They were down to their last at-bats, the Mariners, and a game they desperately needed to win was quickly slipping from their grasp. Their divisional foes, the hated Texas Rangers, had built a lead in the top half of the seventh inning and managed to protect it through two frames since.
Now, the Rangers turned to their closer, a lanky right-hander by the name of Jeff Russell. The 34-year-old Russell had enjoyed his best years with Texas, even leading the American League in saves in 1989, his fifth year with the club. He had bounced around over the past three seasons, however, embarking on an odyssey that had taken him from Oakland, to Boston, to Cleveland, and finally back to Arlington. All the while he continued racking up saves, and it was this very situation, pitching in defense of a two-run Rangers lead, that Russell had grown accustomed to enjoying.
His first assignment would be to retire a pinch hitter, the speedy, switch-hitting Alex Diaz.
Diaz was in the midst of what would ultimately become his finest big league season. He would finish the year with career highs in a number of categories, including games played. And his 18 stolen bases would triple his next-best seasonal output hereafter. For now, though, Diaz was merely focused on reaching base by any means necessary.
The Mariners had squandered eight innings worth of opportunities, as well as a quality start by Felix Hernandez, and now scuffled into the ninth deadlocked in a 0-0 tie against the rival Los Angeles Angels.
The second half of Dustin Ackley’s 2014 season has borne one of the more remarkable individual turnarounds in recent memory. Ackley, who spent the previous two-and-a-half years playing miserable baseball, emerged exactly two months ago finally looking like the No. 2 overall draft selection the Mariners made him in 2009.
In and of themselves, Ackley’s stats tell a compelling story. In the first half of 2014, the 26-year-old posted a middling .225/.282/.335/.617 slash line, with just four home runs and 29 RBI. Coming out of the All-Star Break, those numbers seemingly transformed overnight.
Since July 18th, Ackley’s numbers are more Stefan Urquelle than Steve Urkel. Along with an eye-opening .287/.322/.489/.811 slash line, the Mariners’ starting left fielder has cracked seven dingers and driven in 33 runs. Those statistics are worthy of individual callouts, so bear with me for a moment.
Sunday was not a great day for Seattle sports fans. Both the Seahawks and Mariners fell to their respective opponents, doing so in a span of ten minutes around 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time. For those paying witness to either contest, the results were soul-crushing.
The Seahawks, of course, never lose. They hadn’t fallen short of victory since a late-season slip-up at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals some eight months and twenty-five days ago, a loss remembered as a mere speed bump along the Super Bowl autobahn. That the Hawks had neglected to triumph just three times during the 2013 campaign certainly didn’t help, either. A fan base perennially exposed to defeat for decades prior had come to anticipate winning based on the dominating successes of a few quality years. Withering under the 90-plus-degree heat of San Diego’s late-summer sun was certainly unacceptable. Until it became a reality. And then it was nothing short of mind-blowing.
Before the shock of a Seahawks loss could truly set in, let alone wear off, the Mariners went down swinging, literally, as Michael Saunders struck out in the ninth inning, capping off a 4-0 undressing by the visiting Oakland A’s. The outcome marked consecutive defeats for the M’s, sending true-to-the-blue fanatics into full-blown panic mode. In the throes of the franchise’s first legitimate playoff run in more than a decade, one loss was heartbreaking, but two in a row? And just minutes after the football team lost, too? Sharp objects required hiding.
Poor Tony Randazzo. All he wanted to do was show up to Detroit’s Comerica Park, umpire a few baseball games, and go back to his sexless marriage. Instead, Lloyd Motherf’in McClendon got in the way. Damn you, Lloyd.
The weekend was not kind to the 15-year veteran of Major League Baseball’s officiating crew, who was tested not once but twice by the Mariners skipper.
First, McClendon had the gall to defend his ace pitcher, Felix Hernandez, on Saturday night, inquiring about Randazzo’s peculiar strike zone, which closely resembled the size and shape of Kim Kardashian’s posterior.
Then — and this is where it gets really egregious — McClendon brazenly waved his hand from the confines of the team’s first base dugout after Randazzo botched a call on a check swing by a Tigers batter during Sunday’s contest. For both his offenses, Seattle’s manager was booted from consecutive games.
The last time I produced a hand-made sign for a Mariners game was October 8th, 1995, Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series, versus the New York Yankees. I was 10 years old, going on 11, and the intensity of the moment upon us all but demanded block lettering delivered by the likes of Mr. Sketch and Crayola.
Scribed in multicolored print upon yellow poster paper, my entire family worked to craft a giant banner reading “M’S REFUSE TO LOSE.” Unfurled, the message spread a few feet in length and was visible across the vast, grey expanse of the otherwise beautiful Kingdome.
We hung the banner from the facade of the Dome’s third tier, along the first base side of the 300 level. My family sat many rows behind the banner itself, but as the game transpired I shifted my eyes from AstroTurf to DiamondVision, constantly checking the stadium’s big screen for a glimpse of our artistic achievement.
*The following is an update from a previous post analyzing every trade of the Jack Zduriencik era in Seattle. Analysis on every transaction has been updated to reflect the passage of time, while an additional 13 trades have been added to the list.
On October 22, 2008, the Seattle Mariners named Jack Zduriencik their newest General Manager. Assuming control of an organization that had been decimated by the foibles of its previous GM, Bill Bavasi, Zduriencik faced a daunting task in rebuilding the Mariners from the ground up.
Just 50 days after landing his new gig, Zduriencik made the first trade of his Mariners tenure. The deal was a blockbuster and would continue to have an impact on the ballclub five-and-a-half years later, where we find ourselves today.
Since that first trade in December of 2008, Zduriencik has proceeded to make 54 more trades for a total of 55 over five-plus seasons. The following is an analysis of all 55 of those transactions.
Trades are listed chronologically, from earliest to most recent. Players acquired in BOLD are current members of the Mariners organization. Grades associated with each trade are entirely subjective and reflective of the author’s opinion.
Trade No. 1: December 11, 2008
Teams involved: New York Mets, Cleveland Indians
I know, I’m right there with you. The Mariners needed a middle-of-the-orderish bat, certainly, but after the team failed to ink Morales to a free agent deal after last season, no one suspected the 31-year-old designated hitter would suit up in a Seattle uniform in 2014.
Alas, Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners front office stick to what they know best. Aside from reacquiring Chone Figgins in some form or fashion, obtaining Morales from the Minnesota Twins is about as surprising a move as the organization could have made. With a plethora of other names being discussed as potential targets for the M’s, the switch-hitting Morales was seemingly overlooked all along.
Regardless of any additional trades the M’s make, this one deal alone will produce a bevy of repercussions that have short- and long-term impacts on the future of the club. Here’s a quick look at how Morales’s arrival will affect the team and its personnel.
The success of your 2014 Seattle Mariners has blown more than a few minds in recent weeks. The Twitter mesosphere, for one, has devolved into a cesspool of inane trade rumors (Nick Franklin in exchange for Superman, Jesus Christ, and your finest bottle of Veuve Clicquot) and constant bickering even in light of victory (We’re winning, but we’re not winning well enough…), which essentially means fans are excited about this ballclub once again.
That’s good news for everyone who considers him or herself a fanatic of the Mariners. The bulk of the past decade has been spent enjoying the equivalent of a two-month baseball season encompassing April and May. By June, the team’s prolific early-season failures usually allow apathy to creep in and spoil an entire summer’s worth of contests at Safeco Field. Whether or not this year is the year remains to be seen, but for now the M’s are at least maintaining a firm grip on the region’s interest.
The debates that have ensued over how this ragtag group of misfits (or something like that) can vault themselves into the postseason centers around a small handful of talking points, none more bandied about than the lineup’s need for a right-handed power bat.
The season-long disappointments of de facto designated hitter Corey Hart have put a spotlight on the middle of the batting order, a place not unlike the soft, fleshy underskin of one’s genital area, more commonly referred to as the “taint.” Hart, when healthy, has been Lord of the Taint, as evidenced by his unimpressive .203 batting average and .618 OPS. Time is running short for the 32-year-old to prove he belongs on a big league roster. In the interim, fans and pundits alike scour the internet for possible replacements.
The list of available right-handed bats is not pretty. You can blame the advent of the second Wildcard spot for the slim pickings, as any team with a .500 or better record remains in playoff contention. Of course, the second Wildcard spot in the American League currently belongs to the Mariners, so in some sense the second Wildcard giveth and the second Wildcard taketh away.
The following list of potential trade targets is culled from the active rosters of MLB teams with sub-.500 records, those that are generally considered to be out of postseason contention. This list only includes batters who can hit from the right side of the plate, but not does not include every right-handed or switch-hitting batter available. Rather, we’ve attempted to narrow it down to those right-handed hitters who meet at least some of the following criteria: proven major league hitter, “power” hitter (the term semi-loosely defined), tradeable commodity (the team that owns the player’s rights would have to be willing to trade the property), desirable commodity (the Mariners would have to be willing to acquire the property).
Without further ado, shield your eyes and allow us to introduce you to the men who could become your newest Seattle Mariners (listed alphabetically).
Name: Marlon Byrd
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Salary: $8 million
As reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, it seems your Seattle Mariners are in hot pursuit of acquiring starting pitching on the trade market. This news has raised a few eyebrows around the Pacific Northwest, as it’s plainly evident that the team’s offense (ranked dead last in OPS in the American League) is in much greater need of a pick-me-up than the rotation (ranked first in Starting Pitcher WHIP in the American League). But before chastising the ballclub for favoring areas of strength over areas of weakness, let’s try to make some sense of what the M’s might be trying to achieve here.
For starters (pun intended), in spite of having assembled a rotation among the best in baseball, Mariners starting pitchers are staring down the barrel of a regression in the season’s second half. Without getting into too much detail surrounding the advanced metrics, fifth starter Chris Young has outperformed his career numbers, while de facto third starter Roenis Elias has logged more mileage on his left arm thus far than at any other point in his professional career. When it comes to Young, even a slight regression should be tolerable – his 1.17 WHIP currently ranks 10th among AL starting pitchers. But with Elias, there should be slightly more cause for concern.
If you’ve watched enough Mariners baseball this year, you’ve likely seen it. It starts with a base hit, then segues into a ritualistic celebration of sorts. An M’s hitter will stand perched atop the bag after a single, double, or triple, look towards the dugout, raise each semi-closed fist above his noggin, then move those fists side to side as his teammates sheltered along the baseline respond. But what does it all mean?
The move itself is one I like to call the “Double-Sack Dance.” It has origins in pornography (where all good things find their beginning), but has been popularized in mainstream movies, as well – most notably a scene in Superbad, among other works of fine film:
As you can see above, Jonah Hill might very well be to blame for bringing a variation of the Double-Sack Dance to the public spectrum.
It’s like two Top 11 lists in one!
22. Danny Farquhar Disappointing Growth Chart Day
Guess what, kids. You’re probably not going to grow to be 6’10” like Chris Young, or even 6’3” like Felix Hernandez. More than likely you’ll stand about 5’9” or so, which is both the average height of the American male and the exact listed height of reliever Danny Farquhar. We’re not here to lie to you or falsely inflate your hopes. Instead, we’ll just give you this disappointing Farquhar growth chart and watch you blossom into a really mediocre adult.
21. Cole Gillespie “Guess Which of These Guys Is Actually A Mariner” Night
For the Week 4 recap, click here.
Week’s Win-Loss Record: 4-1
Overall Win-Loss Record: 14-15
Winning Percentage: .483
Division Standing: Fourth place
Week’s Opponents: New York Yankees (2 games) – Road; Houston Astros (3 games) – Road
Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated
Team Morale: Buoyant
Week’s Win-Loss Record: 5-3
Overall Win-Loss Record: 19-18
Winning Percentage: .514
Division Standing: Third place
Week’s Opponents: Oakland Athletics (4 games) – Road; Kansas City Royals (4 games) – Home
Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated
Team Morale: Fabulous
Week’s Win-Loss Record: 2-4
Overall Win-Loss Record: 21-22
Winning Percentage: .488
Division Standing: Third place, 6.5 games back
Week’s Opponents: Tampa Bay Rays (3 games) – Home; Minnesota Twins (3 games) – Road
Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated
Team Morale: Bipolar
Since the last time I penned a recap column, the Mariners have somehow cobbled together a record of 11-8, meaning they don’t suck nearly as much as they did before. At a single game under .500, the ballclub has been very nearly the definition of average despite serious mood swings in achieving their current level of mediocrity.
For those who are new to You Can Only Have One! here’s how the game works. You will be presented with two different scenarios. You will have to decide which scenario you prefer, then act upon that very scenario. There are only two rules to follow in the process. Those rules are:
Rule 1.0 a. You cannot have neither.
Rule 36.5 b. You cannot have both.
Pretty simple, right? For a background on the origin of the game and its ancient Sri Lankan roots made popular in the good ol’ U-S-of-A by a Seattle-based radio talk show host, feel free to read more here.
For everyone else, allow me to introduce today’s theme. Today’s theme is … the Seattle Mariners. That’s right, folks. Every YCOHO scenario we present to you today will pertain to your Seattle Mariners. So whaddaya say? Ready to have some fun? Alright!
Now let’s play … You Can Only Have One!
YCOHO 1: Willie Bloomquist in your starting lineup every day OR a really bad sexual experience with Kate Upton that results in both of you crying tears of sadness and subsequently destroys any chance you have of ever getting with her again.
For last week’s recap, click here.
Week’s Win-Loss Record: 3-3
Overall Win-Loss Record: 10-14
Winning Percentage: .417
Division Standing: Fourth place, 5.0 games back
Week’s Opponents: Houston Astros (3 games) – Home; Texas Rangers (3 games) – Home
Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated
Team Morale: Bipolar
Pound Town. A quirky little hamlet with a mercurial population, Pound Town is a place people often go to have a great time. To many, Pound Town is simply the world’s greatest vacation spot for coitus. “Take your lady to Pound Town!” they’ll say. And they’re right, Pound Town does reside at the intersection of foreplay and intercourse.
Maybe it was erstwhile Mariners first-round pick Josh Fields, embattled former general manager Bill Bavasi’s last and most egregious high-profile draft selection, securing the nail in the M’s coffin by striking out the side in the ninth inning.
Maybe it was Dustin Ackley crashing into the left field wall while unsuccessfully pursuing a fly ball.
Maybe it was Stefen Romero crashing into the right field wall while unsuccessfully pursuing a fly ball, then later paying witness to an overzealous fan robbing him of an out – though in fairness, the fan displayed better hands than Romero.