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June 27, 2012 at 5:19 PM

Eric Wedge not ready to send anyone to minors yet, but says Mariners have to start making adjustments

ADDITIONAL NOTE 11:35 p.m.: Just in case you missed it earlier, here’s a replay of the hour-long show I hosted on the Mariners tonight on Sports Radio KJR. We were flooded with calls and I tried to get to as many as possible. Obviously, many fans are passionate about the Mariners and where things currently sit.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge had some things to say about his hitters after today’s 2-1 loss and they were not very pleasant. Wedge is getting fed up with seeing the same hitters beaten on the same types of pitches over and over again. Baseball is a game of constant adjustments in the chess game between hitters and pitchers and those who fail to adjust continuously will get left behind.
It’s one thing to talk about seeing pieces develop on a losing team. But one of the ways you do proper analysis of young hitters and how they are actually developing is to look at how they make adjustments.
That’s why, I often roll my eyes at some of the pie-in-the-sky optimism I see repeated over and over again with regards to the M’s: an analysis that automatically assumes every young team is going to morph into a good team. Sometimes, a bad young team morphs into a bad old team, or just a mediocre old squad. In those cases, teams hit the reset button and then the rebuilding starts all over again.
Nobody talks about that stuff but it’s the reality of baseball. Not every team turns into the Tampa Bay Rays or Texas Rangers just because they build a young core. There is a whole lot of developing, adjusting, luck and owner financial support that goes into building a winner beyond starting out with young players — which most teams actually do.
We still don’t know how the Mariners are going to turn out and when they might be ready to seriously contend for something. But for all the optimism I hear from some analysts, I’m just not seeing the adjustments you’d like to see from a team that plans on contending anytime in the next couple of years. Some other analysts do actually continue to point this out: that right now, the Mariners just don’t look very good, no matter how well Kyle Seager and some others perform.
That’s what concerns me. It’s OK to be optimistic in your analysis. But you have to back it up with something tangible besides a few young players starting to hit their own weight. This series was a setback because anyone who saw these Oakland A’s try to hit the baseball knows just how bad they are outside of some pitching prospects.
And yet, the M’s still lost.
Take it away, Mr. Wedge.
“It’s frustrating because I know these guys are a much better offensive club than what we’re seeing them do here at home,” Wedge said. “I don’t want to hear anything about the fences, or this, that and the other. It’s about what they’re doing at home plate and putting up good at-bats and hitting the ball hard.
“They haven’t been making any excuses, but we’ve got to do a better job of making adjustments,” Wedge added. “Not just from game-to-game, but pitch-to-pitch. Young players have got to recognize what they’re doing to get them out and how they’re pitching them early, middle and late and make the according adjustment.
“And veterans need to be doing more, need to be doing better. As we’ve talked about before.”

Which pitching matchup scheduled for Thursday intrigues you more?

That said, is Wedge prepared to start sending guys to Class AAA? We’ve all talked about how lost Justin Smoak has looked at times. Dustin Ackley is having a real rough second season and has not made adjustments to certain pitches he’s seen.
Ichiro had some ugly-looking at-bats today, especially that strikeout on a high fastball from Jarrod Parker that was going to be Ball Four with two men on. I don’t want to get on Ichiro too much because he’s riding an eight-game hitting streak and hitting more line drives than he had been before.
But he did not have the most disciplined at-bats today, especially in the ninth when he went up hacking with two men on, put himself in an 0-2 hole and eventually struck out.
So, back to AAA. What’s Wedge going to do?
“We’re going to continue to have the conversations we need to have and give them the guidance that they need, but ultimately they need to go out there and do it,” Wedge said. “And they know that. There’s not a whole lot you can do in regard to shaking it up. I think we’ve got guys up here that need to be up here and need to figure it out up here. I think that’s important for people to understand.
“Like we talked about after the previous game, there are certain points in time when you do need to make a move but I don’t feel like that’s the case with this particular group. I feel like this is what they need to do. They need to fight through this, figure it out and make progress. Get better from at-bat to at-bat.
“Today was a little bit disappointing because I didn’t feel like we made very many good outs.”
Mariners catcher John Jaso had some interesting insights. Jaso had his team’s only scoring on the day with a solo home run off Parker in the second inning.
I asked Jaso why the Mariners turn into a different offensive team at home than on the road. He politely told me I should check out what the A’s did offensively — the point being that teams don’t exactly light it up at Safeco Field.
“It’s hard because no team that plays here really has the production that they would somewhere else,” Jaso said. “You look at Texas and how many runs are put up on both sides when we go play at Texas.
“I mean, they are different places. But this still is a great place to play,” he added. “And the challenge is doing the best with it, knowing things like, if you hit that fly ball, it’s not going to go out.
“So, you concentrate on hitting low line drives, hitting grounders and that’s what will beat the other teams that are coming in thinking the fly balls are going to go out. So, it’s kind of a mental swing, kind of a different approach.”
Now, there are many people who shudder at the idea of the Mariners altering their plate approach just for home games, feeling it will mess them up overall. Jaso said it’s a fine line and agreed that the worst thing is for players to get frustrated at a lack of instant results when they do try something different. In those cases, he added, making sight modifications can hurt.
But it’s more a mindset, he added, of knowing that you have to grab that extra base when playing here and do the little things needed to generate runs because the homers won’t fly out like they do in a place like Arizona. Most important, he said, is that players accept this as a fact of life and not use the ballpark as an excuse for non-performance.
In other words, he says this team has to stay mentally tough at home.
“It is tough,” Jaso said. “You square up balls and they don’t go out. But that’s the thing about the big leagues. You have to be mentally tough. It’s a game of failure and to be strong enough to get through it is what keeps people up here and what gets people up here in the first place.”
For now, the players are staying up here and none are being sent to AAA. But that won’t continue forever.
Lord knows, the M’s aren’t lowering their ticket prices any, either for these lowball offensive embarassments against teams like Oakland or so-called “premium” games which drive costs higher. If you want to charge big league prices, you owe fans a big league show — rebuilding or not.
This team could still morph into something down the road. But I’ll have to see a lot less talk and much more action and results before my analysis of the situation will reach the optimistic heights I’ve heard from some corners that just aren’t substantiated by all that much.
I know we all want to see improvement that leads to something. But sometimes, you have to be proactive. This assumption you can just throw a low-cost team of young guys on the field with little veteran help and see it blossom into a contender all by itself is, I’ll suggest, a tad naive.
It takes a whole lot more than that. At the very least, it takes the guys this team is counting on as cornerstones being able to adapt to challenges and overcome them in less than a half-season. Until I can see that, this team, to me, will remain what it’s been. A team that is 5 1/2 games behind another squad that may have the worst offense in baseball.
Join me on the radio.



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