Seattle Mariners postsWednesday July 08, 2015
Two Getaway Games, 20 Years Apart
Twenty years ago on July 18th I went to an afternoon getaway game against the Detroit Tigers at the Kingdome in Seattle. It was the Mariners “Refuse to Lose” season, but of course we didn’t know that yet. Griffey, Jr. was out with his infamous wrist injury, and the team was playing .500 ball, but we still had so much promise and personality: Edgar, Jay, Tino, Randy. We had Joey Cora and Dan Wilson. Our bench guys were good: Rich Amaral, Alex Diaz, Doug Strange. We still remember their names.
In that game, the Tigers went up 5-1 in the top of the 4th, but the M’s answered with 5 in the bottom of the 4th. No big blow: single, single, single, double, popout, single, groundout, double. Tino added a 3-run homer in the 6th but the main guy I remember is Jeff Nelson. He relieved Tim Belcher in the 6th with the M’s up by only a run, and over the next three innings he faced 10 guys. He walked one, got two groundouts, and struck out seven. Seven. I was behind homeplate and could see the ball darting and dancing every which way. It was overpowering. It was magical.
Today, July 8, I went to an afternoon getaway game against the Tigers at Safeco Field and ... it was a little less magical. It was outdoors. But something about a weekday afternoon game under the sun feels a little lazy to me. Maybe I’m projecting.
The Tigers scored first in the second. With two strikes, J.D. Martinez singled. With two strikes, Nick Castellanos singled. Then a one-strike double by Jefry Marte—his first Major League hit in only his second Major League at-bat. Then a two-strike double by Iglesias. It was a theme. Every time the Tigers went two strikes on M’s pitcher J.A. Happ, I imagined them touching fingertips like Mr. Burns. Excellent.
The M’s did manage a comeback. A run here, a run there, then a two-run homer by Dustin Ackley—a no-doubt, line shot into the right field bleachers. But otherwise we couldn’t capitalize. In the 4th, we got Brad Miller on second with one out and couldn’t bring him in. In the 5th, we got Nelson Cruz on second with out one and couldn’t bring him in. In the 6th, Miller was on third with one out. Bupkis. In the 7th, Cruz, second, nada. Chris Taylor, pinch-running for Cruz in the 9th, got to that very well-worn second base with two outs and stood there as Mark Trumbo struck out swinging and the M's lost 5-4. “Today’s attendance...”
The two games are a study in contrasts. In the ’95 game, eight of our nine starters were hitting over .260, six had OBPs north of .330, while three were slugging over .500—with one (Edgar) slugging over .600. And all this without the superstar, Junior, in the lineup.
Today? Only one starter was hitting above .260 (Cruz, at .300), only two had OBPs over .330 (Cruz and Seth Smith), and only one was slugging over .500 (yes, Cruz). Our starting first baseman was hitting below .200 (although he had a good day: 3-5) while our starting catcher, Jesus Sucre, was hitting below .100. To be precise, he was hitting .040. That's right. He was 1 for 25 going into the game, and damn if he nearly got a hit his first time up, but the scorer went against him. E-3. I was bummed. In a way that was the big excitement of the game for me. I should've shaken a fist at the official scorer.
The real excitement of the game belonged to the Tigers. Marte, their replacement first baseman for injured Miguel Cabrera, not only doubled but homered in his first Major League start. Imagine rooting for a team like that. With possibilities.
Maybe I'm projecting.
Why Is Robinson Cano Slumping? Because He's Got What I Got
It's been a hot year in Seattle but a cold one for the Seattle Mariners.
The team that was predicted to be among the best in the A.L. is one game away from being its worst, despite a great first half from free-agent pickup Nelson Cruz, and a great June turnaround from rookie pitcher Taijuan Walker, and a where-did-that-come-from performance by 25-year-old rookie pitcher Mike Montgomery, who was expected to do not much and after seven starts has a 1.62 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00.
If you'd told me all that at the beginning of the year, I would've thought the M's would indeed be in control of the A.L. West. Instead, we're in danger of dropping through its cellar doors.
Closer Fernando Rodney lost the closing role after 3 blown saves, 3 losses and an ERA near 7.00. Dustin Ackley has only recently passed the Mendoza line (.200 BA), while Mike Zunino is looking up at it from a deep, deep hole (.159). Basically the brunt of the team is a massive mediocrity not being helped by even worse platoon players. Willie Bloomquist, with 69 at-bats (and now off the team), is a member of the .100/.100/.100 club: .159 BA/.194 OBP/.174 SLG. Midseason pickup Mark Trumbo might join him soon. He's hitting .157 with a .186 OBP and a .205 SLG. These are mice numbers. You think no one in Major League Baseball can get lower until you see that we've given Jesus Sucre 25 at-bats with which he's managed one hit, a single on May 10, for a .040/.040/.040 line.
Despite all that, the real worry has been Robinson Cano. Last year we signed him to a 10-year, $240 million contract and he responded well: .314/.382/.454. This year? .252/.291/.365. He's got 5 homers and 27 RBIs. Most people, most Seattleites anyway, assumed he'd break out of this slump soon but here we are, halfway through, and it's still there. I was against the signing from the beginning—no longterm deals, and particularly for a player in his 30s—but even I thought we'd get a few good years out of him. Instead it seems we got one; the rest is albatross.
Then suddenly this explanation in an interview with the Spanish language USA Today:
Cano was in the midst of his sixth All-Star season last year when he started experiencing stomach discomfort in August. With the Mariners in the playoff chase, he didn't get it checked until their season was over, in October. Cano said he was told he had a common parasite, which was treated with antibiotics, but he was left with acid reflux to this day.
“It still affects me,'' Cano said. ”Sometimes you drink water and it makes you feel like vomiting. I can't eat the same way I did. It's hard to deal with, especially being the first time this has happened to me. Sometimes I eat only once a day before playing, because I feel full. And you just don't have the same energy.''
He did have a lousy September last year: .265/.333/.398. And he's describing acid reflux exactly. I know because I have it. I got it about the same time. I began to feel mine, badly, in December, and have been working to get rid of it since. It's a constant annoyance. It's what he says. Even water sometimes burns. You eat barely anything and you're suddenly full. Your stomach feels bloated all the time. You don't have as much energy as you used to. And I sit for a living.
I'd always thought that if I had money, if I was important, there would be another option besides omeprazole. Maybe there isn't. Or maybe the Mariners aren't paying enough attention to their $240-million asset. They should. Then they should tell me what the secret is.
Here's to better health, Robby.
Lucky hats won't do it. Lucky bats won't do it. But some omeprazole might help.
Quote: 'It'd Be Nice to Get Excited About a Trade Like This...'
“It'd be nice to get excited about a trade like this. After all, the offense has been terrible, the rotation is banged up, and these two players do fill needs. But after a series of Mariner games that just felt so exhaustingly Mariners, this trade feels the same. Exhausting. It embodies everything about this current front office that hasn't worked over the past several years, and yet here we are, trying it again. Jack Zduriencik has a blueprint that he believes will result in success, but it never really has.”
-- Scott Weber, “Mariners trade for Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno,” on the LookoutLanding site.
I was at one of those exhausting games, Tuesday night, with my friend Jim, who predicted the outcome. We had a 25-year-old pitcher making his Major League debut, Mike Montgomery, and when the M's put him ahead 2-1 in the sixth, Jim mused about the wonderful possibility that we would see this kid get a “W.” For a second. Then he said, “But we need more runs. Because you know who is waiting for us in the 9th.” Right, our closer with the 6.75 ERA, Fernando Rodney. Sure enough, facing a weak Yankees squad, Rodney gave up a walk, a fly out, a strikeout, a single, a double to tie it, then a ground out. But we didn't see the groundout. As soon as the Yankees tied it we left the park. Yanks won 5-3 in 11 innings. Thanks for the Kyle Seager bobblehead, M's.
Anyway, I'm done with Zduriencik. He keeps giving up something (Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda) to net us nothing (Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero). I like Seager but we overpaid for him. We overpaid for and oversigned Robinson Cano. That signing is looking like a disaster sooner that I thought it would. With Zdurienck I keep going back to that great exchange from “Apocalypse Now.”
Zduriencik: Are my methods unsound?
Me: I don't see ... any method ... at all, sir.
In other news, The New York Times, of all papers, tracks the most cursed cities in Major League sports. Seattle is 13th but only because the Seahawks won the Super Bowl a year ago. The Mariners? They're one of only two MLB franchises to never go to the World Series.
How Many M's Team Records Will Fall to King Felix This Season?
Felix on the mound last September: It's good to be the King.
This weekend, I was doing the kind of thing you do while waiting for Opening Day—looking over the Mariners team records—and it occurred to me that King Felix is poised to break many of the M’s career pitching records this year.
He already owns two: ERA (3.07), which he could obviously lose with a string of bad seasons, and wild pitches (116), which I found surprising. I always thought of him as a control pitcher, yet he’s led the league in this category (in 2009), and already has more WPs than Randy Johnson did during his entire career: 109.
This year, and barring problems, four more M's team records should fall to him. In each, the number he needs to break the record is less than the number he put up last season:
|Stat||Pitcher||Record||Felix's #||To break||F's '14 #|
|Games started||Jamie Moyer||323||303||21||34|
|Hits allowed||Jamie Moyer||2,100||1839||262||170|
|Complete games||Mike Moore||56||23||34||0|
And could it be five records? He needs 21 wins to break Jamie Moyer's career mark. That doesn’t sound like an impossibility but would in fact tie Moyer for the M’s single-season record; 19 is Felix’s career high. But he could do it; he’s pitching for a better team now; wins should come easier. If the creek don’t rise.
Hits allowed will also be his by 2016. He’s crawling, not running, to walks, so that one may forever stay Randy’s. So will shutouts. Meanwhile Mike Moore gets to keep his name in the Mariners record books for all eternity, since no one in our current era will pitch 57 complete games again.
SLIDESHOW: The Last Seattle Mariners Game of 2014
SLIDESHOW: A few weeks ago my friend Jeff contacted me to see if P and I wanted to go with his family to the last M's game of the year. The team was back and forth in the wild card race at the time so we thought, “Sure, why not? You never know.” (Pictured: Kyle Seager at the plate today.)
Earlier in the week, after a bad string of losses, it looked like the season was over. But then the M's began to win again and the Oakland A's began to falter. And after last night's 2-1 victory, we were only 1 game back with 1 to play. Meaning an Oakland loss and an M's victory today would force a one-game playoff with the A's tomorrow. Meaning today's game was the first meaningful Game 162 the M's had played since 2001. Hence the crowds.
Of course the whole proposition was still iffy. If the A's lost and we won, we would still have that one-game playoff tomorrow. If we won that, we would face KC in the one-game wild-card playoff on Tuesday. If we won that, then and only then would we be in the best-of-5 playoffs. (Pictured: the view from our seats: Section 342, Row 3.)
And here's the motley crew. People were sitting in P's and my seats when we arrived. Different people were sitting in the Sheas' seats when they arrived. There was great confusion about just where (or what) Section 342 was.
On the plus side, we had King Felix on the mound. And for a time it looked good. We were up 1-0, then 2-0, then 4-0. Felix kept mowing 'em down: 7 strikeouts after 3 innings.
Unfortunately, the only time I've ever wanted anyone in Texas to win anything, and they weren't helping. They were losing. Big.
By the fifth inning it was official. Word spread around the stadium and there was polite applause for the M's good effort this season. The Seattle way.
Then slowly, as if in a paegant, the M's exited to applause. First, Felix. He came out after 5 1/3, with the M's up 4-0, bowed all around, and was gone.
Two batters later, it was Robinson Cano's turn. He went 1-3 and was replaced by Brad Miller at second base. Even Austin Jackson, who never really did much for us, was ceremoniously relieved after a single in the 6th. Which player stuck it out?
My man Kyle Seager played through the long shadows of the afternoon. Too bad he ended the season poorly: OPSes of .699 and .719 in the last two months. Even so, he's still the second-best position player on the team.
After the 4-1 victory, the players tossed gifts to the fans. But as a loveable loser once said, “If only McCovey had hit the ball three feet higher!” I.e., If only Felix had won in Toronto last week. If only Fernando Rodney hadn't walked four A's in the 10th a few weeks back. If only we had more guys who could hit .300. Or .275. Or .250.
But as more famous loveable losers once said: Wait till next year. *FIN*