Two things wrong with Mariners

It is not the .210 batting average that bothers me. Though the Mariners are 26th in baseball and 12th in the American League is not the problem. Their on base percentage does bother me. At .258 they are 14th in the American league, ahead of only the Twins at .249. The reason for that is the same as last season and that is the inability to draw walks.

They are 13th in the league in walks with 18 in nine games. The Twins have 17 and the White Sox have 13, but they have played eight games. Last season the M’s drew 396 walks, last in the League. Oddly Kansas City was last with .380. who finished with a 89-73 record. The difference was Kansas City hit .263 while Seattle hit .244 and that is why the Mariners finished dead last in on base percentage at .300.

The Mariners survived a poor offensive output in 2014 because their pitching was one of the best in baseball.  It is early, but through nine games they have had only two good starts, one from Felix, the other from J.A. Happ. Paxton, Iwakuma, and Paxton have either struggled or floundered. And closer Fernando Rodney has blown up the last two games.

Everything looked good in spring training, but there is no pressure in those games; once the bell rings, high expectations can cause things to go wrong. I don’t know whether they feel the pressure of expectations or not. They say no, but what do you expect them to say. It could be the pitchers are not in their rhythm, are having trouble locating. 

The focus of the everyday players has not been there. Cano thought the bases were loaded when there were runners at second and third and began walking home from third when a batter walked and Cano was thrown out. Logan Morrison forgot how many outs there were in consecutive innings. Brad Miller Forgot to cover second base once.

The 3-6 record is disappointing and while the starting pitching has been poor, it should not mask the Mariners inability to get on base. Homers alone will not win games. You need to be patient, get pitchers deeper into counts, draw walks, and get clutch hitting. The M’s are doing none of that.

It is time for the Mariners to step and during this nine game home stand. Forget expectations and start playing fundamentally sound baseball.

Why McClendon should not have used Rodney on Sunday

Many relief pitchers have a problem coming into the 9th in non-save situation. It is likely that thinking the lead is safe the pitcher throws strikes to get outs, but the strikes are too good and hits come, not outs; or the pitcher is relaxed and throws balls just out of the strike zone. It is only a surmise; the truth is a mystery.

But that is not the problem Sunday when Fernando Rodney came into the 9th with a 7-3 lead on Oakland. Lets look at the last of the 9th. Reddick a leadoff double, Semien a walk, then Sam Fuld 2-run double, 7-5. Canha infield single, Zobrist walks. McClendon visits mound and then Butler hits into double play, a run scores, 7-6, but two outs. The last out is the toughest and Sogard singles, Canha scores, 7-7.

Here is the problem. Rodney had pitched Saturday night so he was not in need of work and by bringing him in on Sunday throwing 25 pitches in a non save situation, it is unlikely he will be used for the Monday game against the Dodgers. Would it not have been better to start Medina in the 9th and if he gets into trouble, then bring in Rodney?

Managers tend to go with their closer and rarely take him out when he is not pitching well. The manager will, like the captain of the Titanic, go down with the ship, and the closer is the managers ship. That is why Rodney was allowed to either get out of the jam or lose the game. But if he lost, this would be one of those games you look back on and say this game was one that got away. And the M’s missed the playoffs by one game in 2014. Even early in the season you don’t want to let games slip away.

Nelson Cruz bailed the M’s out with a 10th inning homer and medina pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the save. Rodney got an undeserved win.

Closers are best in save situations.

 

 

The Mariner trolls are tweeting

Expectations are high for the Seattle Mariners, but after winning the season opener, the M’s lost twice to the Angels at home. After the first loss the trolls were tweeting  “Same old Mariners.” I am sure it is worse after Nelson Cruz struck out with runners 2nd and 3rd in the 8th and Richie Weeks struck out after Kyle Seager got a free pass to load the bases in the game three loss. As I write I am not listening to the trolls on their frequency so I am making an assumption. But experience tells me they are in the rant mode again.

For the unenlightened the trolls live underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct as seen here.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct.jpg

During the day trolls remain in their bunkers tweeting and texting to sports talk radio stations in Seattle, watch reruns of “Glee,” fill out brackets for “Dancing with the Stars” and play fantasy soccer. The trolls do not go to games. They know as much about baseball as Kim Kardashian does about quantum physics. During the night the trolls come out, (never before blackness has settled in), go to Starbucks and debate what kind of metaphors the Munchkins represented in “Wizard of Oz.”

The troll epidemic is becoming like zombies in “The Walking Dead,”; they are everywhere. There is even one, a host on 710 ESPN Seattle, who after the M’s were shutout in game two was making troll sounds, hinting “Same old Mariners.” One could argue he was trying to stir up chatter for the talk show, but anyone who listens to him knows better. He is a troll.

One does not approach the baseball season the way a football season is approached. Baseball is a game of failure, of streaks that whether hot or cold is irrelevant. Streaks are a microcosm, a blip on the radar. To analyze even the first month of the baseball season is like looking at the first year of WW2; neither has the complete picture.

Even if the Mariners won their first 12 games, then lost, the trolls message would have been the same. That is what trolls do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the unenlightened about the Seattle trolls they live deep underground beneath the Alaska Way Viaduct.

Why King Felix and Mariners will lose opening day

Seattle has won on opening day eight consecutive years. They open at home with King Felix Hernandez on the mound before a full house and a jammed packed King’s Court. Felix is 6-0 on opening day. It looks like the Mariners have everything in their favor.

Normally home field advantage in baseball is not as strong as home field in the NFL and neither is as strong as home court in the NBA. But the King’s Court always pumps up Felix and he will also be pumped up for the opening of the season. If he can settle in during the first two innings he should be alright and that will be the key.

The Angels and Mariners should battle for the division title all season, so the game will be important as any game in September and the Angels will pitch Jeff Weaver who always seems to pitch well against Seattle. But Weaver is not the reason the Angels will win. No I take the blame for the loss by pointing out the obvious.

The obvious is that everything is in Seattle’s favor. Playing at home; eight game win streak on opening days; Felix 6-0 on opening day; an excited sellout crowd at Safeco; the rapid King’s Court. When everything is in your favor karma rears its head like a cobra and strikes you in the caboose. That’s why.

All that and the fact I am revealing everything in the M’s favor will be a jinx, a hex, a win killer.

So it will be my fault. I will take the loss.

On the other hand it could be that blaming myself for what has yet to happen may upset the karma cart. By telling you that karma will change for the M’s and they will lose might make karma show me up by changing its mind and making the M’s win. As a baseball fan I know the players have nothing to do with winning or losing. It is which fan base is using or abusing karma; how we work sub-rosa trying to outfox karma.

Monday will tell if I am right or if I am right.

 

 

 

 

 

Why the new batters box rule is good and some hitters can’t think

I like the new rule about keeping the hitters in the batting box-at least one foot after every pitch. I hope the rule will be enforced as I loathe and detest batters who step out after every pitch and walk around like they are looking for a park bench to sit on while feeding pigeons. 

I think it was David Ortiz who said he did not like the rule, as hitters need to step out and think about the next pitch, the count, what the pitcher is likely to throw, and all that jazz.

Sorry to bring up the old days, but I have no choice. When I was growing up-and you can see footage on YouTube-batters never got out of the box, not even one foot. Never I say. They stayed in the box and were able to think about the next pitch at the same time. I know you are thinking ‘but how can this be?’ You think I am kidding, that it is impossible for a hitter to stay in the batters box and think at the same time. But I assure you this is true.

Somehow Willie Mays hit 660 home runs without getting out of the box between pitches. You can look it up.

I don’t know the reason hitters of yore were able to think about the next pitch in a short time. Maybe they prepared better, maybe they knew the pitchers better, maybe they went under  the adage of ‘see ball, hit ball’.

Some of today’s hitters overthink, or they can’t think, or are trying to figure out how to think, but I have figured out one thing and it is this. From opening day forward my favorite players will be those who stay in the batters box and players I will jeer, boo, and heckle will be those complainers who can’t stay in the box because it affects their thinking.

I’m believe their brain waves are spinning in foul territory.

Mariners to platoon two second basemen in left field

 

I heard on ESPN 710 Seattle the other day that Richie Weeks and Dustin Ackley will platoon in left. Ackley, the Mariners former second baseman,  learned to play left field after being sent to minors to straighten out his hitting. Last season he played left and this season he will be joined by fellow second baseman Richie Weeks, if that report turns out to be true. And Weeks is listed 2nd on left field depth chart.

That would give Seattle five outfielders, Ackley, Weeks, Austin Jackson, Justin Ruggiano, and Seth Smith. Since Nelson Cruz may get time in the outfield if needed, that leaves speedy James Jones with little chance of making the team and likely ending up in Tacoma.

It has also been said that the whoever losses the shortstop competition between Chris Taylor and Brad Miller will end up in Tacoma with Willie Bloomquist as the utility player.

Since the Mariners are likely to have 12 pitchers because manager Lloyd McClendon does not care about complete games that leaves 13 position players. With the five outfielders listed above, plus DH Cruz and two catchers, that leaves five infielders; Logan Morrison, Robinson Cano, one shortstop from the above mentioned competition, Kyle Seager and Willie Bloomquist as Mr. Utility.

If all that has been said is true it appears the Mariners have their position players already set. The team has flexibility with  interchangeable parts in the outfield depending on whether they are facing a left or right handed pitcher. And while the infield will be set, Cruz will get an occasional day at first or in one of the corner spots. Bench players will be a non-description of the 2015 Mariners as all will be seeing action on a regular basis, though Bloomquist could get lonely with Cano, and Seager being everyday players. Willie will get playing time at short, at first, and can play the outfield if needed.

And even with Jesus Montero having lost 40 pounds he may be in Tacoma along with other quality players. Tacoma could win the PCL with the Mariners having a strong roster. And we haven’t even talked about what pitchers will be down the I-5 freeway.

If you keep score at Mariner games, bring a pencil rather than a pen. You may need it as the scorecard will no doubt fill up on many days.

 

Two names of note in Mariners spring camp

There are two pitchers trying to make the Mariners pitching staff and neither is likely to make it, though one will end up in Tacoma. Another pitcher is a spring invitee, not on the 40-man roster, and if he shows anything at all he could be in Tacoma as well.

As to the first pitcher, look for a healthy Danny Hultzen. Remember him, the Mariners number one pick a few years ago. He was 9-7 in his first season in the minor leagues in 2012 and in 2013 was 5-1 in seven starts before going down with an arm injury and has not pitched since then. He could even end up in a lower classification, but no matter where he lands he is starting his journey back to the majors. In 32 minor league starts he is 14-8 with a 2.82 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 159.2 innings, allowing 109 hits.

How his injury will affect him is anyone’s guess, but it is always good to have extra arms as pitchers have more injuries in todays game than ever before. Which brings us to another pitcher, the one not on the 40-man roster, though in 2013 lefty Joe Saunders was part of the Mariner rotation, but at 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA he was not a fan favorite. The 33-year old is 89-86 with a 4.37 career ERA. His winning record is misleading. In 2008-2009 he was 33-14 for the Angels. He is not that pitcher anymore. He is trying to make a comeback after starting 8 games for Texas in 2014 going 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA and then pitching 3.1 relief innings for the Orioles giving up five runs. In addition he made four minor league stops, three in AAA and one in AA and did not fare well there either.

Saunders is good against lefties with a career .243 batting average against, so maybe he will be fighting for a lefty relief spot. If he does end up in Tacoma, he is-as they say-insurance.

But for me Joe reminds me of the past when he and Aaron Harang were giving up runs like cheap nylons. I like the new Mariners thank you, not the beleaguered ones.

What does Mariners signing of Richie Weeks mean for Bloomquist

Willie Bloomquist is 37 years old and coming off knee surgery. Richie Weeks is 32 and not coming off any surgery. Seattle GM jack Zduriencik has said Weeks will compete (Jack loves saying the Pete Carroll buzz word) at the corner infield and outfield positions as will Bloomquist. It would seem the hand writing is on the wall for Bloomquist though Zduriencik denies it. I would not expect him to say anything else. Jack has said there is room for both players, but it is unlikely that Seattle will carry two utility players, both of whom bat right-handed.

Bloomquist has a slight edge because he has played all positions except catcher. Weeks, played second base in Milwaukee for 11 seasons, refused to try the outfield last season for the Brewers. Since Milwaukee did not want to pay him 11.5 million this season they said good-bye.

Weeks has played the outfield, but not since college. That was in 2002 for Southern University. However, when you have lost your everyday job, as Weeks did last season, and D-Day to spring training is close at hand and you are unsigned, the outfield or any position looks good. I think Weeks will be determined to make the team doing whatever is necessary. He could also DH allowing Cruz to play first base or left field once in a while.

Weeks did not sign a minor league contract with an invite to spring training; he was signed to the 40 man roster, meaning the Mariners expect him to make the team. Edgar Olmos a left-handed reliever, whom the Mariners picked up in November on waivers from the Marlins was designated for assignment. The Mariners have added Mike Kickham and David Rollins from the left side to compete with Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge so Olmos was expendable. It has also been rumored that Roenis Elias could be in the bullpen.

Spring training with sort out the lefties and who wins the utility job. Bloomquist is  fan favorite, but I am betting on Weeks.

Why I watch games and not ESPN Sportscenter and other sports shows

When I was young there were not enough sports news. Of course I grew up in an age of three TV networks and a few independent stations. There was no talk radio, no Internet, and social media was hanging out at the A & W drive-in as seen in “American Graffiti.”

Don’t get the wrong idea, even as an older sports citizen I loved watching ESPN, the NFL Network, MLB Network and sports shows at any time of day or night. But something happened.

I got tired of the jibber-jabber of white noise. I realized many of the talking heads on shows were not being insightful, but trying to make a name for themselves. Does anyone take Skip Bayless seriously. He is a joke. He has no credibility. And he is not alone. There are far to many talking heads who lack journalistic integrity or common sense. It is a social media frenzy to see who can be more popular. There are too many sports shows to count, too many talking heads, too many opinions and views which, in the end, mean nothing.

It also became clear that because everyone has an opinion there was no reason to believe any one person, no matter how smart they seemed. Most of them will argue-it is good for ratings; many will try to be clever, if not outrageous-it is good for ratings-so why should I listen to Ron Jaworski and others inform us that Russell Wilson is not a good quarterback. Others say that he is low on the list of passing yards-as if that means anything. The Seahawks are a running team, not a passing team. This is where I say “Duh!” I am only using Wilson as an example. Everyone’s opinion about anything in sports is just BS flotsam that needs flushing.

The only thing that matters is the game. I do not watch pregame shows, nor any sports show. I only watch the games. But in full disclosure I do listen to ESPN sports radio. Or rather I have it on. I am a writer and I like noise, not quiet. I write better when there is sports talk on the radio. If I listen to music I will get distracted, but if I listen to sports talk all I hear is white noise.

I mention all this to say I will not make any predictions about who wins any division in baseball. I will follow the season like all baseball fans and cheer the Mariners when they make the playoffs.  

Why Seahawk fans need Mariners to win

I am a 12. I love the Seahawks, have for years. The way the Super Bowl was lost by the Hawks on Sunday was devastating, crushing, depressing, unreal, unbelievable. The local talk radio airwaves are filled with fans ranting and raving in despair and anger. It was the wrong play they say. Of course they wouldn’t say that if the play worked. But the Beast should have been given the ball.

There is a cure for the Seahawk blues and that is for the Mariners to have a great season. By doing so our minds will be diverted from pain. I won’t say anything about healing process. The wound will go away, but the scar will remain until we are buried-or cremated. I want my ashes in either a Mariner or Dodger urn and given to the Hall of Fame. Either that or have my ashes put in a rosin bag.

But back to the matter at hand. Seahawk 12’s need diversion, something to cheer about. Without it we will go insane with grief and sorrow. Or go into a violent rage out of frustration. The Mariners need to step up and help Hawk 12’s by winning. Not just having a good season, not just falling one game short of the playoffs as in 2014. No they must win, win win. They must crush the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs, then beat whoever in the World Series.

If the Mariners fall short, even worse, not make the playoffs (I will never attend an M’s games again if not in playoffs) then Seattle reverts to that city of sports failure. The Sonics were stolen by the 21st century version of carpetbaggers. The Seahawks blew the Super Bowl. The Mariners continue to flounder like a dying seal in Elliot Bay.

The baseball season can not come soon enough. We need to be rescued from the sea of despair by the Mariners.

 

 

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