’s see some. Because development does not involve a young player getting doubled up on line drives to the outfield two nights out of three. That’s a guy who is developing the wrong instincts, well-intentioned as they may be. And an end should be put to that as of tonight.
And if these veterans can’t provide more of the solution, they will continue to be part of the problem. We don’t have to see it seven nights per week.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►