BY Art Thiel 06:28PM 05/27/2012

Thiel: Salty Wedge talks tough, but no results

In a pre-game chat before being swept by the Angels Sunday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge let loose a little, scolding players and critics. But the issue is a roster not built to succeed in 2012.

First baseman Justin Smoak is starting to produce, but it's almost too late for the Mariners. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Even before his team endured an agonizing, four-game sweep by the revivified Los Angeles Angels Sunday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge put out his heart on his sleeve, Piniella-style, for everyone to play amateur cardiologist.

“What I don’t like, what bothers me more than anything,” he said at his daily pre-game presser, “is when I see guys moving in the right direction, and then sometimes back up, to where you’re going over the same real estate. That pisses me off. I don’t like that.”

He wasn’t specific as to hitter. He didn’t have to be. The Mariners are in a pandemic slump. All are ill. They followed up Wedge’s crankiness with three hits Sunday in a 4-2 loss. While granting that the Angels’ C.J. Wilson is a premier starter, the Mariners couldn’t start a fire while smoking in petroleum pajamas on a haystack.

Nothing more typified the pathos than the manner in which they scored their second run. In the seventh, trailing 3-1, Jesus Montero drew a leadoff walk off reliever Jordan Walden, advanced to second on a wild pitch, to third on a ground-out and scored on a second wild pitch. The run counts, but it was a bread sandwich.

Not exactly what Wedge had in mind when he blew the Cavalry bugle pre-game.

Wedge’s ire stemmed from the fact that his young hitters, upon whom the franchise has hung a good part of its future, are falling back, even though he knows that’s what newcomers to the big leagues often do.

As a result, the Mariners at the 50-game mark are now 10 games behind the American League West-leading Texas Rangers, against whom they begin a three-game series Monday in Arlington. Last season, it took them 94 games before they were down 10.

In the same chat, Wedge also spoke of making progress, taking the longer view that requires patience. He sounded equally as hacked at critics who question his personnel moves and frequent lineup changes.

“Let me just educate you a little bit,” he said condescendingly. “You’re not going to have a consistent lineup until you know what your players are capable of doing. They’re too young. For all the yahoos out there who say you should play the same lineup every day, you don’t know s**t. Period. You can’t (set a lineup) until they develop as major league players.”

Whether Wedge is more dismayed at his players or his critics is hard to say. But it doesn’t matter. Wedge is talking out of both sides of his mouth to avoid the straight talk of being handed a flawed roster that is inadequate to win games as well-pitched as the one Sunday by young starter Hector Noesi. He gave up three runs on five hits in eight innings and kept the immense Albert Pujols in the ballpark, something the three previous Mariners starters in the series failed to do.

The Mariners lost five of seven in the homestand, and 11 of the past 17 overall, which includes a three-game sweep in Colorado against one of the National League’s weakest teams. The problem is as it was at the start and likely will be at the end of the 2012 season: A poorly constructed roster of overpaid veterans and unproven youngsters.

In the seven-game homestand that included facing some top pitching, here’s what happened with the heralded young hitters: Dustin Ackley 3 x 22, Mike Carp 2 x 14, Alex Liddi 3 x 17,  Montero 3 x 20, Michael Saunders 5 x 20, Justin Smoak 6 x 23, Kyle Seager 2 x 22. That’s a cumulative .174 average for the Sub-Magnificent Seven.

Among the old guys, Ichiro at 38 was far and away the best  6 x 28. Collectively, two months into the season, this is potentially the worst-hitting team in the Mariners’ 35 years, which is a little like standing in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.

Coming into the game Sunday, the Mariners were hitting .197 this season at Safeco, then went 3 for 27.

Team Mendoza.

But Wedge is adamant about sticking to club policy that the plan will succeed down the road despite the absence in 2012 of a prime-time hitter than can help carry the kids.

“If we make the same progress next year (as the Mariners have made from last year to this year), we’ll be happy,” he said with a most sincere straight face. “Most people won’t understand that because the focus is on wins and losses.

“The start-up (year last season) is one thing. Once you get past that, and play in the big leagues for a little bit, what you can do with a full year of progress is pretty real.”

At this point, he doesn’t have much choice to say what he saying. He and Mariners management picked these cards in the winter and must play out the hand, because there is no 2012 fix coming from the farm or from trades. And it must be said that pitching has kept the Mariners in games to the point where most are winnable. The team is half good.

But laying it louder and saltier upon the young hitters doesn’t make it any better. Management has left them naked to their own vulnerabilities, making matters worse for players who feel burdened by the obligation to deliver large in their first two seasons in the big leagues.

Wedge is trying to win ballgames and develop players simultaneously. That’s a formidable task for the best of organizations, and an over-match for this one.


YourThoughts

  • Les Smith

    Art you are truely the best sports writer in the whole area. Period! I am thankful for your honesty. I just wish more people would listen to your words. Fans need to stay away from the ball park in droves until this ownership delivers in one thing. THE SALE OF THIS FRANCHISE! To someone with the passion and fire to win at all costs. Thank you for your great articles Art!

    • wilbur

      I don’t care for Wedge disrespecting the fans. The fans DO count. We pay for admission, we watch and listen on radio and TV, and we read columns like here and the nnewspaper So we’re not “baseball people” like him and the management team, we still shouldn’t have to put up with them putting an truly inferior product on the field. For Wedge in so many words to say we don’t count pisses ME OFF!

  • OffTheLows

    Well Les it could happen with Nintendo trading at all-time lows in Tokyo, and the stock has ironically been in freefall since the beginning of the M’s season.

    • Artthiel

      Let’s see what happens when the Japanese market learns the M’s have been swept in a four game series by the Angels for the first time since before anyone ever heard of Super Mario.

  • Grover

    The young M’s don’t show any promise at all.  What makes anyone think that any of the young guys will ever be any good?

    The M’s have been pitching way over their heads, other than Felix.  If the pitching comes back down to earth (and bach to expectations), this could easily be another 100-loss season.

    And Wedge, why don’t you cut your losses and just shut the hell up?  There is nothing you can do with the pile of shit management has given you, so just shut the hell up.  Every time you open your mouth you just make more of an idiot out of yourself.

    All Wedge needs to say at every press conference is this:  “This team sucks.  We don’t have the talent to compete.  We are going to lose a whole lot of games this year.  Thank you very much.”

    • Artthiel

      Grover, Wedge doesn’t seem the career-suicide type to me. But his honesty could get him in the same trouble it made for Lou Piniella. I just think he has more slack in his second year than Lou did after 10 years of wearing people out.

  • SeattleNative57

    Wedge has a habit of making big pronouncements about how things are going to be or should be and then within a week or so ends up doing the same thing he criticized a week earlier. It’s laughable to hear him make such bold statements about their potential then lament their lack of experience. This teams overall competitiveness is pathetic. In fact, just about everything about this team is pathetic. Given the amount of time needed to rebuild we should be further along than we are. Bad management and decision-making continue to plague this organization. Without MAJOR changes this organization is doomed to fail for years to come.

    • Artthiel

       I realize the parent-child analogy isn’t the best because the kids here are pros, but it is a little like getting furious with a kid’s failure to listen to Dad and correct. You don’t kick out a 12-year-old, but you do yell. Wedge has no choice to stick with these guys. The rants probably don’t help. The only thing that would help is Adam Jones in the 3-hole. Oh well . . .  

  • Eric K

    I’d take Wedge’s rants about accountability more seriously if he didn’t run Olivo out to strike out on pitches in the dirt day after day.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1599001255 Adam Lewis

      Amen.  I’d also add that the organization’s insistence on playing Ichiro every single night and batting him third proves they aren’t serious about winning this year.  If the team truly is rebuilding, then why put a 38-year-old singles hitter in your three-hole… especially when Justin Smoak is hitting the ball well and Carlos Peguero is in Tacoma belting two home runs every other night.  The mere fact that both are capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark every so often makes them much more qualified to bat third.

      • Artthiel

        Smoak only recently is finding his stroke. I’d wait a while. Fragile psyche. And check out Peguero’s K stats. That’s all the Mariners need — another auto-out.

    • Artthiel

      Olivo is his choice because he handles pitchers well; Ichiro is management’s choice because they indulge him his pursuit of milestones. Together, they cripple the lineup.
       

      • Taylornapiontek24

        I agree with Olivo.. but Ichiro is leading the team BA with a .271 which isn’t bad at all. Wedge though on the other hand is an idiot playing Liddi day in and day out.. the series with the angels he had 11 AB and struck out 8 times… that doesnt deserve a stop in an MLB lineup.. Wedge changes the lineup everyday, how is a ball team suppose to get in a groove when they dont even know if/what position they will be playing the next day.. He says he changes them to see what talent he has on the team, fuck man its over a quarter of the way through the year if you don’t know who you have on the team you shouldn’t be the manager.. fuck give me the job id do it for free, and do a whole hell of a lot better

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  • RadioGuy

    Not the most politically palatable thing to say, but I’m hard-pressed to pick out anything Wedge said that isn’t basically true.  Anyone who thought the Mariners would have a winning season in 2012 didn’t think such a thought under the influence of anything legal. This has been presumed by most to be a building year that won’t be measured in wins and losses so much as experience and (hopefully) progress by the young players.  Nothing has changed that.

    I don’t agree with a lot of what Wedge has done as manager, but he knows what he’s doing much more than I would in the same predicament.  The 2012 Seattle Mariners aren’t the 1951 St. Louis Browns, and we don’t have Bill Veeck letting fans run the team by holding up placards in the stands, although I wouldn’t put it past Chuck and Howie to implement something like that so they could save money by not paying anyone to manage their team.

    • Artthiel

      Wedge is right, but he’s having a tough time finding the line between persuasion and intimidation — should either have an impact on whether a batter succeeds at the plate. What the Mariners have needed for two years, as Wedge knows it better than anyone, is a big, tough prime time guy to take the pressure off the kids.