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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 6, 2008 5:32 PM

Watch out for falling Mariners fans

Posted by Geoff Baker

orioles3 007.jpg

OK, I see how this is going to work. Less than one week into the season and some of you are ready to jump out windows and trade the entire team. I see. Is there any use pointing out that the team is only 2-4, not 2-20? Probably not, but duty and logic compells me to. I've always wondered, why is it, for some people, that sample size is the be-all, end-all in a baseball debate, but the minute something happens to "confirm" their worst fears, the concept of sample size goes out the window?

Here it goes, for the sake on getting it on-record: yes, the M's are playing lousy baseball right now. The offense needs to score more runs. The bullpen needs to do a better job of getting the job done. The starters not named Felix Hernandez or Carlos Silva have to deliver more than five innings a little earlier than they normally would in April.

But let's get real. If J.J. Putz was healthy, this team is probably 4-2 right now. And if this team was 4-2, a lot of the other problems would be nitpicked at, but no one would be getting fired or burned in effigy. Not telling you it's wrong to be concerned about the offense. I am a little concerned about it. Some guys, like Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro, have to pick it up. We saw Raul Ibanez pick it up today and Richie Sexson seems to be rediscovering his power and still is drawing more walks than he normally does.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the season is not even a week old. As bad as this loss hurts today, this wasn't the Pittsburgh Pirates blowing a 2-0 lead to Atlanta in the ninth inning of the decisive game of the 1992 NLCS. By mid-season, the M's should be above .500 and the Orioles will probably be the worst team in the American League. Much better chance of that happening than the M's being sub-.500 and the O's being the AL East leaders. Yes, these losses are frustrating. The players are frustrated too.

Why did John McLaren use Eric O'Flaherty in the ninth, instead of Ryan Rowland-Smith? Good question.

Here is how things work in the major leagues during the first week of the season. The pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, tells the manager pre-game who is good to go, who is fresh and can be used in what situation. It doesn't matter that O'Flaherty threw some pitches the other night. He was good to go. He is your eighth-inning, or ninth-inning situational lefty. Not Rowland-Smith. He is primarily your longer lefty reliever, earlier-inning guy, or the one you'd like to use when behind in a game.

When a team is winning in the ninth and the situational lefty is ready to go, you don't use Rowland-Smith. Not on April 6. Not if you want to stay a major league manager. If this were mid-August, or July, and some guys were tired, or banged up, you might start going crazy and flipping guys around like this is some MLB computer game. We had this same debate last year about Mike Hargrove using Julio Mateo in a high leverage situation in the sixth inning of an April game against the Twins instead of his later-inning guys.

Once again, that was in April. In April, when guys are relatively fresh, you keep it simple, stick to roles, and don't complicate your life moving forward. Successful big league managers don't start flipping the bullpen all over the place in the first week of the season.

O'Flaherty did give up an inning-opening double. But he also got the ensuing grounders he needed -- three consecutive ones. Problem is, instead of being the game-ending out, the third grounder got through the right side for a hit. It happens. But it's not like every single hitter was crushing doubles off O'Flaherty. Nick Markakis did. He's probably the best hitter on the entire Orioles team. He's paid to get hits. Stuff happens.

Am I justifying what went on? No. Bottom line is, O'Flaherty will have to get guys out in the late innings and win more games than he helps lose. If he wants to be the situational lefty. It's simple. But sometimes, you lose games.

O'Flaherty and Mark Lowe are the late guys. They are not infallible. Lowe was not supposed to be pitching the eighth right off the bat. It was going to be Brandon Morrow in the eighth, with Putz closing. Both got hurt. Right now, the M's are trying to get by without their top two bullpen arms. Most teams would have a tough time with that. And the M's are having it tough.

But Rowland-Smith, as much as I like his work with men on-base, was not the card you play in that situation. I'm all for new-fangled trends and flexibility. But not this early. You don't play the first week in April like Game 7 of the World Series. Remember back over the winter, when bullpen coach Norm Charlton suggested that Hargrove (after that infamous Mateo game) might have gone the opposite route and been trying too hard to win in the near-term -- the way he used his relievers -- at the expense of the bullpen's long-term health, in order to save his job? When he was using his best relievers more and more, in every critical spot, no matter how early, as if each game had a championship on the line?

Well, those of you who thought that was horrible can't have it both ways. Right now, McLaren, Stottlemyre and Charlton are playing it like guys who know there are still 156 games left. And in this case, they actually used the high-leverage guys in the high-leverage, late situation they were supposed to. What's the problem?

So, let's see. When is it not "too early'' in the season to worry? Well, never. Of course people are worried. The team is playing poorly and has to get better, no doubt. But you don't panic and make a series of knee-jerk reaction moves that will leave you caught short when it really matters. McLaren spent the past few days saving his big arms for a game in which the M's were close to winning. Now that he's finally got one of those games, some of you want to see Rowland-Smith in the ninth? Come on.

I could understand the freak-outs last August when Rick White walked home that run in the ninth in Cleveland, But not now. It's one loss and a 2-4 start. It's a tough stretch. But nothing will be decided now, in two weeks or in two months from now. It is still the time to sit back and evaluate. But hey, it is frustrating, I do understand.

If Felix Hernandez felt strong and ready for the ninth, I'd be all over McLaren for pulling him after 97 pitches. After all, McLaren let Jarrod Washburn start the fifth on 90 pitches the other night. No reason Washburn should be allowed past his threshold and not Hernandez. But there was a reason today. Conspiracy buffs out there who think Hernandez is covering for McLaren? Give me a break. Hernandez has never done that before. Any time he thought he was ready to pitch the ninth and wasn't allowed, he's told us.

Here's what he said:

"You guys know me, I don't want to come out of the game,'' Hernandez told reporters. "But when I feel tired, I don't want to make any mistakes. Because I felt a little bit tired. I threw a bullpen the other day. I didn't expect that, to throw eight innings after just one day's rest.''

That wasn't all Hernandez said. He'd left a couple of balls up in the zone in the eighth. "I didn't want to make a mistake in the ninth,'' he said.

Hear some of it right here in this audio clip.

McLaren looked frustrated afterwards. Believe me, he isn't going to force Hernandez to head back out for the ninth in the first week of the season when he says his arm is not feeling as strong as it usually does at that point. Not after missing that day of rest since his bullpen session. Not after his elbow injury suffered in mid-April last year. When Hernandez doesn't fight being pulled, you pull him. And you take your chances.

"I don't know what we could do differently,'' McLaren said. "We got the matchups we wanted. It just didn't work.''

Hear more of McLaren right here.

Not much more for me to say. If you want to criticize, let's jump all over the team's decision to carry 11 pitchers. I mean, in this day and age, 12 is becoming the AL norm even for healthy teams. What's the point of letting Charlton Jimerson and Miguel Cairo stay glued to the bench as the bullpen goes through this. With R.A. Dickey up here, you still could have kept Cha Seung Baek on a 12-man staff. You pitch Dickey in the sixth and seventh innings instead of auditioning a free-for-all of arms for it. Or you go another route. But keeping these extra position guys who don't get into games? What's the point? Didn't understand it when Putz was healthy, still don't. I'm done for today. Have at it.


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Posted by FireMcLaren

5:43 PM, Apr 06, 2008

McLaren is a moron. He and Sexson need to go.

Posted by Mariner Moose

5:46 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I agree.

Go M's

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

5:49 PM, Apr 06, 2008

We can give McLaren a mulligan on Felix if you believe Felix didn't actually want to pitch the 9th, however it still doesn't excuse the inexplicable, indefensible, handling of the bullpen.

Just because Felix "allegedly" didn't want to go, doesn't explain why Mac is using a three-man bullpen. Why the hell didn't Lowe start the 9th? Why isn't RRS being used, and why hasn't Bavasi made any call-ups from Tacoma if McLaren has no faith in Baek (understandably) or RRS???
Mac has publicly complained he needs more relievers yet nothing has been for a week. Is Bavasi in the Virgin Islands sipping rum punches??

That's the million dollar questions I would ask McLaren.
1. Have you seen Bavasi lately??
2. Why hasn't Bavasi called up a Dickey, Rohrbagh (my choice), Woerman or Huber?? Wouldn't it be nice to have other options to include to your 3-man bullpen.
3. Is RRS hurt or wronged you in another life?

Posted by downinthegroove

6:00 PM, Apr 06, 2008

The bullpen looks like they are heading to a gunfight with a knife in their hands...

I am sorry but Putz cannot save 135 games.

Excuses Geoff. What I heard from the post-game interview is that Felix has a little voice in the back of his head reminding him of last year......

Excuses.....Although this is not too up and down from what this team will look like all year.

Posted by Adam

6:04 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I couldn't agree more, Geoff, that some fans are really getting bent out of shape.


However, I think the bullpen, with or without Putz/Morrow, is still weaker than last year. And if we want to call the bullpen the main reason why the M's outperformed their Pythagorean record last year, then a drop in performance from the pen (or its mishandling by McLaren) could really hurt.

This team is NOT better offensively than it was last year. It is not better defensively. It is a less athletic team this year. And it is worse in the pen, even with Putz/Morrow.

These were the problems heading into the season, and we have seen nothing in 6 games to change that.

So people, quit the temper tantrums. But don't think that just because we are only six games in, the problems we are seeing are not real, lasting concerns, either.

Posted by scottM

6:04 PM, Apr 06, 2008

If that's what Felix said to McLaren after 8, then so be it, and we move on. Most of our blog venting came prior to knowing this. It seems uncharacteristic of Felix to not want a complete game shutout.

At least we don't have to worry about Felix imploding over being pulled.

The part about using RRS over O'Flaherty had more to do with EO having been used so recently (and not looking good), rather than about juggling the bullpen unnecessarily.

No excuses for Lowe except that the ground ball looked like one that Lopez might have gotten to.

It will be interesting to see how this team responds tomorrow and in Tampa Bay. Win the next 4 on this road swing and the M's come back to the Angel's series with a 6-4 record.

Wilkerson better wake up or I suspect he'll be riding the pines by June 1st.

O'Flaherty needs to figure out where he packed his cajones.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

6:05 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I'm no conspiracy buff, however, since Felix had his bullpen session "the other day," that means when Eric "I'm not God' Bedard, noticed the hip discomfort early yesterday during his session. The team allowed Felix to throw his bullpen session yesterday anyways??? (Despite knowing Felix is the #2 starter who is next in line to start.) That doesn't make a lick of sense that team staff wouldn't have put an immediate stop to Felix's bullpen session yesterday knowing he was filling in for Bedard today. What I am calling into question is the incompetence of not stopping Felix from throwing his bullpen session yesterday.

Posted by Stat Prof

6:05 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Resin --- a guy that was sent down to the minors has to spend at least 10 days there before he can come back to the big team. Dickey was sent down on the first day of the season, ergo he can't leave Tacoma until April 9

Posted by cesame

6:11 PM, Apr 06, 2008

You see, Geoff, all this commotion isn't all caused by the 2-4 record. All the commotion is not based off of just this season. It's based off the fact that the last 2-3 years we've been forced to watch the M's make dumb decision after dumb decision, both in the regular season and in the off-season. The time for the excuses and bad moves has come and passed. Win or lose your freaking job. It's that simple. I'm tired of people not being held accountable for this crap I force myself to watch and follow.

Maybe when everyone is fired in the M's org, and I mean everyone(this means you, Lincoln), I can enjoy watching the M's again and feel like I'm watching Mariner baseball. Until then, tough times.

You do a good job btw and I'm thankful for it. If I could only say that about the rest of the M's organization. My whole rant is less about the players and more about the people in charge of all this crap. They've never fooled me for a second.

Posted by KingCorran

6:14 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Two comments.

1.) Dickey in, Cairo out... no brainer. I'm with you there, Geoff.

2.) What makes O'Flaherty 'high-leverage' and RRS not? It's just a label, and I don't know why it's being applied here. That being said, I have no quibbles with O'Flaherty getting the nod... he's a good pitcher, and I'd have taken either. I'll argue the label but not the decision.

Posted by Adam

6:19 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Remember back over the winter, when bullpen coach Norm Charlton suggested that Hargrove (after the Mateo game) might have been trying too hard to win in the near-term -- the way he used his relievers -- at the expense of the bullpen's long-term health, in order to save his job?...Well, those of you who thought that was horrible can't have it both ways.


I don't think Mac learned his lesson. O'Flaherty has 4 appearances in 6 games (RRS has ONE). Before today, Green had 3 appearances in 5 games (Lowe had 9 PITCHES before today, Baek has ONE appearance). He's not using all of his bullpen. If he had a 12-man staff, it wouldn't be a huge concern. But he doesn't. He's got an 11-man staff, and he's primarily using two relievers.

It's poor management.

Posted by Walla Walla Girl

6:22 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Offense: Unless the veteran players (old, slow, you know who you are) can hit for average and/or power consistently (remember Edgar, Griffey), I'd rather see the young players (Morse, Jimerson, Wlad, Reed, Clement). They bring energy and excitement. Let's play 'em. What IS the point of bench warmers?! Good question. JMHO.

Cesame, I can relate ....

Posted by herzberg13

6:24 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I'm not worried...

Like you said Geoff, we should be 4-2.

The season is 162 games. Anyone who wants to fire Bavasi or McLaren six games into the season need to be banned from making posts. All the Mariner fans that critique every loss to the death need to get a grip on reality. Yes, you have the freedom to write whatever you want, but seriously, take a chill pill and relax.

There are 156 games left in the season, we're 1.5 back in the division, and we're still a great team.

The only critique I would use: Morse needs to play! And I agree with Geoff, we need Dickey in the pen.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

6:26 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Remember back over the winter, when bullpen coach Norm Charlton suggested that Hargrove (after the Mateo game) might have been trying too hard to win in the near-term -- the way he used his relievers -- at the expense of the bullpen's long-term health, in order to save his job?

That's exactly how I perceive our current manager is doing by using a 3-man bullpen for an entire series. Pitching guys back-to-back. Using O'Flaherty to start the 9th was risking injury after throwing 29 pitches yesterday, IMO. Calling up other relievers that McLaren has confidence in, is not a knee-jerk reaction, it's for the good of a healthy long season.

I don't believe in using relievers for specific roles except for closer. I believe in keeping guys sharp buy spreading the work around. I hate seeing back-to-back appearances. It's taxing on the arms. I doubt we will see anything change. Mac is set in his ways. There will be more games like this where we can only vent in frustration the lack of strategy behind the bullpen management.

Posted by downinthegroove

6:27 PM, Apr 06, 2008

It's a one trick pony right now.

And please don't think TB is gonna be a roll-over....

Right now is a time to tell starters' to go back out and prove you wrong.

Later in the year the bullpen with health of course can pick up slack.

Bottom line you cannot lose games like these unless you are planning on winning the division by 10 games or more.

I agree don't let that pre-season concern develop into panic quite yet...

The margin for error is shrinking by the day.....

Posted by Batter Up!!!

6:28 PM, Apr 06, 2008

"Hernandez was brilliant," 2 days short of his 22nd Birthday and he gets another no decision? Damn right he did his job Mac. Did you and Mel do yours? Happy Birthday Felix! You are the King! Learn from the hurt, we all have! Next time do it yourself.

Glad to hear Bedar...d is ready. If he said he could start why didn't he?

The real problem, as many have pointed out, is the lack of Offensive!

Posted by markus

6:34 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Good points Geoff, but I would like to present my counter-argument. I'm not upset at Potatoes or Lowe, I understand that Putz going down is huge. But coming into the season I was worried that the offense was going to struggle without speed, power or patience. And even in the four games that they could have won the offense was below anemic. And the defense that is being played is right where it will probably be all year long. In short, there is more potential for this team to get worse than there is for it to get better.

I am very upset that we kept 11 pitchers, even though McLaren doesn't know what to do with extra bench players. He seems like he would be happy with 9 position players and a backup catcher. Honestly, does he set the lineup so that he doesn't have to remember who is on the roster? And does he talk about Willie all the time because he can't remember who else is on the bench?

what I am so worries about is that this team seemingly has no heart or energy. The guys that were handed positions are pulling this team down. I am not saying that Sexson should be shipped to Omaha, but I am saying that a guy who hasn't hit in over a season should not be batting fourth! You can move guys around in a lineup! It's okay, if it hurts a guy's feeling then good, maybe he will get his butt in gear! You have to hold guys accountable at some point. That doesn't mean shipping them out after a week, but I think you have to do something legit to show that guys have to produce to keep their jobs.

Posted by downinthegroove

6:35 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I gotta go get dinner but here is a Q and I think Adam has justified this on numerous occasions but perhaps in a different light....

If we signed Bonds who would be the loudest:

If we struggle and cannot win all year and do not change...
The naysayers irregardless....
The can't do wrong folk....
We just won a whole lotta ball games and made a run into the playoffs...And contended....Perhaps won crowds?

Posted by fastball

6:37 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Actually, we do have a large sample size...150+ games from last year added to the games this year and the all-to-familiar patterns from last year are reemerging just days into the season. This gives Ms fans who had hoped for a different, better team a real reason to start calling for changes. A team that could score a few runs consistently in the early innnings to support their pitchers, a team that knows how to abort a losing streak, a bullpen that could more often than not do what was neccesarry to get guys to win ballgames, starting pitchers that could more often than not go more than 5 shakey innings, capitalizing with men on base and so on. What's more is I don't feel comfortable with McClaren. I only know him from his interviews his interviews are odd and the results from last year and this year thus far (including spring training) have only reinforced that notion. I really hope I am wrong. He doesn't want to put pressure on the guys, give me a break! It's all about pressure in the bigs. He wants to be every player's friend. That's going to have to change too. You can't be a good manager and be every player's friend. People want winners, they buy the tickets to support the big salaries and thus expect a winning team. The mariners need to start showing the fans who buy the tickets that we can expect more than higher ticket prices and a losing ball club. Oh and BTW, don't whine about the intense scrutiny either. It's good people care so much about baseball and long for a winning team here.

No one knows how things are actually going to turn out but fans have every right to be nervous when they see the EXACT same adverse patterns from last year reemerging so early in the season this year. Trends are trends and something radical usually needs to change to break the trend. Bavasi's job would be a good place to start if these trends in results don't change.

Posted by oregongal

6:41 PM, Apr 06, 2008

We're still lucky not we're not Tiger fans this week.

Posted by Stevo in Oregon

6:43 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I agree that six games isn't enough to go with in terms of overall trends. But I also agree with others that some of the conerns coming into the season are still serious concerns.

The decision to go with 11 pitchers was silly. That needs to change NOW especially with all these injuries.

The offense appears punchless and I just don't see this lineup being as productive as needed to be successful this season. An aging Raul, a worthless Sexson (we have way more than a six-game sample on him), a Wilkerson who it appears the Rangers knew something about - so that's why they got rid of him, a DH who won't hit more than seven home runs this year - and your ss and 2b leading the team in hitting. It really isn't something to get too excited about. We've had much more clout here in Seattle before.

The top three in the rotation look great - as advertised so far. Of course, both the O and the pitching could go in opposite directions as this is too small of a sample size - but it's what everyone expected.

When the season began I projected 91 wins and a playoff berth. I just don't feel comfortable. I guess that's my official prediction and I need to stay with it, but if I could change I would go with 80 wins and no playoffs. Too many holes, too many poor roster decisions. If they will make necessary adjustments if people don't turn it around by the middle to end of May, we can still do it (more Morse, call up Norton, Dickey, healthy Putz and Bedard, do something about Sexson and get rid of Cairo). If we wait until August again, we will be disappointed yet again.

The point to remember is how bad the Yankees started last year. We are not even close to that. They had a lot more talent though.

Discouraged,

Steve

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

6:50 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Sta Prof-I understand, thanks for pointing that out. I'm not a big Dickey believer, but if he can help, call him up when he's eligible. I prefer seeing Rohrbaugh or Woerman take the place of Baek.

Ryan Rowland-Smith has probably the best slider among the relievers up here right now, and could be great in any role of relief work. Great out pitch. I can't begin to comprehend any argument against him coming in the 9th. I don't buy Geoff's argument.

Although I like Lowe's stuff, expecting him to be lights out after the lack of pitching due to the surgery and injury is a lot to ask for. I would have had him start off at Tacoma.

I hate O'Flaherty who lacks velocity, and his one pitch is only effective against lefties. I cannot understand what the M's see in Baek and his vulnerability to giving up home runs. They have plenty of arms in Tacoma that could spot start if necessary. Baek reminds me of Ryan Franklin, a lot of quantity of pitches he can throw but all lack quality.

Posted by Ebenezer

6:50 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Geoff, I understand why you're giving us a pep talk, but come on. We're already 1 1/2 games out. Sure, we're still mathematically alive, but it's really over. We're just playing out the string.

Posted by joe

6:50 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I am not so sure that O'Flaherty is a good option as the Mariners situational lefty. In 1.3 innings versus left handed batters he has allowed 6 hits. He is not getting left handers out. Why not try RRS?

Posted by Dignan

6:54 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Great post Geoff...thanks for bringing some reason and logic to today's debacle.

Posted by SDF Mariner

7:04 PM, Apr 06, 2008

The real blame here falls on our starting lineup. I cannot possibly understand how we can go into this series and score so few runs against the Orioles. Their starters are league average at best. If this is how our hitters are going to look against Texas and Baltimore, I'm scared of what's going to happen when we face some real pitching.

Posted by michaelsd

7:21 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I love to read all of the brilliant professional baseball minds providing their commentary/advice. My personal favorite was the guy who wrote "I don't believe in using relievers for specific roles except for closer." Really! Obviously his vast experience hasn't helped land him a managerial or coaching position in the majors or the minors. I'm sure someone will be calling after they read this blog, though. Come on, folks. It's frustrating, but let's let this play out a little before we all grab our pitchforks and torches and march on Safeco. I'm with everyone thinking that we could use a little more pop in the lineup, and I was cursing the TV today the same as everyone as I watched the bullpen throw Felix's gem away, but let's let the coaches and management see what they can do with what we have and, maybe, make another trade prior to July--maybe as one ESPN writer suggested sending Johjima to Cincinnati for Griffey as DH, bringing up Clement, and infusing some power into the lineup that way. Either way, panicking this early is a little ridiculous. At least wait until we're--God forbid--10 games out in May!

Posted by PRchef

7:28 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Geoff

Thanks for putting things in perspective. It is so hard not to overreact having had such bad things happen the last few seasons. Specially with the expectations of having the softest opening schedule in the league and hoping we would be blowing by everyone. But I am a big believer on the whole new season thing. Many things can happen. Hopefully they will all be for the better.

Here's to getting hot this coming week. I can't wait for the Angels to get to town next weekend.

GO M's!

Posted by drlo

7:28 PM, Apr 06, 2008


Re pulling Felix, I wonder what Burke had to say? Rather than consult the 21 year old pitcher (or at least in addition to...), as manager or pitching coach I'd want to know the catcher's thoughts. Presumably that was done, but haven't seen anything on that. Maybe Felix was slowing down or his pitches moving up in the zone, but possibly at the same time those pitches were moving and effective. Given the bullpen issues, all things being remotely equal it would have made some sense to try to get even one more out, even if not a full inning, from Felix. (Caveat is that I saw none of the game and possibly Felix really was meat at that time, but nothing I've read here or elsewhere suggests that to have been the case.)

Posted by good guy fan

7:34 PM, Apr 06, 2008

"At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the season is not even a week old."
Geoff-
I'm not ready to jump out a window or give up on the M's for the rest of the season, or give up any hope of a post-season, but....

at the end of the season, when a team is 4 games out of first place, EVERY LOSS COUNTS, whether it was a loss at the beginning, middle or end of the season. all games count the same, and it is maddening to lose a game that we should have won !

Posted by peter

7:45 PM, Apr 06, 2008

dearest geoff,

quit reading some of the m's blogs and calm down bro. it does amaze me how you are almost mad that people's projections are coming alive so early in the season.

the story to me is not just the bullpen but the inability to score runs. we are going to see many games like this. how does the complexion of the game change with the m's scoring 3 runs, 4, 5?

yes, the fact that putz is out is significant. but there are some blatant holes on this team that will need to be addressed if they are in the hunt in the middle of the season.

btw, i still like mclaren and i agree with the move to take Felix out.

Posted by boxedN

7:51 PM, Apr 06, 2008

The whiners are out in force! The only issue I have right now is with them not bringing Dickey up and letting go one of the bench players - preferably not Morse.

You can't lose major pieces of your staff when it's as thin as this years Mariner pen is and not expect some rough going.

I'm more concerned with the lackluster offense.

Posted by MarkB

7:52 PM, Apr 06, 2008

When are we going to get a different managerial approach than Mike Hargrove's???

I have been holding out hope for McLaren but he seemingly just feels like he has to put the same nine guys in the lineup every day. Looks like just another Hargrove clone to me.

If nobody on the bench is going to play anyway we should have a 15-man bullpen. Then nobody there could claim that they are too tired to pitch.

Give us back Lou!!!!! At least he knew how to utilize all of his resources, and keep his bench fresh.

Hope McLaren feels his place on the bench getting uncomfortable. At this rate the "hot seat" is starting to warm up, like it or not......

P.S. Broussard just hit his third homer of the season today for Texas. Too bad Hargrove couldn't figure out a way to work him into the lineup last year. Or Adam Jones for that matter.

Geoff - thanks for the pep talk, but you haven't been in Seattle long enough to realize the ineptitude that the management of this franchise has demonstrated over the years!!

Posted by richsti

8:19 PM, Apr 06, 2008

trying to avoid the sky is falling fan attitude you so brilliantly pointed out, but Geoff the Brad Wilkerson thing....ughh... I didn't like the signing in the first place, I like it even less right now. He just isn't very good and unfortunately Mac is going to ride him. This is where our illustrious GM has to step in and make some decisions for him. Remove Wilkerson, and go with a Kid (Morse, Balentien, Clement) until they can move up to get a Vet via trade or a starter emerges.

Posted by NB

8:26 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Resin,

Just wanted to say I've really enjoyed your posts the last couple of days and agreed with most of your points. When your not taking shots at sabrmetrics I find your comments informed, well reasoned and interesting. Thanks man.

Posted by helpFelix

8:30 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Geoff -

First off I want to say I enjoy your blog and all your work!

Now with that said...Just last week you were jumping all over that fact that we need to distance ourselves from the Angels as much as possible by May (5-10 games!)

Now you stated above come June we should be a 500 ballclub, and the O's at the bottom of the AL East?!

The problem with that is that even with Lackey AND Escobar out, "if" we are only a little better than a 500 club come June...WE ARE IN A WORLD OF HURT, because we will be behind the Angels 5-10 games instead of the other way around!!!~

Posted by NB

8:30 PM, Apr 06, 2008

BTW slavish devotion to bullpen "roles" is a classic example of how 80's/90's baseball thought doesn't provide the team with the best chance to win on a day to day basis. There's nothing wrong with mixing it up. If it takes an adjustment period from the pitchers to learn a new system it would be worth it to have a flexible, talented, deep bullpen with multiple pitchers ready to perform multiple roles at all times. Of course the Mariners are to innovation as the Red Sox were to integration so.....

Posted by helpFelix

8:34 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I should probably mention one other thing too. Early I stated that Felix was covering for Mac. I said that out of frustration!!!

I have NEVER seen Felix want to sit after pitching a stellar game like that! He actually gets upset if the manager takes him out and doesn't let him finish the ball game.

So I would have to favor that it was Felix's call to come out of the game.

When I saw O'Flahery step in my heart sunk. I did understand the managers reasoning because the next 3 out of 4 batters were Lefty's. BUT I was hoping that Lowe could of started right off the bat in the 9th instead! How it turned out Lowe had to step in and cleanup the mess from O'Flaherty.

Posted by dr

8:43 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Ok - a little reality break is needed. Look at Detroit. 0-6. Who'd a forecast that one what with the "daring" moves they made over the offseason? Look at Colorado. 1-5. Heck, Kansas City is 4-2. Do folks there start scheduling their vacations around Royals' playoff games? Good Lord, Texas just pounded Jon Garland and the Angels 10-4. It's freakin' April!!!

Plus, bullpen pitchers, especially young ones, really do MUCH better when they know their assigned roles. Right now, the team is scrambling to fill holes, not establish roles, since JJ and Morrow are not healthy. I've seen this happen so many times over the years. This 'pen will get its act together. There is talent there. But it's not a veteran group, really. That said, both Stottlemeyer and Charlton are good, old-school guys who know their stuff. Trust 'em.

The offense, admittedly, looks like last year's group...minus Guillen. But here's the deal: you've got 2 guys in the "heart" of the order, Sexson and Wilkerson, who are notoriously SLOW starters. Like it or not, that's them. You can hate ' em hard, but they're here for now. So, until April and, probably, some of May are played out, don't expect much from either of them. My guess is Sexson will get more leeway than Wilkerson. That leaves 2 glaring holes in your lineup. Can the Ms afford to wait that long? Not if others don't pick up the slack. And remember, as long as Sexson and Wilkerson flounder, Beltre will see very little by way of good pitches to hit. Usually a team has only 1 slow slugger with whom to deal. Because of FO choices, we have 2. The alleged pay-off is, once they heat up, Sexson and Wilkerson, so the story goes, will hit with power, bang out 3-run dingers and all will be well in Mariner Nation. Ibanez had 3 hits today, so, he bought himself some time. But the real test is whether this team can afford BOTH Sexson and Wilkerson to simmer instead of boil.

But for now, it's April. We could be the Tigers. Or the Mets! Do we really want to be Kansas City? Breathe. Breathe.

Posted by ak-rowdy

8:46 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Not to take away from the great arguing we got going on here but I just thought I'd throw out a semi related topic.

One of the Cleveland Indians radio announcers (It's the only baseball I can listen to since I live in Cleveland) theorized that it is a disadvantage to play "weak" teams early in the year. This was saturday when they were getting beat by the "weak" A's. He was saying that early in the year everyone has a winning attitude cause they're in it. If you don't play them until July or August by that time your Orioles, Devil Rays (yes I know it's wrong), and A's will have given up and will be easier. I'm not using it as an excuse for the Mariners awful performance, but I do think there's some good reasoning behind it.

I know it's not really related to anything on here but I just thought it was interesting and wanted to see what other Mariner fans and hopefully even Geoff thought about it.

Posted by helpFelix

8:46 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Attitude is what we were missing in 2005-2007, thus the Carl Everett and Jose Guillen signings! Everett was a flop, Guillen is what turned this thing around last year.

I wouldn't mind some attitude on this team, and contrary to what Lincoln said about Bonds, I say we just DO IT!

We need one guy with an attitude in our clubhouse that is use to critism. What better player than Bonds! He gets so much public critism from puts his bat where it counts.

Set it up so that Seattle has an out clause, and the base is extremly LOW! Seattle's offense would shoot through the roof.

Bonds would just buy us thru 2008, when all that money comes off the books (Sexson/Ibanez/Vidro/Johjima

Posted by Tony S.

8:54 PM, Apr 06, 2008

You want attitude?

Arthur "Attitude" Rhodes will meet the team in Tampa Bay and carry them to the World Series.

Dickey will arrive later this spring when someone gets hurt.

Go M's

Posted by Patrick F.

8:58 PM, Apr 06, 2008

They should have left Felix in the game. He was in the zone. I could understand taking him out in favor of JJ, but no O'Flaherty. The comitee of closers ruined a spectacular outing by Felix.

Posted by jim

9:04 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Well, as disappointing as the start to the Mariners season is it could be worse. They could have started like the Tigers, who had even higher expectations on them. ESPN analysts were saying they would be one of the most potent offenses ever.

Posted by M's fan in Oahu

9:17 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Ok now that I have come back off the ledge I had some time to think about why ALL OF US are reacting like we are. We are some fans who are hungry for our team to be successful. I mean can you imagine what it must be like to be a Cubs fan?? Here you are 100 years removed from your last world series this year. I think we are all just so enthused about this season that we are taking every loss and examining it under a microscope. Not to mention that this blog, while one of the greatest inventions to hit Marinerdom since the garlic fries at Safeco, it does breed a bit of mass hysteria. Most of the people here post to a negative context. Read it enough and you start beliving it.

Its game six. The team is not dead yet. Our chances are not over. Some of the calls and choices by the management team has been stellar at best but I think I have to have a small belief in whats going on and just take each game as it is...a game.

Perspective is a wonderful thing when applied in small doses...

Posted by BakoMariner

9:49 PM, Apr 06, 2008

In seemingly every McLaren interview, he introduces the fact that he has been in professional baseball for 38 years. He waves it as if it is a red badge of courage that no one has seen fit to give him a MLB managing job since before man walked on the moon. Mark my words - a desperate Bavasi will send him packing by July. It is THAT obvious that he is THAT bad. He will pay with his job for pumping sunshine up the behinds of the fans and management.
And Geoff, you are pumping some solar energy up anal orifices yourself if you dare tout "improvement" by Sexson. Sure, he had some x-base hits, but he has been embarassingly fooled by the worst staff in baseball far more often this series.

Posted by Stevo in Oregon

9:58 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Anyone else out there concerned about Lopez's lack of range? That's three balls in six games now that a major league second baseman should have at least been able to keep in the infield.

That ball by Jay Peyton was not hit very hard and he should have made the play. I don't like the way he goes after those balls. A slow, knee first, foot first slide where he tries to get there but slows himself down with his approach and shortens his range. He's there, but can't read the hops. I don't know. It's just not working. Where's Boonie and Julio Cruz to make those plays when we need them?

In fact, I'm thinking Willie Ballgame needs to be inserted at 2nd for defense at the end of the game. I guarantee you he would have made that play. He would have looked more urgent in doing so as well.

This team is so frustrating to watch out of the gate. I'm ready to pull my hair out. Can anyone hit?

Posted by Butch

10:01 PM, Apr 06, 2008

GOOO COUGS!!!

Posted by bob

10:17 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I know. Early. Not the end of the season, yet. And, at least we're not Detroit -- what with all their expectations.

The only "bad" decision was not having 12 or even 13 pitchers with the team -- especially with Putz down. There's no sense in having Jimerson and The Leader Cairo around.

Simply, the team isn't hitting, pitching and fielding well at all. Not that that's a real shock.

But given all of the season-tease about the M's winning the AL West -- after all those years of "almost" and the even greater number of years of "they suck" -- it's simply too painful to watch.

Is it fair to be a pissed-off fan this early? Probably not.

Last season we didn't expect a great deal, and then saw the M's play great ball. We got excited. Again. And we believed. And when the losses came raining down it hurt much more because we had our hopes up.

This is not a great team. We know that. But it is above average. And so far (through the spring and now the first week), they're playing way below average.

That's what hurts.

Posted by i heart Morse

10:20 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Geoff...i appreciate your injection of sanity (all to rare with many fans) to the M's analysis.

I'm wondering if you could please comment on at what point can you envision Mac being on the infamous "hot seat". Does he get a free pass all year long if they, say, hover around .500 or 5-10 games below? Im curious what the circumstances will require in order for someone other than crazed fans to talk about his job security.

Thanks!

Posted by Bill

10:34 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I'm sure they could come up with sound-good reasons for their decision making.


Doesn't change my opinion that Mac isn't a good enough decision-maker. As I said, put him in a chess match with a quality game day manager (Scioscia, LaRussa) and Mac will lose every time.

Posted by Zach C

10:41 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I haven't been keepin up so i don't know if this has already been stated: If ichiro isn't getting on base, this team will not win. he needs to step up- it all starts with ich and hes not looking good at the plate

Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:58 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Good lord, I haven't seen that many comments on 3 blog posts in months. I'm not sure I even want to delve into what people thought before Felix's comments, and I'm sure I don't have anything else to add to the deeper debates, so all I'll say is:

1. I believe Felix.
2. I believe pulling Felix was correct.
3. If the Ms provided more offense, today's pitching wouldn't have sunk it.
4. If you throw your entire bullpen at one of the weakest teams in the league, and still cough up 2 losses in a row, it doesn't matter whether you have a 11 man pen or a 12 man pen. Quantity doesn't fix quality. Therefore, there's an argument to be made that Mac was working with the best he had available.

Posted by JI

11:02 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I'm gonna have to disagree Geoff. Hardly anything you wrote here makes any sense at all. RRS is the best pitcher in the bullpen right now he should be pitching high levrage innings. If we're stuck with archaic notions of inflexible "roles," why not just tell RRS that after the injury he's a high leverage reliever? We have enough long men as it is.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

11:29 PM, Apr 06, 2008

NB-appreciate the compliment.

My personal favorite was the guy who wrote "I don't believe in using relievers for specific roles except for closer." Really! Obviously his vast experience hasn't helped land him a managerial or coaching position in the majors or the minors.

Michaelsd-Bobby Cox uses several relievers like Rafael Soriano to Peter Moylan in several roles/situations like early middle innings, to set-up, to closing in the same season. This year he's used Soriano (even though he's the closer ) outside the specified 9th inning or save situation. Today he used Boyer, Ohman, Moylan, pitch the 6th,7th, 8th inning, and had Soriano in the 9th. He didn't mix and mash lefty for lefty match-ups to face 1 batter. Bobby Cox has more rings and pennants than Michaelsd, and he hasn't been laughed out of baseball and is still employed. So yes, you can have an assigned closer, and then use your relievers in any situation

Posted by Durocher's Ghost

11:37 PM, Apr 06, 2008

I love baseball and I watch as many games, on TV or live, as I can, but even so, I think baseball has fallen into a sickening era. First, pitchers in one league don’t have to bat, replaced by has-been hitters who can no longer play in the field and ought to be retired. This ridiculous concept of “close” has become so important, so all consuming that the beauty of the complete game is all but obsolete. And now, as illustrated by what happened in Baltimore on Sunday, we have the prima donna pitcher who goes whining to the manager that he doesn’t quite have it in him to get three more outs so please, may he be excused from facing the upcoming lefthanders? In the era before the DH, in the time of say, Spahn and Drysdale, or even more recently, said pitcher would be grabbed by the shirt front and told to suck it up and finish the f’n game. I won’t even go into the pitchers who threw both ends of a double header.
To call McLaren “old school” is an insult to true old school managers and players. He’s a wannabe major league manager, at best. I like Hernandez, but a bona fide old school manager would have turned his butt around, pointed to the mound, and told him he could go have his cookies and milk and lie down for his after-recess nap only when the manager came for him. And the manager shouldn’t have gone for him until he got into trouble (with those pesky left handers.) And then, it should have been RRS, not O’F, after his most recent performance (and overuse?) who was put in. On top of all his other failures, McLaren doesn’t even have control over his young pitcher. Who’s in charge of this team, anyway, McLaren, the players, or Daffy Duck? (Sorry, Daffy, no offense meant.)

Posted by Wolfie

11:41 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Soooooo...when we get swept by the Rays, and go 0-fer on the roadie, can we push the panic button then?

Sure, you can't win the pennant by the end of April, but you definitely can lose it.

Waiting for the bomb to drop in 3....2....1....

Posted by NB

11:46 PM, Apr 06, 2008

Mr. Durocher's Ghost,

You have to forgive new school types like Felix. Unlike Spahn and Drysdale he doesn't stay in shape by walking uphill in the snow to and from the stadium.

Posted by BrettJMiller

12:18 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Earl Weaver always said "My Backup Shortstop is in AAA"

Our 7th bullpen arm is in AAA. If a guy is tired, send down a guy with options for a few games to get the new guy up. There's no reason at all to have a seven man bullpen. However, Cairo is a worthless bench player. If Norton was on the bench, the 6 man staff would be fine. That said, if I had to choose between Dickey and Cairo, I'd choose Dickey.

Still the 6 man pen is not a bad idea, and no matter how much you try and sell me on it Geoff I won't buy into needing an "experienced veteran" bullpen arm, or even needing any random 7th guy.

And since when is Brandon Morrow one of our two best bullpen arms? Dude got strikeouts, but he walked FIFTY GUYS in 60 innings. That's not a power setup man. That's an A baller with a good fastball who needs work in the minors. If the Mariners are smart, they'll leave him there.

Posted by antsy in anaheim

2:42 AM, Apr 07, 2008

M's fans deserve better. How do you lose to Traschel, Loewen and Guthrie? This offense has been inept throughout ST; it's been sparse since going back to last August. It's funny how the teams that use "it's early" are the ones that are sucking it up.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

7:02 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Geoff,

We all recognize that our offense is struggling, and many of us are now suggesting that the FO office take a serious look at Bonds. 50 HR's and 100 RBI's just sitting there. Could you please discuss this when you have a chance-- whether the FO is considering it, and if not then why? We need a big bat so bad its not even funny.

Posted by Paul

7:18 AM, Apr 07, 2008

I'm definitely relieved that Felix took himself out, not Mac. That totally changes my perspective on yesterday's outcome. But just because Mac didn't cost us this game based on this one decision doesn't mean he's off the hook. I still say that the job of in-game managing is one of the easiest "coaching" jobs in the world. There are only a handful of decisions in a given game that will likely effect the outcome, and Mac seems to blow them consistently. Maybe he relies on his "gut" too much, but it's uncanny how he always seems to be wrong. At some point, it's gotta be acknowledged as bad managing. If this team isn't over .500 on June 1, he better be gone. There is too much quality in this organization (some of it at AAA, unfortunately) for the team to be undermined by poor managing.

Posted by Chuck

7:21 AM, Apr 07, 2008

OK Geoff, point taken, BUT a loss counts the same in August as it does in April. Win games when you can, not when you think you can in the future.
Secondly. The PI has a different slant of the Felix in the ninth deal. It seems that Stottlemyre didn't think Felix could get Markakis out in the ninth, so that was the reason Mac decided to pull him. If so, it makes no sense.Felix is cruising. On fumes he's better then what we have in the pen now. Besides, Markakis can't bat more then once in a row--even if worse case scenario, he goes deep, we're still up one and Felix can work on the other guys he had been getting out all day. I stand by what I said many times last year. Mac's an idiot.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

8:20 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Less than one week into the season and some of you are ready to jump out windows and trade the entire team.

Nope...the fans want to get rid of the same guys (Sexson and Vidro) as last year (along with Wilkerson). Unfortantely no other team wants them so we would have to just eat the salary.

This will not win the west and the Bedard trade (following his acquistion by the Yanks in two years and AJ's selection to the all-star team) will go down as one of the worst in baseball history.

Posted by M's Fan

8:34 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Everyone agrees more offense is needed. Ichiro even spoke up on the subject. Wilkerson is batting .067 (1 for 15). How much sense does it make to have Morse on the Bench? Wake up Mac!!

Posted by Terry

8:34 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Maybe the fans calling for drastic changes after 6 games, aren't the ones that believe sample-size is the be all, end all?

Just a thought.

Posted by scrapiron

8:37 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Look guys, this early season problems are related to bad luck, called the injury bug, that can't be avoided.

McLaren saw his bullpen coming together nicely in ST and saw an opportunity to keep all of his out of options players by simply going with 11 pitchers. At the time this seemed very sound, until Putz gets injured and the whole plan blows up.

Dickey and Morrow are on the short list of quick recalls to the team, but can't be called up for 10 days. The Mariners thought they could get at least 10 healthy days out of their bullpen but that didn't happen.

Call up Rhodes now and release Jimerson. We need any live arm available. When the 10 day grace period is up, call up Morrow for Corchoran. Work out a trade for Baek and call up Dickey.

Posted by MsOnTheRally

8:41 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Hey AKMarinersFan I guarantee Bedard will never play for the Yankees unless he's traded there. You think he hates Seattle and Baltimore media I can't even imagine what a hermit he'd become in pinstripes. It'll never happen. Bedard is likely sticking to the second-tier cities (hopefully ours).

Oh and about rallying for trades... anyone who demands trades 6 games into a season needs to not even talk like they know a thing about baseball. I can't even remember the number of years we ended an April and "fans" rallied for an Ichiro trade while he still had any value left. Ugh. I don't care how little I expect from Sexson or Wilkerson. All it takes is a short hot streak to bring the average up. And in Sexson's case .200 is not to far from .300 this early in the season. Anyhow it doesn't matter what the overall stats are for these players, everyone's accountable for the lack of hitting with RISP. And if Pentland can't fix that then maybe it's him who needs a new job.

The only move I really criticize Mclaren/Bavasi for thus far is keeping Cairo on... then again Dickey didn't exactly light-it-up with the Rainiers in his first start. Maybe he does need some more time to work things out.

Anyways the point is, as Geoff correctly stated, to note that we are 2-4 not 2-20. If you guys don;t have patience, you are all truly watching the wrong sport.

Posted by James from Walla Walla

9:07 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Geoff,

I do not buy into the ridged idea that you can only use one guy for left handed specialist in late innings. Especially when he has been used alot the last 4-6 games. Ryan Rowland-Smith had just as good or better ST. Some of his pitches are dare say better that O'Flaherty. That is why he made the team!! From what I saw this spring out of both of them he is just as capable pitcher. Let's keep him/them sharp by using them.

Or, let Lowe pitch the whole 9th inning. He is just as tough on lefties as righties. And, had not pitcher much of late.

Bottom line Geoff! I think you would agree!! We have a chance to put some distance between us and the Angels while our schedule is against lower level teams. But, they are kicking our butts.
Our play on the field sucks the big one, from management on down. Thus, the frustration of
the lack luster play has got us really upset. We
are better than this!! Lets get this thing turned around WITH better play and smarter managing.

I want to be proud of the way a team plays and
makes the best of what they have.
Win Or Lose!

GO MARINERS!

Posted by AKMarinersFan

9:07 AM, Apr 07, 2008

How many fans rallied for an Ichiro trade versus a Sexson trade. That is a riduculous comparison.

Posted by Nick in pdx

9:13 AM, Apr 07, 2008

"The offense needs to score more runs"

The offense is operating at about its expected level. Get used to it.

Posted by thatgirl

9:16 AM, Apr 07, 2008

Pentland has the toughest assignment - get some offense out of an aged lineup. Like other's have posted - get some legs, energy and youth into the lineup. It helped the O's this weekend.

Stottlemyre has been known for his patient coaching style and affinity for the ground ball over the KO. I'd like to see him visit the mound a bit more when the inexperienced BP staff is out there in a role they're unaccustomed to. Just breaking the momentum of the offense by a visit might have helped toward a 3-3 vs. 2-4 record.

McLaren - not sure he has the moxie to make tough decisions. If in one month we're truely are over 500 my opinion on him will be different.

Posted by byebyeSexson

9:44 AM, Apr 07, 2008

This is not sarcasm. I see Richie's willingness to be patient enough to walk as a very good sign. If I thought it would help, I's pray. We need offense!

byebyeSexson

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