ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you missed my Talkin’ Baseball segment on Sports Radio KJR this morning, you can hear it by clicking on the box below.
You’ve all heard it by now. I know I have. People watching the Mariners who say there’s just no “fight” in the team.
Their own manager pretty much alluded to it over the weekend when he spoke of his frustration over the team’s two-strike approach. Eric Wedge has just about had it with the team’s alarming strikeout totals.
63 strikeouts in five games.
80 strikeouts the past week, when the MLB average was 54.
I’ve seen some people suggest there’s no real difference between hitting with two strikes on you versus doing it with no strikes. Those people have no clue what they’re talking about.
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For anyone still doubting, try actually watching a game. See what happens when a hitter gets down two strikes, especially on the road. The crowd starts buzzing with anticipation as the pitcher goes into his windup. The hitter can feel the momentum starting to go against him and has to resist the urge to be sucked away by it. With two strikes, a pitcher can use a whole bunch of weapons in his arsenal and the hitter simply has to fight to stay alive. He has to “spoil” pitches. Has to do something to save himself and avoid being a victim.
That’s what Kyle Seager was talking about the other day when it came to a two-strike approach. That the hitter has to battle. Has to fight.
And this past weekend, the Mariners had no fight in them.
Now, if that continues, that’s on the manager of the team. And that’s likely why Wedge is feeling so frustrated right now. Because it’s one thing when a bunch of prospects — some of them no longer prospects — can’t hit in the big leagues just like they couldn’t hit a year or two years ago. That one’s more on the general manager who picked the players.
But when a team lacks fight, there isn’t much a GM can do. They call the manager a “field general” for a reason and that’s because generals command soldiers and if there’s one thing soldiers are supposed to do it’s…fight.
So, it’s Wedge’s job to put some “fight” into his team. He knows it, the people signing his paycheck know it and pretty much anybody involved in baseball knows it.
When I can sit in the pressbox and know that a strikeout is coming on the very next two-strike pitch without even giving it a second thought, that’s not good. And really, we’re not just talking about young players either. The older ones are just as guilty. Brendan Ryan got obliterated on three straight pitches in a key early at-bat yesterday and you could just sense there was no way the Mariners could win the game.
That has to change. Because if it doesn’t, the Mariners as an organization aren’t going to contend for anything at any point soon. Not this year, next year, or the year after that.
This isn’t about stats, or talent ceiling. It’s about the base instinct of these players as professionals. It cuts to the very core of what they’re doing out there. When push comes to shove, do the Mariners fight back? Or do they take it lying down?
This past week, they took it. Over and over again. There was very little fight in them, even if some good Seattle pitching helped flatter them on the scoreboard a couple of times.
Think back two years to when the Texas Rangers were a strike away from winning the World Series and the St. Louis Cardinals twice literally willed themselves to victory. That’s what it means to fight with two strikes in the count.
Nearly everybody in America expected the game to be over because all the momentum was in the Rangers’ favor at that point. But good teams get to the World Series for a reason. Because they don’t give outs away and they don’t quit with two strikes in the count. That’s why every out in the post-season is so important. You don’t get doormat teams making appearances and rolling over like the Mariners did this weekend.
Now, I’ll put the obvious caveat in.
This season is only three weeks old. The Mariners have not been at full strength for a while now. There is still time for them to determine what type of team they’re going to be.
Are they going to be a team that rolls over in the face of adversity? Or are they at least going to go down with a fight?
That part’s on them to figure out. There’s still time, but a sense of urgency is needed. Deciding to fight in August this year won’t cut it if the season is over by mid-May yet again. By that point it will be too late and the lack of fight will likely cost the jobs of people not wielding a bat every night.
There’s no such thing as a passivity option in baseball. Somebody always pays a price, one way or the other.
And if Wedge can’t put some fight into his team, the price may very well be paid by him.