Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mariners Drop 6th Straight, The Problems Solved In This Blog

The end of another series, the end of a long road trip and the Mariners are finding themselves at a crossroad. As the Tampa Bay Rays swept the M's in a four game series, it's hard to believe that after 6 straight losses that there is any hope for this club.

The question is not whether or not the Mariners will win this year, but more, can the Mariners show that they can be a consistent, competitive team all season. It's tough to say at this point in the season, but in all reality, there are a few things that will continue and possibly haunt the team.

First, the use of the veterans on this club are constantly hindering the future of this ball club. I understand that the young players can be learning a lot from some veteran presence on the team, but if the veterans we have on the team are not going to get the job done, they have got to go.

The first name that comes to mind is Chone Figgins. Since being with the club he has done absolutely nothing. He had a horrible spring training this year and ended up starting the season with some good hitting that may have bought him some time. That time should now be over. Figgins is not only a bad player, but a bad teammate. I saw a lot of things when I was at Spring Training this year, but the one thing that I saw that bothered me the most was a two game stint where Figgins was in left field and Munenori Kawasaki was at shortstop. There would be a single hit to left and Kawasaki went out to be the cutoff man. Normally on a single the batter will turn and look and simply walk back to the bag at first, leaving the left fielder to flip the ball to the cutoff and move on. Or, on a fly out, one would normally throw a short toss into the cutoff and get back into position. Not Figgins. Every time he fielded the ball he would deliberately throw it over the head of Kawasaki to third base or even all the way to the pitcher. Not to avoid the cutoff, but to avoid having to throw the ball to Kawasaki.

I was really bothered by this in Spring Training, but didn't feel that I could write on pure speculation, but the other night when I was listening to the game on the radio I heard Figgins overthrew the ball over the head of Kawasaki but Dustin Ackley was there to back up the throw. Mind you, I wasn't watching the game, I didn't see it, but it brought me back to Spring. Chone Figgins is our left fielder, he lost his 3rd base job to the likes of Kyle Seager and Alex Liddi. My question is, what did Kawasaki do to him? The new guy in camp, fighting for an infield job and winning it, may have Figgy all irate. Remember, this is pure speculation, but watch for it, I'm not crazy. That is, if Figgins has any more games as a Mariner.

The next name that comes to mind is Brendan Ryan. I am a huge fan of Brendan Ryan, but we don't pay Brendan Ryan to be a fan favorite, we pay him to field his position and hit the ball. Hitting has not been something that Ryan has been able to do thus far, batting a mere .125 on the year with a .034 in the past 10 games, he is not getting it done. If we were looking for veteran presence without production we could just invite Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson down to the field every so often and let the young players play.

Another name to throw out would be Kevin Millwood. He hasn't been horrible, but he cannot stay away from the big inning. He had a two run lead today and ended up yielding a 4 spot in the bottom of the 2nd. The offense has played their part in helping our pitchers out in the loss column, but if that's how it's going to be, why not give Erasmo Ramirez the starts. That's what he's on the docket for, right? If so, why are we wasting our time with Millwood? If we keep shying away from letting our future starters actually start ball games, we're just going to make them frustrated. Tom Wilhelmsen was sent down to AA ball last year to be a starter and made the team this year as our 8th inning guy. I asked Wilhelmsen about this in Peoria and he said he was happy to be on the team. Very PC right? But, do you remember the Brandon Morrow incident? Morrow wasn't making the team because they kept sending him down to work on being a starter and they would bring him up to the bullpen. After so many times going back and forth, he wanted out of Seattle. So, it's not that Millwood is horrible, he's just not an asset and he's not the future of our team. You also have to understand, at some point in the year we will have 2 or 3 more starters wanting to make their way to this roster. James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen are all plugging away in AA ball right now.

Last but not least, Miguel Olivo. I love the guy and I was excited when he became a Mariner again, but he is not our future either. We brought in Jesus Montero for a reason and we need to give him every opportunity to play this season. Olivo is not hitting, John Jaso and Jesus Montero are. Olivo being on the disabled list at the moment will give us a better sample of the John Jaso, Montero combination and I think we'll like what we see. Olivo's bat has been decent as of late, but his catching is atrocious. So, as much as I hate to say it, Olivo should probably be the number three catcher.

Ichiro is the one veteran on the team that has been doing a good job. He's hitting. Far better than he was last year, but at this point in the season, I'm already convinced that he is not a number three hitter. He was supposed to be working on a wider stance at the plate, but all I've seen from him lately is the same old stance where he's knees are almost touching together. He hasn't even tried to be a different hitter in my opinion, and part of me knew that would happen. Ichiro is only going to be the same Ichiro.

The last name I will throw out will be that of Manager Eric Wedge. Not a struggling veteran, but a problem nonetheless. He's been a lot more consistent with the batting orders this season, especially concerning the 1 - 5 hitters, but there is a common theme for Wedge. It seems that whenever a player has a great game, 3 hits, 2 hits and a game winning RBI, that they are never in there for the following game. Wedge likes to play to the lefty, righty match-ups and it kills me. I understand that there are numbers that dictate odds and that some players hit better facing lefties instead of righties, but sometimes you have to throw that all out the window. Play the hot hand. If somebody is out there raking every day, they are feeling it, seeing the ball well, why would you take that out based on a stat sheet? I know a lot of people don't see it the same way I do, but it happens quite frequently.

Quite honestly, I was really excited when Wedge first came to Seattle. I thought it was going to be like the reincarnation of Lou Pinella. But so far, that hasn't been the case. Wedge has talked about accountability way too many times, talked about competing, talked about playing smart baseball, but once again, much like last year, the words have seemed very empty. The Mariners continue to lose games and the seats at Safeco Field become more and more empty. So, you want to talk about accountability? You want to be a man of your word and play the right players? The ones who deserve to be on the field. Then Figgins should have never started a game this year and Kawasaki should have had that spot from day one. He proved himself all spring. ALL SPRING! Yet, still did not get the starting nod. I would hope that would change.

That's it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. It's time for some to look for work elsewhere or take a backseat to the future of Seattle Mariners baseball.