April 26, 2013 at 9:28 AM
Mariners have to avoid panic, do what they did last night
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Listen above to colleague Larry Stone and his new weekly segment on Sports Radio KJR with host Mitch Levy. Not to worry, Mitch and I still do Talkin’ Baseball every Monday. Just spreading the wealth around.
Nothing like a shutout win over the Angels to tone down some of the hysteria we’ve seen revolving around the Mariners the past 48 hours or so.
I’ll freely admit contributing to some of it. This team is going to be in serious trouble and will put jobs at risk if it plays like it did on the last road trip for very much longer. This one win isn’t a cure-all. But it will at least buy the team another day until Michael Saunders returns.
And then, after that, it will be a matter of trying to right the ship and survive. What does that mean? Well, first, it means having a sense of urgency without panic. The two are very different things.
Urgency means you realize what we’ve already discussed. That this season is dangerously close to going off the rails because of poor play. Not because of roster construction, in-game managerial moves, sabermetrics-versus-traditional decision-making, sticking with Franklin Gutierrez and not signing Michael Bourn, cutting on-field payroll, blah, blah, blah.
Regardless of how the roster was constructed, and whether you agree or disagree with it, the Mariners have not played up to their potential. Period.
If you really think this is a 70-win team, then they should have cleaned house with the front office two years ago because this plan was a joke from the start. I’ve never believed it was a joke, only taking too long. I don’t believe this team has played anything close to its potential and that, for me, is grounds enough to be worried about the ability of some of these guys to flip the switch “on” when a season begins.
But that’s a whole other story. What I’m saying here is, if they continue to play this way over the long haul, then, clearly, some wholesale changes will have to occur. But until then, this team does have time to steady the ship. It does have time to turn its season-long fortunes around.
That’s the non-panic part.
And that’s why you won’t see the team swapping out half the roster for Class AAA players fewer than four weeks into the season. That’s a panic move and you don’t put professionals in charge of any team so they can panic at the first signs of trouble.
Throwing Carlos Triunfel, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Danny Hultzen and Mike Zunino on to the roster before April ends is the same thing as waving a surrender flag on the season. This squad spent an entire winter devising a roster and a plan and if the best they can do when a bad spate hits is throw half of it in the garbage, well, then the folks who built the team will likely be joining that refuse on the scrap hear before long.
The Mariners have to exhaust all of their in-house options before going the desperation route of their minor leaguers. First, let’s give the minor leaguers a chance to play at the Class AAA level and sustain their success there before throwing them all into the MLB fire. When you call these guys up, you’d better make darned sure they can handle MLB ball, lest we get a repeat of what we’ve seen from too many young players with the team the past few seasons.
That’s why you see Robert Andino in there instead of Brendan Ryan at shortstop. The Mariners will let Andino show what he’s got, since he’s played full-time ball in the majors before and had some success at it. If Andino flops over the next couple of weeks and Ryan hits no better in a backup role, then you think about subbing in a minor leaguer at a premium position in the majors.
Let’s face it, if you do that, you’re probably going to get rid of Andino to free up the roster space, so you might as well figure out if he can play since he cost you seven figures.
Anyhow, this team still has time, as I’ve said. The goal? Playing around .500 ball by the end of May is entirely doable if this squad stops doing its best Houston Astros impersonation and starts to play to at least the minimal level it is capable of.
Do that, there’s a blank canvas to start fresh with in June with two thirds of the season still to go.
That’s why, it’s too early to panic. But you won’t get to .500 by June 1 without a sense of urgency. That should have kicked in loud and clear on the flight back to Seattle and by the time the Mariners took the field for this latest series. Let’s see where they go from here.