Seven reasons why Mariners are worst team in baseball.

1. Eight straight losses and 10 in last 12 games.

2. They went to Miami where the Marlins had lost nine straight; Miami, one of the worst teams in the National League swept Seattle.

3. Mariners came home to play Houston who had lost seven straight; M’s lose first two by the previously worst team in baseball. Had it not been for Kyle Seager’s 3-run walk-off homer in 9th, they would have fallen into cellar behind the Astros. Seager had his first two homers of season, and all 5 rbis in 5-3 win. Thanks Kyle, but. . . 

4. One of the Astro pitchers, Collin McHugh (who?) made his Astro debut in second game of series. He previously was with Mets and Rockies in which he pitched 47.1 innings and gave up 72 hits with 8.94 ERA. Against Seattle 6.2 innings, 3 hits, no runs, and 12 strikeouts.

5. Coming into today’s game, Wednesday the 22nd, the Mariners were batting .222 with an on base percentage of .276. I have heard both Mike Blowers and Jay Buhner bring out that old inane cliché, “sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other guy.” Like McHugh? Please, he is not Justin Verlander. I like Mike and Jay, but despite what Mike says, they have not juts been running into good pitching. And hat tipping is passé.

6. If you think the numbers quoted in reason 5 are based on a short sample,  I might agree, except consider the last four years; averages beginning in 2010 were .236 .233, .234, and .237; on base percentages of .298, .292, .296, .306. I guess the Mariners having been running into good pitchers for the past four seasons. That is a lot of hat tipping. Hitting coaches of changed, managers of changed, the numbers stay the same. Mariner scouts keep missing on hitters is my best explanation.

7. Ackley was moved from the 8th spot in the order to the second spot, a move by the way I said should be done in my blog the day before it happened. Ackley said it did not matter, he was ready. He was 0-8 with six strikeouts. He was moved back to 8th. Sorry Dustin. It got in his head despite what he said. That scares me. It tells me he is not a pressure player.

This blog was written during the 9th inning of the third game in the Astro series that Seager won, so I had to do a quick edit. The Mariners foiled me again. But I stand by my statement due to reason six and what is transpiring this year. That and Collin McHugh. Now if the M’s can sweep Texas at Safeco this weekend. . . oh never mind.




Mariners have a problem with lineup

I intended the other day to blog about the Mariners top three hitters and why their should be some juggling at the top. Having your best on-base hitters batting number one and two improves your chances of getting on base for the sluggers-if you have any. And while you may only get the first inning to have your leadoff batter hitting first, the top two or three hitters are going to get extra at bats, so you still want some guys who can hit and get on base.

Abraham Almonte has batted first all season. He is hitting .221 with an on base percentage 0f .268. Brad Miller, the number two batter is hitting .194 with a .237 on base mark. Almonte has struck 33% of the time, Miller 28%. Not your ideal one and two hitters. Robinson Cano in the third spot, if he is not leading the league in ground outs, is near the top. His average has dropped to .268.

Cano will stay in the third spot, as he should. Considering nobody in the lineup is doing anything, the only alternative is to move Dustin Ackley up. He is batting .279 with .308 on base average. Short of moving Ackley up, M’s manager Lloyd McClendon is stuck. You only can make changes when you have the parts.

Inset- ‘it is early in the season’-here. Following your team over a season is like spending the day riding an elevator. Your team goes on a streak and you are heading to the top, the penthouse your destination. But when your team is doing everything wrong, as the Mariners now are, the elevator is in free fall with nobody getting on or off.

The team is hitting .225, 29th out of 30, with the Astros, whom Seattle plays at home starting Monday night, the only team below them at .195. The M’s are 28th in on-base percentage, a horrid .283. What is scary is that those numbers are like the past few seasons, yet there are roster changes every season. The faces change, but the result is the same, even changing hitting coaches every year, sometimes twice has not helped. It makes you scratch your head. Either the Mariner’s, no matter what year, no matter who, are bad hitters, unable to draw walks, unable to get hits, or they are cursed.

The Mariners are 7-11, have lost six straight and eight of last nine and if they get swept by the Astros at home, you can write off the season because they will be unable to beat anyone. Even losing two of three  would be bad. The Mariners need to bring out the broom and sweep the poop deck. It is messy.


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Mariners keep bob-bob-bobbling along

Mariners bobble away two games in three days.

Mariners lost a tough game Wednesday night in Texas. M’s led 2-1 in bottom of the 9th, two outs, when Kouzmanoff gets infield hit, then on 3-2 pitch Moreland walks, bringing up pinch hitter Donnie Murphy. He hits game ending grounder to Miller at short who bobbles ball, flips it underhanded to Cano, but way high , runner safe on error. Then WP and single and Rangers bobble out a win. Miller should not be blamed as Rodney did not help the cause at all.

The dreaded bobble struck Friday night in Miami again in bottom of 9th, 4-4. Medina pitching for Mariners and Reed Johnson pinch hits leading off 9th and singles to right. Yelich bunts down first base line. Smoak fields ball, a slight bobble, and he is unable to throw ball to first. Ozuna bunts, Medina makes great barehanded catch and throws to third to force Johnson. But wait. Replay though shows Seager catching ball, umpire calling runner out and, the ball appearing at the top of Seager’s glove, though he catches the ball. For over a century that has been a catch, but for some inane reason in 2014, what has been good since the beginning of baseball time is now not a catch. Two bobbles where their should be two outs. Stanton then hits walk off grand slam and Seattle bobbles away another game.

Bud Selig and major league baseball need to pull their heads out of the sand (you can assume I mean another word here) and reexamine what is a catch. No team likes what is happening and it will get worse before it gets better. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Quit tinkering with a game that does not need a Tinker, other than Joe of course. 

In truth the Mariners are their own worst enemy. They should change their nickname to the Jonahs because bad things happen to them too frequently to be coincidence. They are under by some kind of hex. The players change, the batting averages and on base percentages remain the same, low and low.

Every team goes through bad stretches, the good ones pull out of it sooner than later. The M’s have lost six of seven and you can not blame the loss of all-star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and phenom pitcher Taijuan Walker for their losses. It is hitting and bobbling that is hurting them. That and Erasmo Ramirez with three straight bad starts.

But tomorrow is another day. I am not sure I can take another transfer bobble. I may just watch until the 7th inning stretch, then hide under the bed for the next hour and read about the game on the Internet.

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The losses that kill and haunt you

Every team has agonizing losses, games that should have been won, yet slipped away by a ball hitting a pebble, one slight bobble, or one light little blooper. The Mariners loss to Texas in Arlington Tuesday night was one such loss.

Felix Hernandez was brilliant; seven innings, four hits and a walk, one run and nine strikeouts. He led 2-1 with Fernando Rodney on the mound in the 9th for the save. He gets the first two batters out. Kevin Kouzmanoff, two for two lifetime against Rodney is up and he hits one to the left of second base that Brad Miller could have gotten to had the Mariners not been playing Kouzmanoff to pull. Miller moved far to his left but could only get the tip of his glove on the ball. An infield hit. Rodney then falls behind Keith Moreland 3-0, before getting two strikes. One more strike and Felix has the win, Rodney the save. But Rodney does not come close, the ball way outside, ball four. Runners at first and second, but an out wins the game. Donnie murphy pinch hits for Josh Wilson and hits hopper to short. Miller bobbles the ball, but tosses underhand to Cano. The ball is high, Cano Jumps to catch the ball and comes down on the base too late. Fielders choice, error on Miller for high toss, pulling Cano off bag. Bases loaded. Rodney then throws a 97 mile an hour fastball inside. It is so fast, so hard, so inside, it goes all the way to the backstop, tying run scores. Leonys Martin then bloops one to left, game over, Texas wins 3-2.

Ranger fans rejoice. I immediately turn to another channel. I don’t want to hear the postgame show. I won’t watch ESPN. I won’t watch local news.

The loss gave Seattle a 7-7 record and the win gave Texas an 8-7 mark and move ahead of Seattle, who have lost four of five and two of the losses by shutouts. Losing the game the way they did when they could have gained ground on Texas, but fall behind, makes me want to drown my sorrows in two quarts of French vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge swirls.

Consider there were two outs nobody on, one out from a win. An infield hit, a full count walk, another grounder to Miller who makes fluke error on bad toss to Cano, a wild pitch, a bloop single. In baseball you take nothing for granted, the roof can fall in any time, and for the Mariners the game imploded. You love to win those games, but losing one like that kills your spirit.

On Wednesday Erasmo Ramirez, with two consecutive bad starts, takes the mound for the wrap up of the four game series. The Mariners desperately need a win to take the sting away from this loss, for only a win heals that pain. A loss and you lose three of four instead of a split. And the losing continues.

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The mystery of Hector Noesi and the Mariners

Hector Noesi had two games and one inning with Seattle and they designated him for assignment, then traded him to Texas. He gave up a game winning home run in his last appearance with the Mariners and he struggled in his previous outing. In the one inning over two games he gave up 2 hits, 3 runs and struck out two. He only faced 6 batters, yet the Mariners dumped the 27 year old pitcher.

He did have a poor showing in 2013. He was 2-12 in 22 games, 18 starts, and a 5.88 ERA. But in spring of this year he pitched 13 innings, allowed 9 hits, walked 4, struck out 3 and had a 2.77 ERA. Batting average against was .196.

Some pitchers have a couple bad outings but why the sudden departure?

Monday night in Texas Noesi pitched against the Mariners in relief, going 2.1 innings, 1 hit and 2 strikeouts. Since Seattle has Chris Young in the rotation, they have no long reliever, a spot well suited for Noesi. Seattle won the game 7-1, but the M’s must hope their pitching continues to pay big dividends and they can avoid going to the bullpen too early.

On the no mystery side, Roenis Elias (pronounced el-e-us) won his first game in the majors in beating Texas. In 6.2 innings, 104 pitches-70 for strikes; he struck out 5, walked 2 and gave up 1 run. He is now 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Yes he made the jump from AA to the majors primarily because of injuries to Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma. So far he shows he belongs. He is not being rushed. He is 25, will be 26 August 1, so he is not some 22 year old. And keep in mind he came to the United States as a refugee from his native Cuba in a boat with 26 people. The trip was 30 hours and 1,600 miles, landing in Mexico.

The Mariners signed him 2011. All he has wanted is to play in the major leagues, so anybody who can leave their country, travel 30 hours in a boat, and work his way to the big leagues, has what it takes to stay. Even if for some reason he gets sent down when Paxton, Walker, and Iwakuma return, Elias will be a phone call away.

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Why May 8th is important to Seattle Mariners

May the 8th is the date Seattle opens a weekend home stand with Kansas City. It is important because Seattle will have played their 34th game in Oakland the previous day. In those 34 games, 23 will be played on the road and only 11 at home.

Seattle must play well away from home in order to get off to a good start. The Mariners first home stand saw them split two with the Angels and lose two of three to the A’s. A 2-3 home stand won’t help the Mariners if they falter in road games. They must win  or at the least play .500 in foreign ports of call.

They open a four game series in Texas tonight, then three in Miami. After coming home for Houston and Texas, the Mariners go to New York for the Yankees, then to Houston and Oakland before the May 8th game.

What makes the trip difficult is that James Paxton is on the DL, Erasmo Ramirez has had two straight bad starts, Roenis Elias is still an unknown factor, and Chris Young, who pitched six shutout innings against Oakland Sunday in his first start, is attempting a comeback after missing last season. That is a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘hopes.’

Another big question during this period is whether Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker can return to the rotation. And if they are ready, how well can they pitch. The Mariners brought up Blake Beavan, who pitched well in Tacoma, to start Tuesday in Texas.  But he had a poor spring camp and poor 2013 season, yet another ‘hope.’

It is possible the bullpen will be tested with so many questions in the rotation, so there may be a shuttle of bullpen pitchers between Tacoma and Seattle to keep the bullpen fresh.

This is why May 8th is important. They must stay close to .500 by sailing rough waters, because if they don’t, as May ends and June begins, the empty seats at Safeco may be plentiful.

Two things baseball players do that are dumb

Baseball coaches and mangers tell players not to slide head first into first base. There are two reasons, one is the risk to injury. In a game against the Seattle Mariners, Josh Hamilton dove head first into first base and tore a ligament in his thumb and will be out six to eight weeks. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “It’s just competitive nature, and Josh plays hard.” Mike is protecting his player who did a dumb thing. I wonder what he says privately.

In the same game, Michael Saunders of the Mariners also dove headlong into first. The right side of his face hit the ground hard and he has a nice big raspberry below his right eye. He looks like he took a punch from Mike Tyson.

Not only does the play risk injury, it slows him down. Race horses do not dive across the finish line, they run through it.  Okay, maybe I am a bit silly, but consider sprinters. They do not dive across the finish line, they like horses, run through the line.

But players will continue to dive at first base like it is a $30 million contract. It is part of todays players culture to be stubborn as a grouchy mule in the wee morning hours. You can’t fine players, they make too much money. Someone suggested that a player who dives headlong into first base should be ejected from the game. The union would never go for it, unless they are convinced it is for the players safety. That would take time as they have always been slow to react, otherwise why did they take so long to realize taking drugs and PEDS is not a good thing for their members.

Another thing players do that is dumb, is on sunny days where the sky is blue, not a cloud in the sky, you see outfielders wearing sun glasses on top of their cap. It is stylish after all; a good way for cute girls to notice you. But it does help you see high fly balls that tend to drop in front of  you, or behind you, or bop you on top of the cap causing the glasses to fall or break.

Horses don’t wear sunglasses for that is not their style, and I have never seen a sprinter wear them either, but someone may have done it. An if he did I am sure he wore them properly.

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Baseball fever 1911 style

When I tell you I met a Cleveland Indian pitcher whose rookie season was 1911 it either sounds like I am very old or I am a time traveler. Neither is the case, at least the VERY old part. My dad knew Vean Gregg who had a diner in my home town. I met Vean when I was a kid back in the 1950′s. I also had an uncle who grew up with Grover Cleveland Alexander. So between meeting Vean Gregg, whom Ty Cobb said was the toughest pitcher he faced, and hearing about Alexander from my uncle, I caught baseball fever at a young age.

The fever for 1911 reignited with me when I was replaying the Strat-0-matic computer version of the 1911 baseball season and I came across a player I had forgotten, Charlie Faust. He peaked my curiosity as he does for most fans of historical baseball. Charlie walked onto the field in St. Louis one hot summer day and told Giants manager John McGraw a fortune teller had told him he was going to pitch the Giants to the pennant. Jumping ahead in the story within weeks of showing up in New York, much to McGraw’s surprise Charlie was a star on vaudeville and wearing a New York Giant uniform, sitting in the Giants dugout.

Though many players of the era wrote about him, Charlie remains a mystery.  The question historians have tried to answer is was whether he a country rube, or  mentally challenged, or perhaps slightly mad.  His story fascinated me and I found a book by Gabriel Schechter who did the best research on Faust anyone has done.

After reading his book and biographies of players from that era I decided to tell his story in fiction, using many incidents from my research. I used a fictional rookie to narrate the story of that summer in 1911 when Charlie Faust took New York by storm.

So if you have baseball fiction, would enjoy a time traveling journey to 1911 to meet Charlie, Bat Masterson, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Damon Runyon, and George M. Cohen, then I am providing a link to my e-book, Loonies in the Dugout available on Amazon. I hope you enjoy it.

Read an excerpt on my website.

Don’t tell Seattle Mariners the season has started

The Mariners were hitting the ball everywhere in spring training and in the season opening series in Anaheim, the Mariners swept the Angels by hitting the ball everywhere, just like spring training. In fact they pounded the Angels outscoring them 26-8 with 18 runs coming with two outs, hitting .429 with runners in scoring position.  They outhit the Angels 34-17.

There were many questions that needed answers: Would Justin Smoak finally do something this year? He was 6 for 13, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 7 rbis. Would Dustin Ackley get untracked? He was 4 for 11, a double and triple with 4 rbis. Can Corey Hart come back from his year off? He is 3 for 9 with a home run. Would rookies Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero hit major league pitching? Romero went hitless in first game then got two hits Wednesday night, one an rbi double. Almonte is 3-13 with 2 doubles and 2 rbis. Zunino the young catcher is hitting .333 with a triple and homer. Brad Miller had a 2 homer game and is hitting .333 And that Cano guy is hitting .455.

Are the questions answered?

No, but give them credit for doing what they did in the spring. For once the Mariners are off to a good start at 3-0.

And Pitching? Erasmo Ramirez following King Felix in the rotation pitched 7 innings, 6 k’s, no walks, and 2 runs. Wednesday, lefty James Paxton, who one pretentious reporter covering the Mariners claims should be a reliever, likening Paxton to Eric Bedard, was even better, pitching 7, allowing 2 hits, walking 2, and striking out 9. Paxton is 5-0 as a starter with a 1.16 ERA. In 31 innings, 30 k’s and 17 hits. Bullpen? I say BS. Paxton watched tape of fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw and based on what he saw, changed his delivery and you can see the results.

We have yet to see the young Cuban Roenis Elias or Chris Young making his comeback. But so far, so good.

Yes there will be rough waters during the 2014 cruise, every team has them. Time will answer all questions, but for now enjoy the smooth sailing.

Why spring training is not about competion for roster spots

The Mariners need a right handed bat and outfielder Cole Gillespie, 29, hit .391 in 23 at bats, driving in seven runs. He has major league experience having played with the D-backs, Cubs, and Giants. But despite his performance and despite providing a need he was sent to the Mariners triple AAA affiliate Tacoma. If he were a Seahawk he might make the team because the Seahawks about competing and winning the job.

Baseball is different. Gillespie was a non-roster invitee. If he made the team, somebody must be released from the 40 man roster. Of course they took into account his major league average of .225 in 169 at bats with 3 homers. As we all know spring training is an illusion. He may have gotten many hits off triple A pitchers. His .225 average is a more accurate measurement of what Seattle would get.

The Mariners plan to carry five outfielders. Dustin Ackley seems to have won the left field job; Abraham Almonte has been playing a lot of centerfield; and Michael Saunders and Corey Hart make four. That leaves the last spot between Logan Morrison, who can also play first and DH; left handed bat Endy Chavez, 36; and rookie Stefan Romero, another right handed bat. Romero has 9 hits, but his 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers indicate he has extra base power. Despite being a left handed bat Morrison has versatility to stay and Romero is on the 40 man roster, as is Morrison. That leaves Chavez as odd man out, at least by logic. As the Mariners have some good young players on the 40 man roster, they are unlikely to part with any to make room for a 36 year old veteran. 

So baseball, as we see with the Mariners, is not about competition. It is more a numbers game, getting the right balance of left and right bats, left and right pitching, preserving the 40 man roster as much as possible. Of course if the Mariners keep Chavez and send down Romero, there will be much head scratching. But with the Mariners, who knows.

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