Fixing The Mariners In Three (More) Unique Steps

Because the first three weren’t enough.

Step One: Put Ryan Rowland-Smith on a raft and send him out to sea.

Rowland-Smith originally hails from Australia. If Mother Nature is just, the Mariners’ 27-year-old lefthander will at some point arrive back in his homeland. But if not, who cares.

RRS is an absolute abomination right now. His initials stand for “Really, Really Sucky.” He can’t pitch to save his life.

Monday night Rowland-Smith got shelled by the Oakland A’s (2.2 IP, 7 ER, 10 H), which is akin to having one’s butt kicked by a fourth grade cub scout. The Aussie had been teetering on the edge of crappiness all year long, however, and his latest implosion was probably enough to force the organization’s hand.

Rowland-Smith certainly doesn’t deserve to start games any longer. Were he left with any minor league options, he’d almost certainly be on his way to Tacoma this morning. But because he can’t simply be optioned down to the farm, the Mariners would have to designate the southpaw for assignment if they wanted him off the 25-man roster. In designating Rowland-Smith, the M’s would risk losing him to another ballclub. Which honestly doesn’t scare me at all right now (but understandably scares an organization who has invested two commercials in the guy in the past two years).

In all likelihood, Rowland-Smith will be sent to the bullpen to work through his struggles while attempting to help the big club. That probably means a guy like Ian Snell finds his way to the rotation, or a middle reliever gets sent down while a guy like Luke French or Steven Shell gets called up.

But I’ll be honest. If it was me, I’d designate the guy and let every other team have a crack at him. At 27 years of age, Rowland-Smith is too old to be considered a prospect. He’s never been anything more than mediocre, in spite of his flashes of brilliance from time to time (the end of 2009, for example). He doesn’t possess great “stuff,” with a fastball in the low-90s and no ridiculous out pitch. And aside from being a pseudo-fan favorite (which I attribute to, among other things, his nationality, his blog, his sport specs, and his ability to socially network online), he’s nothing more than the pitching version of Willie Bloomquist.

There has to be a more deserving guy in the organization, and I’d argue that at this point in his career, someone like French, at 24 years of age, gives you a better chance at success both now and in the future.

Step Two: Bat Ichiro third

Why is this organization so afraid of Ichiro? Is he part of Yakuza? Does he carry guns? What’s the deal?

Why every manager we’ve ever had has been scared to rock the boat with the team’s right fielder is beyond me, but it’s up to Don Wakamatsu to reverse that trend and prove he’s man enough to stand up to his star leadoff hitter and move him down in the order.

Ichiro needs to be batting third in this miserable excuse for a lineup. He is one of few people amongst the team’s starters who can hit the ball, thus creating better opportunity for runs. Having him lead off allows him to get more at-bats, but it certainly doesn’t help the team score.

How many times has Ichiro led off a game by getting on base, only to be left stranded in scoring position when the 2-3-4 hitters couldn’t come through and knock him in? It has happened all too frequently and it’s time for a change.

The easy replacement for Ichiro in the leadoff spot would be Chone Figgins, who yesterday I suggested should be hitting ninth. While Figgins is an experienced leadoff hitter, I would humbly suggest a different individual if the team’s second baseman isn’t able to conquer his batting struggles. That individual is Michael Saunders, who has primarily batted near the bottom of the order during his tenure with the big club. Saunders possesses the speed and on-base percentage to make an impact at the top of the lineup, plus he’s batting .296 as we speak. He may be a middle-of-the-order hitter in the future, but right now he’s more of a Brady Anderson type, a gap hitter who showcases pop from time to time.

Regardless of what the M’s choose to do, it’s imperative to find someone who can stabilize the heart of the batting order. Ichiro could very well be the right man for the job.

Step Three: Cut Mike Sweeney

Sweeney is arguably swinging the hottest bat on the team right now, but he also doubles as the least dependable employee in the M’s workplace. Monday night, in spite of his recent hot streak, Sweeney was riding the pine after his back acted up and started giving him trouble once again. This, following a Sunday game in which the 36-year-old DH received a scheduled day off.

I like that Sweeney has started to hit the ball (he has three home runs in his past three games), but what good is a player who can’t be counted on to perform from one day to the next? It’s one thing to be able to play and maybe not produce as expected, but it’s a completely different matter when you are physically unable to play whatsoever. And that’s the problem facing Sweeney.

This same thing happened last year towards the latter part of the season. Just as Sweeney was beginning to heat up with the bat, his back started acting up and he wasn’t able to get his old ass off the bench. We’re spinning our wheels with this guy.

Every time Sweeney takes a step towards progress with this team, he gets hurt. I don’t know how many tubes of BenGay the ballclub can get him, but if simple remedies aren’t helping Sweeney find the batter’s box, then why waste any more energy on a veteran whose time might be better served in a hammock somewhere.

Perhaps when Milton Bradley returns from his journey to the center of his own mind we might see the end of Old Man Sweeney. Bradley will most likely assume the role of designated hitter when he surfaces, and that will spell doom for either Sweeney or his DH counterpart, Ken Griffey Jr. Despite Junior’s recent woes at the plate, firing the most popular player in Mariners history would be a mistake, and with Sweeney constantly ailing, it won’t be too difficult to pass on Ol’ Unreliable.

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