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Mariners manager Eric Wedge was clearly fed up with his hitters after Tuesday’s loss to the Pirates. Not simply because they aren’t putting up as big a fight these days and the team is drifting back to its familliar position of being too far under .500 to even dream of a winning season.
No, it goes deeper. It’s more about putting yourself out there, on-the-line for folks and having them make you look ridiculous.
Consider what Wedge said about this team on the final day of the 2012 season.
“I want them to understand just how good we’re going to be in the future,” Wedge said. “I don’t say that without reason. The people who don’t want to see it, it’s because they choose not to see it or they’re just negative by nature. Ultimately, we are a better team this year. That’s a fact. We’re going to continue to get better.”
Actually, it’s not a fact. The Mariners are really no better this year than they were last. And last year, they didn’t have a bunch of extra games against a Houston Astros club with a .380 winning percentage. (.371 against teams other than Seattle).
The Mariners are 34-45 (.430) after 79 games this year. When Wedge made his comments last season, his team had just finished 75-87 (.463).
So, no, they are not better in the win-loss column.
On offense, the Mariners hit .234 last year and are at .236 this year. They had an OBP of .296 last year and are currently at .300. Last year, they slugged .369 and are now at .380.
So, yeah, they are technically “better” this year, but that type of progress will lead to contention some time about 2027.
And really, if you look at the way the offense has been trending, the smart money’s not on the Mariners exceeding their 2012 totals. The Mariners have hit .229 with a .284 OBP and a .370 slugging percentage over the last month since May 26.
Wedge isn’t dumb. He knows his hitters are making him look really, really bad. And he knows what that can lead to.
After two-plus years of standing up for his players, of trying to fend off the naysayers and protect his “kids” in a little coccoon, Wedge has finally had it. He needs the fruits of this rebuilding plan and the other players around them to show the past four-plus years have been worth it.
It’s one thing to keep spewing the mantra of “building the right way” and “spending wisely” and “playing the kids” and all the other buzzwords that used to be tossed around by certain fans and pundits since 2009 without a care in the world. But all that stuff eventually gets old and the talk gets cheap when it isn’t backed up.
Nowadays, the most enthusiastic proponents of the rebuild back in 2009-2011 have run for cover. Some are pretending they were never really on-board to begin with.
That’s nonsense, of course. And Wedge and Jack Zduriencik know it full well. They can both remember the “In Jack We Trust” buttons and the “Stay the Course” pleas from as recently as a year ago in spring training.
They can remember how folks jumped on board the bandwagon even last August, when the Mariners were beating up on the equivalent of Class AAA squads that had seen their lineups gutted either on purpose or via injuries. They remember how Felix Hernandez threw his perfect game and how his team took off and had some wide-eyed folk thinking playoffs before the Mariners traveled to Chicago, played a team with a winning record and got knocked back down into place the rest of the year.
That skepticism after the team’s September fade back to a 100-loss pace is what prompted Wedge to make his season-ending comments about naysayers being “negative by nature” and for him to guarantee better things lay ahead.
And on paper, at least, this team should have been better this year, with the additions of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez. With the chance to play 19 games against the Astros. With Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma fronting the rotation.
With the “young core” folks had been championing since way back in 2009 after the arrival of 26-year-old Franklin Gutierrez and 22-year-old Michael Saunders. With the drafting that year of No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley. The same core that the “stay the course” crowd pleaded online, over the airwaves and all over town for us not to tinker with. For the team not to spend any money replacing, or at least duplicating with a stronger supporting cast that could have nurtured them along.
We all forget about those days now because, largely, those who championed the cause back then hope we all forget what they ever said in the first place.
That’s the nature of sports and fandom. Everbody wants to be “right” but honestly, few people ever really are.
Sports can humble. Heck, even I felt this team would be better this year. Maybe not enough to justify the past four seasons of cutting payroll and losing games, but better nonetheless. They looked good on paper. Now, they’re just paper tigers.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what I thought, what any of you thought back from 2009-2011, or last year or at any point in this team’s history. None of us is going to pay for what’s happening on the field in 2013.
Looking at the Mariners, since they last had a playoff season, they’ve changed GMs twice, they’ve changed team presidents zero times, team CEOs zero times and team owners zero times (we won’t count Hiroshi Yamauchi’s estate-planning).
Managers? Since Lou Piniella stormed off on his own, they’ve had Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu, Daren Brown and now Wedge.
Wonder why Wedge is upset his players keep making the entire organization look bad?
Because the entire organization ain’t gonna pay. Never does in Seattle. Any naysayer could have told him that when he took the job.