11. Chone Figgins’ Unwillingness To Swing The Bat
If you’ve ever seen the epic film that is Black Sheep, you may recall a scene in the movie where David Spade’s character and Chris Farley’s character are playing checkers in a cabin in the backwoods of our great state of Washington. After defeating Farley’s character for the umpteenth time, Spade exclaims, “This is great! I never win at checkers.” An irate Farley then retorts, “Well it’s kinda easy to win when you NEVER MOVE YOUR BACK ROW!”
Farley’s reaction more or less mirrors my angst over Chone Figgins’ complete disregard for swinging the bat. The guy seems like he’d rather do anything besides hit a baseball. God forbid he take a hack up there. He might actually put the ball in play. And then what? Chaos would undoubtedly ensue.
I’m all for guys getting on base. It’s great that Figgins gets so many walks. But Jesus Hector Christ. You’re not Babe Ruth. Swing the stick. No one’s pitching around you. In fact, they’re practically begging you to hit the meatballs they groove across the middle of the plate for your picky ass. But instead you watch. And wait. And watch some more.
Your teammate Ichiro can’t wait to hit. And I’ll admit that sometimes his lack of patience drives me crazy. But from one extreme to the next, you possess zero aggressiveness at the dish. And that kills me. You’re like a boxer that enters the ring and then covers up for 12 rounds, content to absorb blows with his forearms until the final bell. It’s brutal to watch. Absolutely ugly.
Most players take batting practice before ballgames, but I’d wager that you’re more apt to take watching practice. The term “batting practice” would imply using the bat. Which you don’t do. Hence, this pregame ritual does not apply to you.
How do you go about hitting off a tee? Stare at the ball in an attempt to move it with your mind? What’s the end-game here? Who breaks first? The tee? Or you? There are no winners in this matchup, we know that much.
I don’t know, Chone. Maybe if you were hitting .400 I wouldn’t care. But I will say that in the context of this horrible, awful, no-good losing season, I’d like to see you take a few more hacks. Right now you approach fastballs the way an anorexic approaches a cheeseburger. There. It’s been said. We can all move on now.
10. The Yellow Hydro
Holy hell. The yellow f**king hydro. What a pain in the ass that thing is. Just when you think your hydro has a win in the bag, the yellow hydro comes out of nowhere to completely f**k you sideways.
And here’s the most annoying thing about the yellow hydro: no one roots for it. No one. Okay, so maybe like one or two of you do. But most people don’t. The yellow hydro is like the Los Angeles Clippers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Kansas City Royals all rolled into one. Witnessing the yellow hydro take home a victory is like watching an episode of Reba. Did anyone just see what happened on the screen up there? No? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Why are we even watching this right now? Who changed the station?
As a hardcore Mariners fan for all 25 years of my very existence, allow me to break down the hierarchy of the hydros for you.
Everyone knows that the red hydro is the evil empire. It is the New York Yankees of hydro-dom. Traditionally, red is the big winner in the world of Mariners hydros, and you would never be able to convince me otherwise. I have no evidence to support me on this. Just a strong opinion. But I’m absolutely sticking to that belief. Nothing will deter me.
Green, of course, is the lovable loser. The Chicago Cubs of the hydro netherworld. Everybody roots for green. How can you not root for green? Green is like Taylor Swift. Yeah, she might not be the hottest chick on the block, but she sure is cute. And every now and then, she’ll really surprise you with her good looks, too. That’s green. Green draws you in with its perky personality, then wins you over on the rare occasion that it sluts it up a bit and takes home a W. You may have noticed that in that last sentence, my analogies seemed to cross-breed and barely made sense. Whatever. The parts about personality and slutting it up refer to Swift. The part about taking home the W refers to the green hydro. I would hope you’d get that. But if not, I’m willing to give you five sentences plus this one explaining what the hell I just did.
And then there’s yellow. That slimy bastard. Yellow logs every cheap, unprecedented victory there is to log. And on top of that, yellow doesn’t just beat you. Yellow beats you and tears out your heart at the same time, sailing across the finish line on the back of an orca whale that just happened to find its way into this digitized version of Lake Washington. My f**kin’ ass, an orca would end up in Lake Washington. This ain’t Free Willy. Don’t give me that bullshit. An orca would never survive in a fresh water lake. I’m almost 70-percent positive.
And furthermore, what kind of orca can carry a hydro on its back? What kind of crazy, mixed-up fantasy world are we living in right now? Is this the Barry Bonds of orcas? How many different types of ‘roids is this orca on? F**cking yellow. Providing steroids to orcas, then pissing off an entire stadium half-full of people. Yeah, don’t cross me yellow. You are my nightmare.
9. Brandon League
I hate Brandon League. It’s gotten to the point that when I turn on a game and see that League is pitching, I’m torn between changing the station or sticking around out of morbid curiosity. Like watching a slasher flick even though you know you’re gonna have nightmares and probably wish you hadn’t seen what you just saw. That’s how I feel about League.
If Lou Piniella were still in a Mariners uniform, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have already killed League. Not sent him down to the minors. Not released him. Flat-out killed him. Murder one. Lou, as most of you know, couldn’t deal with pitchers that weren’t capable of throwing strikes. If League isn’t Lou’s arch-nemesis personified, I don’t know who is. The guy throws strikes about as often as he sees a decent barber.
There’s no need for me to go on. I’ve ripped on League quite often on these pages. He knows how I feel. You know I feel. League is the absolute anti-poon. And we all like poon. So clearly, League needs to go away.
Mike Sweeney is your classic horror film villain. Every time you think he’s dead, he seemingly comes back to life to wreak more havoc on your well-being.
Sweeney has been on life support for most of the past two years. When he plays, he’s manically inconsistent. For a two-week period he’ll be awful. For the ensuing two-week period, he’ll be fantastic. For the two-week period after that, he’ll be on the disabled list.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you can categorize Sweeney’s performance at any given time into one of three trimesters: horrible, great, or injured. He will always be one of the three, and never more than one of the three simultaneously. It’s this consistent inconsistency that drives me nuts.
Furthermore, why is Sweeney still around? An old guy on his last legs playing for a ballclub that is all but eliminated from the playoffs doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why not give the roster spot to someone who won’t be qualifying for AARP anytime soon? Has this thought crossed anyone’s mind? Please don’t tell me I’m the first person to bring this up. That would be a ridonkulous indictment on our baseball team.
Sweeney perseveres, you have to give him that. But that’s about it. He also likes to give hugs, from everything I’ve heard. Perhaps that’s all it takes to live another day in the game of baseball.
7. The Mariners Hall of Fame
Did you even know that the Mariners have a Hall of Fame? They do. It’s buried behind a handful of concession stands on the 100 level, around the home plate area.
It’s almost like the M’s don’t want you to know that they have a Hall of Fame, the way they hide it. Now I know we don’t have the most illustrious history in Major League Baseball, but come on. Show a little more pride for what you do have. Get the Mariners Hall of Fame out where we can see it. Enough said.
6. The Disturbing Lack of Fundamentals
Whether it’s running the basepaths, fielding a ground ball, or simply knowing the situation, M’s players have been notoriously bad at displaying the fundamentals of the game this year. I’m convinced that if this season were a movie (which it most certainly will never be), a cranky old sage would have already found his way into the team’s clubhouse and forced the ballplayers to abide by his set of rules. He would have broken them down, forced a few guys off the roster, made some guys cry, alienated the bad apples, and eventually won over the remaining talent with his tough love approach to teaching. We all know this is how sports filmography works. Unfortunately, the Mariners weren’t made for Hollywood.
Instead, the hometown nine continues to commit some mind-boggling mental errors, such as setting what may or may not be an all-time record for most catcher’s interference calls in a single season (let alone a month); most times forgetting to tag second base after running past second base, then back to first base, after a fly ball was caught; most times getting caught stealing while taking off from first base before the pitcher even began his motion; and most times being thrown out at third while attempting to advance from first. There are other categories that could be created here, but we’ll leave it as is. No need to rub salt on the wound.
Fact is, these are mistakes that no major league ballplayer should make, let alone an entire team. The frequency of these errors leads me to believe that mistakes are being tolerated and players coddled by none other than the coaching staff, led by manager Don Wakamatsu. Speaking of Wakamatsu…
Remember last year, when Wakamatsu was a genius? Well that was last year. This is this year. Wakamatsu is no longer a genius. And that’s unfortunate, because he’s sitting squarely on a warm throne these days, which could ultimately lead to a hot seat, which could eventually morph into an unemployment check.
You know why Wakamatsu was being hailed as a great manager last year? Because he’s a passive leader that’s content to let the troops run themselves. And a year ago, the troops were being run by the likes of Mike Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. This year, Junior is gone and Sweeney is constantly battling injury. The team sucks and the troops are harder to manage. As a result, the proverbial sh*t has hit the fan and Wak looks like an idiot for lacking control over his infantry. Case closed.
The only difference between Bob Melvin and Wakamatsu right now is that Melvin won more games. Wak would be a great manager on a team of veterans. A team that can police themselves and only needs a babysitter to set the lineup each day. Instead, with this awkward mix of impressionable youngsters and second-tier veterans, Wak is more of a human resources lackey at a company notorious for infighting. He has no way out of this mess and can’t herd the cattle, so to speak. It’s a problem that won’t correct itself anytime soon.
Furthermore, seemingly every questionable decision that Wakamatsu has made this year has come back to bite him in the ass. Sticking with Casey Kotchman at first base for so long. Opting to bench the hot-hitting Josh Wilson in favor of the lukewarm Jack Wilson. Continuously turning slim leads over to Brandon League (like handing a crack addict a blank check and asking him to please invest wisely). The list goes on.
Arguably, you can only blame so many of the team’s problems on the manager. I think we all understand that. Wak wasn’t dealt the sexiest hand in the world, but he sure didn’t do much besides fold with the few aces (literally and figuratively) he had up his sleeve. Which is too bad, because from a personal standpoint, I like Don Wakamatsu. He seems like a good guy, a baseball lifer who has worked his way up the ladder and was truly deserving of getting the M’s managerial job.
But this is a results-based business, and Wak’s ballclub simply hasn’t been delivering the results fans crave. Maybe the guy can rebound. Maybe he can’t. Maybe he’ll keep his job. Maybe he’ll be fired. Who knows for sure. All that matters is that we’re even having this discussion. That fact alone is bad news for the M’s manager.
4. Ryan Rowland-Smith
He’s 1-9 with a 6.18 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and a .308 opponent’s batting average. My God. Those are Ayala numbers. Except this ballclub is actually entrusting RRS to start ballgames as opposed to run in from the bullpen for mop-up duty.
Perhaps the only thing worse than Rowland-Smith’s pitching these days is Don Wakamatsu’s willingness to stick with the guy for start after start. After his last outing against the Angels — a no-decision in which the southpaw tossed just 3.1 innings, allowed eight hits, and relinquished five earned runs — Wakamatsu publicly announced that the team still had faith in the 27-year-old Aussie and would continue trotting him out to the mound every fifth day. By hitching his wagon to a broken-down horse, Wak may as well be tying himself to an anchor and jumping overboard. Going back to Annoying Thing No. 5 on this list, the M’s skipper could be endangering his job by remaining loyal to players who have done absolutely nothing to warrant such allegiance.
But I digress.
The point here is that Rowland-Smith is a complete abomination every time he takes the hill. We could run through the recent stats, but why do that to ourselves? The dude has been piss-poor from the beginning of the season onward. That’s really all anyone needs to know.
I already threw a few punches at the guy back in June, so no need to kick a man when he’s down. Allow me to sum up Rowland-Smith by saying this: It’s absolutely apparent that the guy we’re looking at is not a starting pitcher in the American League. A National League team might be able to eke out some quality starts from the Hyphen, but an AL team? I don’t think so. It’s time to cut our losses and let Rowland-Smith go.
3. Mike Blowers’ Monotone Commentary
I like Mike Blowers. I think he’s a nice guy. I loved him in ’95. The dude could not have been more clutch. As a broadcaster, I think he brings a lot of good insight to the table and actually provides some knowledge you wouldn’t get from a lot of color commentators. Unfortunately, his vocal delivery is as stale as cardboard and listening to him for more than two minutes might put you in a coma.
Hearing Blowers speak is like listening to Ben Stein read the dictionary. It’s as boring as boring can be. No change in tone. No inflection. No emotion. Nothing. It’s white bread plain.
Blowers, to me, is a comedian who has great jokes but no stage presence. Because honestly, I feel like the guy offers a decent insider’s perspective to the game. I find myself agreeing with him frequently. In between the naps, that is.
Let’s face it. The man can put anyone to sleep. He sounds like a robot on extra-drowsy painkillers. He could do himself a big favor by jazzing it up a bit from time to time.
If it were up to me to preserve Blowers’ job, I would be force-feeding the guy Red Bulls before the game. Do anything to wake him up, get him excited, get his pulse in gear. Because right now, he’s a dead man talking. And what fan wants to listen to that? There’s something to be said for unwarranted uber-excitement (Rick Rizzs, for example). Blowers would be wise to tap into some of that.
2. The Extreme Hat Trick
I’m down with the hat trick. The hat trick is cool. I’ve been a master of the hat trick since the 2-D days in the Kingdome. But this Extreme Hat Trick? What the f**k is that? I am not a fan.
A few years back, I remember standing in line at the grocery store behind these two girls who were roughly my age. They were reading the covers of the tabloids, as we all have a tendency to do. One particular teen magazine had a picture of Miley Cyrus, dressed as Hannah Montana, on the cover. This was back when Hannah Montana was still a budding fad and hadn’t quite caught on yet. One of the girls in front of me turns to her friend and says, “Who’s this Hannah Montana bitch, anyways? She’s everywhere.” I laughed. I couldn’t help it. The comment, the delivery, everything was spot on. And that’s basically the same way I feel about the Extreme Hat Trick. Who’s this new kid on the block screwing with my way of life? Like I said, I’m down with the hat trick. Not this Winstrol-infused impostor.
There’s this scene in Superbad where Evan (Michael Cera) is playing a video game in his bedroom as his friend Seth (Jonah Hill) is trying on clothes. Evan is in the process of killing the on-screen enemy when his protagonist shooter is suddenly murdered. He throws the controller to the floor and in a sort of stunned manner utters something along the lines of, “Why do they do that? Why do they even have it [the level in the game] if you can’t beat it?” Again, the perfect analogy for my thoughts on the Extreme Hat Trick.
Do you know how many different types of acid you would need to be tripping on to beat the Extreme Hat Trick eight out of ten times? A lot, that’s how many. That sh*t is all over the place. Sometimes you have three hats materializing into four, other times you have hats flying all over the screen like wounded mosquitoes. There is no rhyme or reason to the Extreme Hat Trick, no purity in its approach, no respect for the game. The Extreme Hat Trick is bush league. It takes all that is good about the hat trick and destroys it.
And think about this. What if you’ve been drinking? Hmm? What then? How are you supposed to beat the Extreme Hat Trick after a beer or two? It cannot be done. Your reflexes are slower, your timing is off, and you have these cracked-out hats flying all over the jumbotron to the beat of the theme song from Dance Dance Revolution.
F**k! Slow down for a minute! I am trying to see which hat the ball is under, but you’re moving way too fast! And now there’s f**king four hats on the screen. What the f**k? Where did that fourth hat come from? No one told me there’d be four hats. This is a sh*tshow. I’m done with this. This is bullshit. Bullshit. My night is ruined. Damn it.
It’s a running joke. Every fan knows it and understands it. The Mariners would rather turn Safeco Field into a miniature Disneyland than win ballgames. They’re more content catering to children and their parents than real fans. They’d rather provide in-game distractions (see Annoying Things Nos. 2 and 10 on this list, for instance) than a game worth watching. If the bottom line is positive, that’s all that matters. Right?
Imagine you walk onto a car lot looking for a Ferrari and instead get sold a Hyundai.
Imagine you go to a restaurant looking for a burger and instead eat a salad.
Imagine you go on a blind date expecting a hot chick and instead meet up with a fatter version of Kathy Griffin.
Looking for one thing and getting something entirely different sucks. But that’s basically what the Mariners are famous for. The fans want baseball. Winning baseball. Instead we get gimmicks and bobbleheads and video games and rated-G bullshit. That’s Mariners baseball for you. You can package sh*t as nicely as you want to. In the end, you’re still just getting sh*t.
It hasn’t always been this way, you know. When I was a kid, the Mariners were horrible and there was no gimmicky BS. I still enjoyed going to ballgames just to watch the action, to see my favorite players play baseball. The most “kid-friendly” garbage that polluted the Kingdome was a very young Mariner Moose and fireworks after home runs. You still had the hydro races and the hat trick, but that was it. Besides that, you were immersed in the American pastime, and it was fun.
These days, I’d imagine that the majority of kids who go to games could not care less about the actual sport. The team is one big loser, the product is crap, and there are so many distractions around you that it’s hard to actually focus on the game if you’re younger than 10 and hopped up on sugar. I can’t really blame a grade-schooler for not wanting to watch Chone Figgins stand up at the plate with the bat on his shoulder. It bores me too, kid.
But come on. If the organization put the same energy and resources into building a winning team as they do building playgrounds and kid-friendly promotions, maybe we would have made the playoffs once in the past nine years. Maybe we would have reached a World Series at some point in our 33-year history. Maybe we’d be a perennial contender. Instead, we’re none of these things. But we do have a really nice jungle gym in center field.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir. Maybe this rant will fall on deaf ears. All I know is that we deserve better, and we’re not getting it. Our kids are getting it, perhaps. But the rest of us? No dice. We need more from you, Mariners. You’re failing, and it’s getting old. We have expectations for you, and you can’t meet them. Get your sh*t together and give us what we want. A championship. And a winner.