Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
August 19, 2008 8:44 PM
Posted by Larry Stone
Well, that was pretty awful. The tone was pretty much set for the Mariners when they started the game with runners on first and third, no outs, and couldn't score.
The most alarming part of the game, to my eyes, was not the fact the M's got shut out. It was the fact that Felix Hernandez, in five innings, didn't strike out anybody. As I mentioned, the only other time that happened was last year against the Twins in April, but he lasted just one-third of an inning in that game. He had a bad elbow, it turned out, and went on the disabled list.
There is no apparent arm trouble for Felix this time. In fact, everyone said he had good stuff. Felix himself said that the Sox were hitting good pitches -- balls on the hands, balls on the corners. He also said that his left ankle, where he got hit by a Juan Uribe line drive, is sore, but won't keep him from making his next start. It's the same ankle he hurt back at Shea Stadium covering home plate. Remember, the game he hit the salami off Johan Santana? That injury landed him on the disabled list.
"It hit me on the wrong spot,,'' he said of Uribe's drive. But then he added, "It's fine.''
Hernandez actually did his best pitching right after getting hit. Orlando Cabrera followed wtih a double to put runners on second and third with two outs, but Felix got three ground outs to get out of the inning without any more runs.
Here's a stat to leave you with -- the records of Seattle's original starting five this season. Felix is now 7-8, Silva is 4-14, Washburn is 5-13, Batista is 4-12, and Bedard is 6-4. That's a combined 26-51. Just the way Bill Bavasi drew it up, right?
August 19, 2008 4:52 PM
Posted by Larry Stone
UPDATE 6:53: That was a very rough outing for King Felix. He didn't strike out anyone in five innings (11 hits, five runs, three walks). He's only had one other career start with no strikeouts -- and that was the one last year against the Twins, his third start of the year, in which he exited after one-third of an inning with elbow problems. We'll need to find out after the game what's going on. He got hit in the foot by a hard line drive off the bat of Juan Uribe in the fourth, but he was struggling long before that.
(Sorry, internet troubles. I've been trying to post this for half an hour).
I've got to think covering the White Sox is pretty fun. You've got a good, exciting team to watch, and you get to deal with Ozzie Guillen every day. I've sat in on his pre-game sessions the last two days. What a kick. He really does love to talk, he's colorful, he says outrageous things. Everything that reporters love. I asked him yesterday whether Joey Cora was ready to manage. He went into a long, tongue-in-cheek schtick about he'd love to get him out of here, before getting serious and telling how ready he thinks Cora is to manage.
I said, "I'd bet you'd hate to lose him."
"Are you kidding?'' he replied. "I don't want to lose Carlos Quentin. Bleep Joey. He can be replaced by any bleeping body. Sitting next to me on the bench and talking bleep? That's what he does. I don't want to lose Carlos Quentin or JD (Jermaine Dye) or any of those guys. Joey? Anyone can do that bleep."
He was kidding, of course, and it was pretty bleeping funny. Maybe you had to be there."
BTW, I talked to Joey today about the Mariners' managerial job. He was very even-handed, because the job technically isn't open and he doesn't want to be disrespectful to Jim Riggleman, who is a friend. But I get the feeling that he wants it very badly. I'd be very surprised if Cora isn't at least a finalist if and when the job does open up. He has strong credentials as Guillen's \coach for five years (third-base coach 2004-06, bench coach 2007 and 2008) -- including a World Series ring, and another possible playoff run this year -- and he has those strong Mariner ties. Plus he's managed three years in the minors, and one year in the Venezuelan winter leagues. Cora has already interviewed for openings in Pittsburgh and Washington, and is starting to get traction as one of the prime names on the "manager in waiting" list. It's hard to speculate on the next manager
Miguel Cairo 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Wladimir Balentien CF
Kenji Johjima DH
Jamie Burke C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Felix Hernandez P
Orlando Cabrera SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Carlos Quentin LF
Jermaine Dye RF
Jim Thome DH
Alexei Ramirez 2B
Ken Griffey Jr. CF
Nick Swisher 1B
Juan Uribe 3B
Clayton Richard P
August 19, 2008 4:08 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Pretty much sums up the whole experience of blogging a season like this one. I'm sure most of you will agree, whichever side of the coin you happen to fall on in any particular day. Enjoy the game. Larry should be chiming in soon.
August 19, 2008 9:08 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Had an earlier post, didn't like the tone of it when I read it in black and white, so I took it down.
What do I care if Jarrod Washburn got lit up last night? I'm not paying his salary. I didn't decide to keep him on the team instead of trading him. Yes, he got lit up. I won't cheapen this blog by resorting to a petty back and forth. Many of you come on here to get a credible take on what's gone on this season and I've tried to give it to you the best way I can. If you don't think Washburn was worthy of those last 14 starts, you don't have to. He's certainly had his problems in August with giving up too many home runs and extra-base hits.
Like the rest of his team, he hasn't been good enough this month. The Mariners are now 1-8 over their last nine games. They are 5-14 for the month. They are 21-31 under manager Jim Riggleman. That's a .404 winning percentage. Yes, it's better than John McLaren's winning percentage. But it won't spare this team from joining the 100-100 club. That is, it won't keep the M's from becoming the first team to spend over $100 million and lose 100 games.
Maybe that's why the team is reluctant to trade away players other than Arthur Rhodes? I keep hearing whispers about that wherever I go. I certainly hope that is not the case. Just the usual rumor mongering. The usual supposition by people not in a position to know.
Here's what I do know.
The record for losses by a team spending more than $100 million in payroll is 96 by the 2003 New York Mets. The Mariners will almost certainly top that mark and then some if they keep getting blown out on the scoreboard the way they have the last four games. For a team that is supposedly trying to win games, these Mariners sure find it difficult to succeed at the task.
I don't know what's scarier, believing Carlos Silva -- that some of these guys aren't trying their best to win.
Or to believe the opposite is true. That this team really is giving 100 percent maximum effort every night.
Because if this is the best this bunch can manage, nothing short of a complete blowup this off-season is going to even begin to undo the damage that's been done to this franchise in 2008.
On that happy note, I'm off to play MLB 2K8. If you want more analysis than that, this team will have to give me something other than smouldering ruins to sift through. But yes, they have been getting a lot of hits lately. The trick is to get them when you're not five runs down.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS (9:35 a.m.): For ScottM, this is a team with a core of players that failed to win when it mattered in August 2006, September 2007, or in all of 2008. So, that's a pretty empty glass to start with. There is talent here, but even those talented players have underperformed when it mattered. It's a team with a potential ace pitcher in Felix Hernandez and a No. 2 starter in Erik Bedard who may or may not be damaged goods and will likely be out of here before 2010. After that, a whole lot of guessing, including a closer having trouble closing and a bullpen weakened by the loss of Brandon Morrow.
The most consistent player all season, (no, not Ichiro)...Raul Ibanez, could be gone this winter as a free-agent. You have a center fielder playing in right field because of the wear on his aging body, a catcher given a $24 million extension after putting up some of the worst offensive numbers in the league, a handful of promising prospects still trying to hit and a middle infield that appears non-existent.
It's a team that's been called out by former GM Bill Bavasi, ex-manager John McLaren, anonymous coaches, Carlos Silva and maybe Miguel Batista (we're still not sure about that one). Hardly a who's-who of team leaders, but then it begs the question of who passes for a leader on this team. And when even your worst-performing executives and players feel the need to call you out, it doesn't exactly speak volumes about the capabilities of your team.
Yes, there are some nice, complimentary pieces here, like Ichiro, or Adrian Beltre, who would look good on a contending team with others around to carry the load. But here, they are simply some of the better pieces on a team missing key components. The M's lack a true No. 3 or No. 4 hitter. For those wondering what that entails, it's sort of what Ibanez has done the past month. Just picture that all year long and you'll have an idea. The guys who are eating up the most payroll on this team are not good enough to put this team over the top without others around to shoulder the burden. Those others will cost money. The kind of money those players here are already making.
So, either you're going to spend more money and drive payroll higher. Or, you're going to start over.
And that's just the stats part. Then, we get to real life. The stuff that takes place on the field and in the clubhouse. Who is going to make these players, new , old, or whatever, perform up to the levels expected of them when it matters? Who will hold them accountable when they don't measure up, or don't bring their "A-Game'' for a month or two?
These are questions we've tried to ask and answer all season because they will help dictate what this team does next. I'm leaning towards the glass being real empty right about now. We'll see what the new GM thinks.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT (12:46 p.m.): For Piratesfan, I think I understand what you're getting at. And yes, as far as singles hitting for average goes, Ichiro has been more consistent. But as far as overall production, it's pretty tough to argue Ichiro over Ibanez.
One guy has put up an OPS beyond .800 in every month but one. The other guy has had one OPS month above .800. Both have had one month in the high .600s. I don't think this is a matter of following the team every day and drawing the wrong conclusion based on being too close. Just a matter of seeing who has been the better producer. Ibanez wins that one pretty easily. If ichiro was hitting for power and stealing bases, there might be an extra argument to be made. But he isn't and there isn't. Sorry.
For ViewFromBallard, I appreciate what you're saying, but there's a difference between "defending'' players and not continuously attacking them even when they do something right. To point out that some players have done some things right is not "to err''. Any more than it's "right'' to ignore what Carlos Silva said just because he weighs more than other players and has a losing record. I know you didn't bring Silva up specifically, but, I've been accused of "defending" and "enabling" him before. If anything, the evidence (a ton of Seattle losses and mistakes) seems to support what he said about the team not playing hard enough. And he's been saying it since May. Unless someone out there has better evidence to the contrary, maybe he's on to something? Just maybe he knows more than the Seattle blogosphere about what's happening on the team? I know that's tough to fathom, but it could be possible. I think the perponderance of evidence, while it may be totally circumstantial, at least merits further exploration and not outright dismissal and condemnation. But if you, or anyone else out there, knows why we should ignore the issue he and others have raised, let's hear it. And not just guesswork. Direct knowledge. Otherwise, I'd submit we don't all know the answers to everything and do have to listen to what others have to say from time to time.
If you think we're too close to management to be objective, then you really haven't been reading what's been written in this space this year. And you have, I know, because you mention in the second part of your post that we do criticize the team. Maybe we're just not criticizing them enough for your taste? Sorry, I don't think I can blast the team any more than I have already. I happen to know the Mariners executive branch can't stand this blog (meaning what I write here) because they feel it's too negative. But sometimes, you can make a point without scorching the earth.