Seattle Mariners postsMonday July 18, 2011
The 30-30-30-30 Club
The Mariners' season came undone while I was visiting family in Minneapolis in early July. They were getting by, as my friend Jim said, with Smoak and mirrors, and on July 5, despite getting swept by the Nationals and Braves in late June, they were 43-43, .500 exactly, and only a few games out of first place in the weak American League West.
On July 5 they beat Oakland 4-2 in 10 innings. The next day they lost to the A's, 2-0, but still won the series, 2-1.
They haven't won since.
The Angels swept them in four games in Anaheim. The Rangers swept them four games here. That's a nine-game losing streak. Now they're more than 10 games back. Season over.
It's not just that they lost, it's how they lost. In the four games here, the M's gave up 17 runs and scored two: one on Saturday night, one on Sunday afternoon. In 36 innings, they not only never had the lead, but, since Texas scored in the first inning in three of the four games, the M's actually trailed for 34 of those 36 innings. Even though every game starts out 0-0, they can't even hold onto the tie.
Last season, the M's set a record for fewest runs scored by a Major League team in a non-strike-shortened season since the advent of the DH rule. They were last in almost every offensive category. Runs: 30th. Batting Average: 30th. OBP: 30th. Slugging: 30th. So it is again. They're the sole members of the 30-30-30-30 club. They don't seem interested in sharing that dishonor.
So how could it get any worse? This way: We're down to just mirrors. Justin Smoak, who currently leads the team in HRs (12) RBIs (43) and OBP (.324), is in a downward spiral. Here are his numbers, month-to-month:
Ouch. Remember that Springsteen song, “I'm going down”? I'm going down down down down, I'm going down down down down ... That's what we've got here.
Is he injured? Are fans talking about it? Are there fans?
M's management is doing the right thing. I have to say that. They're going young now. They're building from within. But the team is suffering from the bad moves and worse picks from earlier in the 2000s. The question is how long they—and we—will be suffering.
Game 6: How a Home Victory Equals a Loss
At least we saved ourselves a half inning.
In other words, yes, it was cool that because of a scheduling conflict with a U2 concert, the Florida Marlins had to abandon their own stadium and play their home series against the Seattle Mariners here, at Safeco Field, under National League rules—meaning the M's wore road grays, batted first, and pitchers hit. All of that was cool to see. But the best part of the game may have been that, for this Mariners loss, we got to leave a half inning early. If you're going to see a home loss, better to see one that lasts a mere 8 1/2 innings instead of the full 9.
My sixth game of the season was an altogether unthrilling affair. In the bottom of the first, the Marlins got their first three batters aboard on solid base hits and plated them all. The Mariners only scored two the entire game. That's pretty much it.
But for the first time in a long time, I did get to see the game with both Tim and Mike, with whom I shared a 20-game package back in '94, '95, '96, etc. It was throwback night for us and we trotted out some new Chris Bermanisms to go along with the old standards: Bobby “I Am Curious” Ayala; and Bob “With Six You Get” Ayrault. Mike came up with: Omar “Au Revior Les” Infante. I came up with: Dustin “Heart attack, ack, ack, ack, ack” Ackley.
OK, so we're rusty.
Final score was 4-2, Marlins, which is also my score this season. Not final.
In the battle of the water-themed teams, the Mariners couldn't catch themselves some Marlins...
M's Game Report: Lesser Angels Still Win
There goes my perfect record.
The Mariners, 4-0 in my previous appearances at Safeco Field—against, chronlogically, the Blue Jays, Rangers, Twins and Yankees—lost last night to the Los Angeles Angels, 6-3. It was less the Angels winning than the odds winning. I didn't think I'd see four wins all year, let alone to start the season.
It was also less the Angels winning than the Mariners losing. M's were up 2-1 in the 3rd, with two outs, when Vernon Wells stepped to the plate against Jason Vargas. “Scoiscia's got Wells batting clean-up?” I said to my friend, Jeff. “Dude's batting .180-something.” A second later Wells hit it out to tie the game. M's go up 3-2 but in the 7th, the Angels get a leadoff double and a ground out to move the runner, and Torii Hunter, who's batting second despite having the lowest batting average on the team (what's Scioscia doing? I wondered), grounds to Chone Figgins at third. The throw to the plate arrives in plenty of time to preserve our lead. Except--no!--there goes the white ball, squiggling loose between catcher Miguel Olivo's legs. Tie game. An out later, which, if Olivo had held on, should've ended the inning, Vernon Wells again steps to the plate. “I still say he shouldn't be hitting clean-up,” I tell Jeff. A second later, homerun no. 2. Angels add another run in the 9th on a two-out balk, two-out single off of Chris Ray and that's your ballgame.
On the other hand, when was the last time I saw anyone hit two homeruns in one game at Safeco? Years.
The attendance was recorded as 20,238, but it was half that, if that. The area around Safeco feels increasingly abandoned, sketchy, and desperate, as more people fight over less people.
Divvying up M's Season Tickets at the Home of a Personal Friend of Raquel Welch
I'm part of a Seattle Mariners season ticket package—all Mariners season tickets, in my mind, should be split into packages, for the mental health of the ticket holders if nothing else—and tonight, at the home of Stephen Manes, personal friend of Raquel Welch, our group of eight ne'er-do-wells, amid jokes about M's run production and Ron Fairly, divvied them up.
Bummer of a schedule, though. July in Seattle is beautiful, but of the M's 26 games that month only 10 are at home. The Twins, my favorite team, come here just once, in May, and for only two games. Lame. We do get the Phillies, in mid-June, but I picked eighth, or last, and by the time it got around to me for my two picks (the last of the first round and the first of the second round), the Phils were gone. By the time it got back to me for my next two picks, all but one Yankees game was gone, so I snatched that one up. Missed Boston, though. Good teams at a premium when your team is this lousy.
In the end I managed to get tix to see the M's play the Twins, Angels, Braves, Rangers, Rays, Jays, ChiSox, Royals, Yankees and A's. Avoided April, which is too cold here, but wound up with three games in September, when the weather's nice but the M's record won't be. But maybe we'll have some good September call-ups? Maybe we'll play spoiler to the Yankees? Maybe they'll declare Sept. 27, the second-to-last game of the year, “Moneyball Night,” because Billy Beane's A's will be in town and Bennett Miller's film will be in theaters?
For more than a decade now M's management has put M's players on our season tickets. Is this the first year, though, they included their names? Not their whole name, mind you, just their first names. As if we're all pals. I wound up with four Franklins, three Felixes, two Chones and only one Ichiro.
“Any Miltons?” somebody asked, amid laughter.
It already feels like one of those years.
At least we got this.
Lancelot Links (My Oh My Edition)
Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 75 and appreciations immediately rolled in. I wrote mine upon hearing the news but didn't feel like I captured how much he meant to me. I wrote about meeting him, and I resurrected quotes, and audio clips, and LINED DOWN THE LEFT FIELD LINE FOR A BASE HIT, and all of those are good, but I tend to associate him with, of all things, cleaning my apartment on 44th and Evanston in upper Fremont on some weekend afternoon, the sun streaming in, a hopeless game on the radio. Cleaning isn't any fun, and Mariners games often aren't any fun, but he made them fun. Roger Angell has said that baseball is like life, because there's more losing than winning in each, and Dave was a guy you wanted to hang around with during all that losing. He made the losing, and thus life, bearable. Hell, he made it fun.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments field below. Here are some others:
- Mike Henderson at crosscut opens with a bang and tries to capture that Niehaus-Ron Fairly banter during an M's shellacking.
- Rob Neyer visits the broadcast booth. “I didn't imagine, for even a second, that I would never have another chance. I sort of thought Dave Niehaus would live forever.”
- Various clips and remembrances, including this one from Jay Buhner: “He could call a sunset.”
- This U.S.S. Mariner piece needed to be longer, but I like the Bip Roberts remembrance. That's the Dave I remember. He's been called a “homer,” but he always got excited about good play from the opposition.
- Kirby Arnold gives us reaction from Junior, and Dan Wilson, and Kevin Cremin. Ron Fairly says, “He was a huge Mariners fan; probably the biggest one in the Northwest.”
- John McGrath, in a piece about Niehaus' induction into the Hall, on how a Jay Buhner homerun call made him feel welcome in Seattle.
- Mike: Off Mic, the voice of the Rainiers, on sharing the broadcast booth with a legend. “And nine miserable innings they were, Mike.”
- Jim Caple on Joey and Joy. Here comes one, there goes one.
- I choked up listening to these radio calls. They even have the grand-salami call off Roger Pavlik from '95. But make sure you stop it before the end. For some reason, KIRO 710 ends their tribute with an awful, generic radio voice; I'd rather end it with his very distinct radio voice.
- Finally, Seattle Times' sports columnist Steve Kelley writes one of the best eulogies I've read: “He could be calling a baseball game, and it would seem as if literature broke out. ... In the cynical world of big-city sports, Dave Niehaus truly was beloved. I bet he didn't have an enemy in the game, in the business, in Seattle. And — my, oh, my — there will be times next season when his absence will feel almost too heavy to bear.”