The 2012 Mariners have been an abomination. They are Paris Hilton acting, combined with Lindsay Lohan singing, mixed with Gilbert Gottfried speaking, blended together with any of the Real Housewives screaming (“You’re supposed to be my friend, Tamra!” Well, you’re a crazy bitch, Vicki.).
Think of the worst things you’ve ever been a part of, then make them more boring than they were at the time. Like, your first sexual experience, for example. That was horrendous, was it not? Trust me, it was. You may not want to believe it was…but I guarantee you, it was bad. Which isn’t to say that you haven’t corrected yourself in the bedroom as time has passed. Frankly, it’s not easy to take what you’ve learned in health class and put it to good use. A two-dimensional vagina looks nothing like a three-dimensional vagina. They don’t tell you that, though. You have to figure that out on your own. On the fly. As a kid.
Anyway, I digress.
My point here is that if you took your frighteningly awful first sexual experience and made it boring on top of what it already was, you’d have the 2012 Mariners. The M’s are the awkward clumsiness of teenage body parts clashing together as one, the requisite forced “I love yous” that follow, the feeling of regret, the saline of tears, and that fear of “OhmygoddidIgetherpregnant?!” – yeah, that fear is real – topped off with all the pizzazz of the Vanilla Sky plot. I hope that sounds as horrible to you as it does to me. Personally, I found “awkward clumsiness of teenage body parts clashing together as one” to be the most horrible line.
Let’s call this midseason report card what it really is: a failure analysis. Not only that, but let’s list out 11 of the reasons the team is failing. We can do this. It’s on par with belting a Hector Noesi 0-and-2 fastball right over the outfield wall. So much easier than it may seem.
11. Steve Delabar is not a Major League pitcher, yet has been tasked with pitching in Major League Baseball.
Not that it’s particularly fair to single out an average middle reliever, but let’s face facts here: the Mariners are the proud parents of a 16-year-old son, Steve, who they have naively handed a brand new BMW. Steve, in turn, has promptly rewarded his ‘rents for their stupidity by wrapping said BMW around a pole. This is essentially the relationship between the M’s and Delabar, who has been entrusted to throw in 29 of the team’s first 87 games this year.
Delabar is a great Triple-A pitcher. He throws fast. An upper-90s heater is nothing to mess with. But in the bigs, fast just doesn’t cut it. The man tosses a four-seam fastball that sits flatter than Renee Zellweger. Big league hitters are paid to unload on flat fastballs no matter how rapidly they may be approaching home plate. And if you look at Delabar’s numbers, the data reveals just how detrimental his Zellweger-ball has been to the club.
In his 29 appearances, Delabar has managed to piece together a .174 Batting Average Against, to go with a neat little 0.92 WHIP. He’s also struck out 41 hitters. Not bad by any means. But then you look at his ERA. And everything falls apart. Not unlike Tom Cruise in the aforementioned Vanilla Sky.
Despite his miniscule BAA, WHIP, and all those Ks he’s collected, Delabar owns a robust 4.45 ERA. Egads. When you dig a little deeper, you find that of the 29 hits he’s relinquished this year, 10 have gone for extra bases (that’s 35-percent, for you math majors out there), and eight (eight!!!) have gone into the stands for home runs. And get this: while Delabar has only been credited with 15 runs allowed, he’s let 17 men score on home runs alone! So not only is he hurting his own earned-run average, he’s directly impacting the respective ERAs of his teammates due to all those inherited baserunners.
Delabar should have been demoted long ago — and in fact he was, in June, before resurfacing with the Mariners in July — yet continues to languish in the big show. Is it time to send him down for good? Probably. Will the M’s do it? Unlikely.
10. Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp are fragile.
Okay, maybe not fragile, per se. But injured nonetheless. Though if anyone can think of a better adjective for Guti, I’d like to hear it. Fra-gee-lay. It’s Italian.
Both Gutierrez and Carp were being counted on to comprise two-thirds of the team’s outfield, while playing substantial roles for the 2012 M’s. Instead, both began the year on the disabled list…and both remain on the disabled list currently. For those of you keeping score at home, allow me to clarify that that’s two DL stints apiece. Each player made his not-so-triumphant return to action, only to see his season hit another roadblock with a second physical malady. Such is the life of a professional athlete.
By the time both players return (again) to the playing field, it will be far too late to salvage an all-but-lost season. But alas, there’s always next year…
9. Brandon League is crap.
Let me just go on record as saying I’ve always despised Brandon League. Even when he was moderately successful a year ago, it was tough to like the guy. I’ve chronicled my displeasure for his lack of testicular fortitude many times on these pages, so there’s really no need to elaborate. Let’s just say that he and I don’t see eye to eye where mental toughness is concerned.
With that said, you won’t find too many Brandon League fans anywhere these days. League has been absolutely abysmal, blowing six saves in 15 opportunities and standing idly by as he was given Rick Vaughn’s Major League II role of pitching in garbage-time situations. In less-tenuous moments, League has been slightly more tolerable than he was as a late-inning implosion-waiting-to-happen. Still, though, how valuable is a relief pitcher that can’t pitch when a win hangs in the balance?
According to the rest of Major League Baseball, that value is not perceived to be very high. Which is unfortunate. Because the Mariners would like to trade League, and yet there aren’t many suitors for his not-so-desirable skill set.
A year ago, the story was much different. League was a top-notch closer who was flat-out getting the job done. The franchise could have flipped the hard-throwing right-hander for a bounty of prospects. Instead, they held onto their asset in hopes of God-knows-what. And twelve months later, here we sit with a fistful of Enron stock.
Perhaps that’s the greatest tragedy in the entire Brandon League saga. The Mariners didn’t have to be burdened by League’s presence. They chose to be. They had the opportunity to sell their investment at its peak value, and they politely declined. That is such a Marinery Mariner thing to do.
8. Hector Noesi needs to learn how to pitch.
Somewhere around age 13 or 14, I learned that as a pitcher, when you get ahead in a count 0-2, you should never throw the ensuing pitch anywhere near the middle of the plate. Hector Noesi, apparently, did not learn what I learned.
In reality, it’s fairly common knowledge to most baseball players that 0-2 pitches are best served away from the strike zone. As a hitter you learn to expect a “waste pitch” 0-2, yet you still remain extremely defensive and vigilant with a lone strike standing between you and bitter disappointment (leading to an increased likelihood of you, the hitter, putting the ball in play if it is remotely close to the zone). As a pitcher, you want to deliver a ball that’s near-unhittable, while potentially baiting your bat-swinging foil into chasing a pitch outside his coverage area. It’s a tactic familiar to most, but foreign to a guy like Noesi.
Noesi is one of those pitchers who scouts would say has great “stuff.” What is “stuff,” exactly? Basically, “stuff” amounts to a pitcher’s ability to combine a lively fastball with a decent supplementary repertoire. “Stuff,” as it turns out, often equates to talent. Which is to say that Hector Noesi is quite talented. At least in his physical ability to manipulate a baseball.
Where Noesi is not quite as talented comes in his ability to either a) learn, b) remember, or c) execute. He either hasn’t learned to hurl 0-2 pitches away from the batter’s preferred locale, doesn’t remember he needs to do that, or simply can’t execute such a simple task.
To better assist him in learning, remembering, or executing, the M’s recently demoted Noesi to Triple-A Tacoma. The fact that the 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic managed to last in the team’s starting rotation through June can either be attributed to Noesi’s vast array of “stuff,” or more likely, a testament to the team’s perennial suckitude.
Either way, had Noesi remained a big leaguer for the duration of the year, he would have been hard-pressed to avoid Jamie Moyer’s single-season team record of 44 home runs allowed. With 20 souvenirs deposited into the seats at the hands of the righty, Noesi was in danger of setting all kinds of marks in longball futility.
But wait, there’s more.
Getting back to that point about 0-2 counts, it should be noted that one-fifth of all the homers Noesi has allowed have come when he was ahead 0-and-2. Twenty-percent wouldn’t seem like such a drastic number, until you figure that home runs on 0-2 counts almost never happen. Seriously. Google “home runs allowed on 0-2 counts.” The first search result that appears? An article on Hector Noesi. I kid you not. He is that synonymous with this statistical anomaly.
Let’s hope that somewhere down the line Noesi figures it out. When it comes to being a big league starter, he has a little work to do. At the very least, though, he’s got the right “stuff.”
Yes, that was a very dumb New Kids on the Block reference. You’re welcome.
7. The offensive exploits of Brendan Ryan and Justin Smoak are sadly disappointing.
Brendan Ryan hasnever hit, so this comes as no surprise. Were he to fall haphazardly from a canoe, there’s no guarantee he’d hit water. That’s how bad of a hitter he is. So bad that I’m resorting to cliches to describe him.
Justin Smoak, on the other hand, was supposed to be a hitter. He was once an über-prospect with a potential All-Star bat on his shoulder. Instead, he’s been nothing short of a complete disappointment during his near-two-year stint in Seattle.
Though no hitter in the Mariners’ lineup is particularly adept at putting bat on ball, Smoak and Ryan have been dismally bad in their offensive efforts this season. While Ryan’s defensive prowess warrants playing him most days, one has to wonder how long any team can continue trotting out a sub-.200 hitter, no matter how fancy his glovework may be.
With Smoak, the failure is more evident. From each side of the plate, the switch-hitting first baseman displays a long, loopy uppercut that isn’t conducive to line drive balls in play. Sure, it may be easy to send Smoak to Triple-A to work on his approach, but why not put hitting coach Chris Chambliss to work and fix the physical nature of an all-but-broken swing? That’s what hitting coaches are paid to do, is it not?
By contrast, there is nothing that will conquer Ryan’s demons in the batter’s box. He’s not a big league hitter. Thankfully for him, though, he’s an above-average big league defender. Essentially, he’s the white Rey Ordoñez.
Should two of the M’s regulars continue to hover around the Mendoza Line all season long, it’s no wonder this team will find itself in the cellar yet again.
6. Jesus Montero is slower than…
He is the ultimate liability on the basepaths. Honestly, I have never seen a slower 22-year-old that wasn’t morbidly obese. This guy would get lapped at a retirement home. They should give him a Rascal scooter to ride around the diamond. You have to wonder if his legs are okay, or if he was once stricken by polio. I’m guessing he may qualify for the Special Olympics. It takes him an hour to run 30 minutes on a treadmill. If he got caught on second base during a rain delay, he’d drown. His 40 time is measured by a sundial. Vultures circle his home run trot.
Okay. You get the picture. Jesus is slllllloooooowwwww.
5. Why is Chone Figgins still here?
Chone Figgins may in fact be the luckiest man on the planet. He is making $9 million to be an ineffective super-sub. He really should be playing in someone’s farm system, if not a slow-pitch softball league somewhere. He is the most reviled sports figure Seattle has ever had the privilege of hosting. And yet he continues to fester on the Mariners’ bench like a gangrenous rash on the bedridden underside of a man so disgustingly fat he must be removed via forklift from his decrepit home.
There are so many things wrong with Figgins’ mere presence that I barely know where to start.
Why, for one, did this organization ever think they could resurrect this tiny little flea’s career by batting him leadoff? What on earth has Figgins done in the past few years to warrant a move atop the lineup? And did anyone not see the impending backfire? It was bound to happen. This is Chone Flippin’ Figgins! He’s terrible!
Two, where did this team get off trying to tell us that Figgins, and not Kyle Seager, would be our third baseman to start the year? Seager has emerged as one of 2012’s pleasant surprises — and he wasn’t even supposed to be a starter! His time in the lineup is due in part to a slew of outfield injuries, as well as Figgins’ own impotence. Were it not for extraneous factors, we wouldn’t have even known what Seager was capable of this season.
Three, when Miguel Olivo returned from the disabled list, why did the team not seize the opportunity to release Figgins? Why, instead, did they send their current best-hitter-du-jour, Casper Wells, to Triple-A? Wells did not need to go to Triple-A. He simply went because someone found some reason to keep Figgins on the roster.
Not only has Figgins been a bust himself, his staying power has impacted or was destined to impact the development of others, such as Seager and Wells. With each passing day that Figgins remains a Mariner, he’s taking chances away from a younger player who could benefit from service time at the big league level. There’s no longer any excuse for keeping him around. Cut Figgins. It should have been done months ago. This is getting ridiculous.
4. Miguel Olivo is toast.
Miguel Olivo seems like a pretty decent guy. He tries hard, he hustles, he’s scrappy, and in interviews he appears to be quite pleasant. As a baseball player, however, Olivo is probably not cut out to play at the major league level any longer. And that’s the unfortunate reality of this situation.
Olivo is just 33 years of age, but he may be the most ancient 33-year-old on the earth’s surface. Maybe it’s just me, but the guy seems to move around with all the spryness of an older Jesus Montero. He’s also balding to a severe degree, and on top of that is a grandfather. Really. He’s a 33-year-old grandpa.
When Olivo isn’t putting children on his knee, rocking himself to sleep in a La-Z-Boy, or drinking Metamucil, he’s batting an anorexic .201 and letting roughly every other pitch find its way between his loins. Olivo is not so much a backstop as he is a gatewayto the backstop. He has a problem catching. Which is quite the dilemma, since his job title calls for him to, you know, catch.
Perhaps if Olivo was some sort of defensive saint like the apostle Brendan Ryan, the Mariners could find excuses for keeping him in the lineup each day. Alas, his defense is just as vomit-inducing as his Ryan-esque batting average. So why does he retain duties as the team’s primary catcher? That’s a great effing question that no one seems to have the answer to.
I like Olivo as a person. I’d like it even more if we could bid him adieu and wish him well as he rode off into the sunset. Presumably in an Oldsmobile.
3. The decision to replace Dustin Ackley as leadoff hitter is the SINGLE WORST DECISION the organization has made this year.
Yes. It really is. And I don’t have much else to say. Why you would demote a guy doing a great job for one performing below-average is beyond my comprehension level.
The Mariners have stunted Ackley’s growth by replacing him atop the batting order with Ichiro. Ichiro won’t (or at least, shouldn’t) be on this team next year. Ackley has the talent and ability to be the face of this franchise within the next five years.You interrupted his development to fulfill the selfish needs of a 38-year-old outfielder who has no future with your team.
This is just unbelievable.
The Mariners, more often than not, exhibit the dumbest Goddamn behavior. Serenity now…
2. This team can’t hit at home.
Blame the fences. Blame the marine layer. Blame the batter’s eye in center field. Blame whatever you like.
The fences don’t need to be moved in. The weather doesn’t need to be controlled. The roof doesn’t need to be closed. The backdrop doesn’t need to be altered.
The players. The players need to get better. And that’s just the fact of the matter. Better players equal better results. And these players are not good enough. Period.
1. Trusting Jack Zduriencik is becoming increasingly more difficult to do.
This is Year Four of the Jack Zduriencik era. In three-and-a-half seasons, the Mariners have posted a 249-324 record (.435 winning percentage) with Zduriencik at the helm. They are on pace to lose between 90 and 100 games yet again this season. The farm system is coming along, but so far hasn’t produced much of note for the big league club. In Jack We Trust, as a result, is starting to lose its luster.
The disclaimer here is that Zduriencik may or may not be handcuffed by his bosses, the notorious duo of team president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln. Armstrong and Lincoln have cast a shadow over this franchise for years, and to think that they have no impact on the current state of the team would be incredibly naive. Their roles have been discussed ad nauseam, both on this website and in other forums, so no need to digress. The fact is, when evaluating someone like Jack Zduriencik, one must carefully consider the impact of the men responsible for overseeing the entire operation. Fair or unfair, however, it’s time we placed some blame at the general manager’s doorstep.
When Zduriencik came aboard in 2009, the cupboard, as the saying goes, was bare. The farm system was depleted. The talent on the big league roster was minimal. The present was disappointing. The future was bleak.
What Jack Z. was tasked with at the time was rebuilding an entire organization, top to bottom. There’s nothing easy about that. He adequately got the job done in certain areas, pulling off a signature deal by offloading J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Jeremy Reed, and Luis Valbuena in exchange for Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, and a couple minor leaguers.
While Putz has reemerged in Arizona as a closer, he is nowhere near the pitcher he was when he was in Seattle. Green and Reed have essentially become irrelevant, and though Valbuena reached the bigs with Cleveland, his impact has been minimal.
Gutierrez, Carp, and Vargas have all played significant roles with the Mariners since their arrival. Though none of the trio has really approached stardom, no one can argue that all three have been relatively solid and met, if not exceeded, expectations.
The Putz deal, as it will forever be known, has become Zduriencik’s hallmark for the past three-plus years. When supporters of the Z movement want to call out the man’s penchant for unearthing talent, they point to this deal as the one that stands above the rest.
There have been other deals that have seemingly worked in the Mariners’ favor during Zduriencik’s tenure. The trade of Doug Fister and David Pauley (who the Mariners re-signed to a minor league deal on July 12th) to Detroit for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, and Francisco Martinez. The heist of Cliff Lee from Philadelphia in exchange for three seemingly irrelevant prospects. The swap of Michael Pineda and Jose Campos for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
But there have been a handful of duds, as well.
Sending pitcher Brandon Morrow to Toronto for Brandon League and minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez has had its up and downs; Morrow’s development as a Blue Jay, though, would indicate the Canucks got the better end of the deal.
Pawning Cliff Lee off on Texas for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, and Josh Lueke hasn’t worked out nearly as planned. Smoak, as we all know, hasn’t developed the way anyone thought he would. Beavan appears to be, at most, an okay back-of-the-rotation starter. And Lueke, though his stay was brief, might be the biggest surprise of the deal thus far, as he netted the team catcher John Jaso in a subsequent trade this past offseason.
Signing Chone Figgins to a multi-year contract has certainly been a bust. Dealing Carlos Silva and cash for Milton Bradley was a complete disaster. A real sadist might bring up the fact that the M’s let 2012 All-Stars Bryan LaHair and R.A. Dickey go before they really developed. And then there are the moves that weren’t made.
The biggest failures of the Zduriencik era, in my mind, are those transactions that never occurred. This organization has a knack for holding onto players after their peak value has elapsed. League, as mentioned above, is one of those players. The same could be said for Erik Bedard and David Aardsma, two additional pitchers who the M’s relinquished for pennies on the dollar. The lack of foresight to perceive a player’s decline has been an obstacle the Mariners’ front office must overcome.
Additionally, there appears to be a certain aversion to risk among the Zduriencik regime. The players the team tends to acquire are those who many onlookers would say are “safe.” They possess low risk, and in turn offer a lower reward. They are not flashy. They are not potential superstars. They’re simply destined to become adequate major leaguers, at best, that get the job done on a day-to-day basis.
Perhaps the three most recent examples of this can be found in the team’s high first round draft picks: Dustin Ackley in 2009, Danny Hultzen in 2011, and Mike Zunino in 2012. Though the jury is still out on all three of these guys, it’s been deemed by the speculative gallery that none possesses quite the same sizzle as other players in their respective draft classes. Ackley and Hultzen were taken with the second overall picks in their drafts; Zunino was selected third overall. If any of these players fails to provide either a) measurable impact with the Mariners or b) an equitable return on the trade market, you can expect Zduriencik and Co. to lose their jobs sooner rather than later. With such an emphasis on the farm system during the Zduriencik era, such lofty draft picks must produce — and produce at a high level — for the current management group to be successful.
I want to believe in Jack Zduriencik. I want to trust the movement. But what have Jack and his cohorts given us to be happy about since 2009? There isn’t much, and with another 90-plus-loss season on the horizon, time, unfortunately, is running out for the organization.