We’ve been down this road with the Mariners before. Saw it in 2008 and 2010. Now, we’re seeing it again in 2013 and sooner or later, the question will have to be answered by somebody in charge of this Mariners franchise.
How are GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge supposed to survive this?
The Mariners just got swept three straight by the Houston Astros, far and away the worst team in major league baseball. They were outscored 25-7 and played in front of crowds ranging from 9,800 or so to 11,656 tonight. Those are the announced crowds. There wasn’t much of a line for garlic fries tonight.
Worse than the indifferent crowds is the seemingly indifferent play by the Mariners. The players insist they haven’t given up and manager Wedge does as well. Heck, he’d better hope they haven’t because that will reflect very poorly on a guy already in a heap of trouble as this season crawls to a devastating finish.
If they haven’t packed it in, the Mariners certainly look like a group running on empty. And that’s with more than two weeks of season to go. Tonight, they mustered four hits.
Right now, they are on pace for 90 losses. But that’s about to change with this road trip, where the Mariners play a taxing 10 games against two first-place teams and then the Angels. They can’t count on Felix Hernandez much anymore, so that’s already a blow. Play like this the rest of the season, the Mariners will be lucky to go even 3-13. That’s a 94-loss season, if you’re keeping score.
And that’s while playing 19 games against a 50-96 Houston squad. The Mariners finished just 10-9 against the Astros and that alone is an indictment.
The kicker now is, we’re starting to hear that a lot of that may have to do with how young the team is.
“We’re just younger,’’ Wedge said. “We’re a younger ballclub. The veterans were doing a little bit more for us in the first half. We’ve got young pitchers in the starting rotation. A lot of these kids are in September and they haven’t played in September before.’’
Remember back in July, when the team was hyping its youthful infusion to the hilt and folks were citing it as the reason the Mariners had won eight in a row? Wasn’t really true back then, either, if you check the stats from that streak. But now, it certainly isn’t the case. This team looks like it’s flatlined and you could actually see it coming because the minor league schedule would normally be done for many of these young Mariners by now and their bodies are into overtime. So now, the fact that they’re young is being pointed at as a reason the team is losing, instead of winning.
And yeah, Wedge is right about that. He’s also right about Morales and Ibanez not doing enough in the second half. Neither did Michael Morse, but he was traded. Morales picked it up somewhat this past week, while Ibanez was overused in the outfield this season and it appears to be catching up to him in a season in which he’s hit 27 homers and slugged .500 in what was supposed to be a part-time role.
Ibanez doesn’t want to hear about young guys or veterans being fatigued.
“You know, I’m kind of the mentality that ‘fatigue’ is our troops in Afghanistan who are over there fighting and haven’t slept in three days and are dodging bullets,’’ Ibanez said. “Fatigue is part of the game, so you keep fighting through it and you make it happen. Again, in this game nobody’s going to hand you anything. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. So, we’re definitely not going to feel sorry for ourselves.
“I hate to get repetitive, but the only thing we can do is keep fighting and moving forward.’’
The problem is, the phrase “keep fighting” implies the Mariners have been fighting to this point already. And if they really were fighting during this awful series with the Astros, what does that say about their talent level and overall ability to improve?
It’s one thing to shrug Ibanez’s second-half off to him being 41, or young rookies like Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino hitting a wall.
But other young guys? The Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager trio went a combined 6-for-53 (.113) on this homestand. They have been through multple seasons as a group. They aren’t supposed to be getting fatigued this time of year.
And when a team en masse looks depleted, the finger pointing usually redirects towards the guys in charge.
Five years into this rebuilding plan, this team has a lot of young guys. The question is, does it have ballplayers who can take it to the next level?
The deafening silence from upstairs would normally speak volumes if it came from a team whose highest leadership understood basic public relations and how messages will be interpreted. But these are the Mariners we’re talking about. You can never be certain whether there’s a light on upstairs because somebody’s paying attention, or whether they simply forgot to turn it off when they went back to sleep.
Unless things change big-time on the field these final 16 games, Wedge and Zduriencik had better hope the powers-that-be are once again asleep at the switch. Because if any of them actually stayed awake long enough to watch this Astros series in its entirety, they’re going to have a tough time justifying an extension for anybody based on what’s become of this franchise.