BY Todd Dybas 03:30PM 06/18/2012

Dybas: Jack Z says, 'Be realistic . . . they're kids'

Wedge doesn’t want Safeco to be an excuse, and Zduriencik doesn’t want assumptions made about mistakes of youth. But they ask much of a worn-out fan base.

Justin Smoak seems the most perplexed among the Mariners regarding what it takes to clear the Safeco fences. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Safeco Field electronic scoreboard lit up a zero under the hits category in the eighth inning Friday night, though the Mariners had two hits at the time.

After a homestand mostly consisting of plate failure, even inanimate objects think the Mariners can’t hit in Safeco.

It was a particularly frustrating return to the distant confines for Justin Smoak prior to Sunday’s game-winner. In the Padres series, he hit three would-be home runs, were he stationed in another park. They were three outs in Safeco. Smoak slammed down his helmet during the game and voiced his frustration afterward.

Manager Eric Wedge put an end to the public caterwauling about the park with a pregame message Thursday. The Mariners brass is worried deep outs in the park can become an excuse that deters adjustments. In Safeco, the ambition has to be to square up and line into gaps. If it goes out, it goes out. Loft is a results decimator here. Play accordingly.

The organization will discuss the fences after the season. The San Diego Padres are going to do the same at Petco Park. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he thought moving in the Seattle fences a few feet would be “fair.”

A massive gap in OPS between home (.588, last in the bigs) and away (.725, 10th in the bigs) indicates the problem has moved beyond fences and burrowed into brains. Doubt is the ultimate enemy during the relentless repetition of a baseball season.

“You can’t let it get inside you,” Wedge said Friday. “Doubt should never come our way. Frustration is going to be here. I’m sure it’s here for a few of us now.

“But, for me, it’s just knowing that these guys are eventually going to be as good an offensive club here as they are on the road. Just because of their talent base and skill level. But we have to get over that hump.”

The Mariners had lost six in a row coming into Saturday. They were a season-high 12 games under .500 then. Ichiro has been a disappointment no matter his lineup location. After an extraordinary career, he’s done and should not be back next year.

Dustin Ackley has regressed. Smoak has been inconsistent. Kyle Seager is going through his lumps the last nine games.

But Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik remain steady in their belief production will come. Wedge repeats almost daily that the team will soon be hitting at home the way it did on the previous road trip. In an exclusive talk with Sportspress Northwest, Zduriencik said he’s not frustrated.

“I said all along, that, in this year, we would see ups and downs,” Zduriencik said. “We would see streaks. We would see good things and some things that need to be corrected. It’s simple youth. Just a simple fact that it’s youth.

“I think coming home, we were all happy about a lot of things we saw on the road. But then again, as I said, you’re going to have moments of time where their youth shows. You have to be really realistic about this and realize that kid behind the plate (Jesus Montero) is 22 years old, the kid at second base (Ackley is 24), the kid at third base (Seager is 24), some of these very young pitchers . . . .This date a year ago, they were in the minor leagues.”

Also a year ago, Michael Saunders was destined for the scrap heap. He’s been a revelation this year, lining shots often to center and, at times, to left, instead of pulling the ball each at-bat. Zduriencik feels Saunders is destined to be a good player for years to come in Seattle.

The same slack should be given to Seager and Montero.

There is also the promise of the farm arms. Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 draft, has been dominant. He will start the Southern League All-star game Tuesday. After that, expect him to promptly be elevated to Tacoma. Hultzen gave up five runs in his Double-A debut. He’s given up five runs in 12 starts since.

“It is just part of a process that there is just no way to shortcut it in any business that you’re in,” Zduriencik said. “Experience works to your favor and there’s no way to get it unless you go through it.

“I do think what we’re seeing, there’s some pretty good young kids. How good they’re going to be? Yet to be determined.”

Zduriencik went on to make an analogy with running, saying a half-mile has to come prior to running a full mile. And so on.

Of late, it feels like the organization is running a marathon chasing a finish line carried by Kenyans. The six home losses in a row? That’s usually the nudge toward the repeated 100-loss abyss.

This roster has shown grit, however, perhaps enough to keep it from being whittled down to a fall embarrassment once again. A future is finally visible.

That type of change can provide belief in the plan. Even for the scoreboard.


YourThoughts

  • one174

    Never mind 13 years of mostly failure at Safeco. These “kids” will eventually adapt and hit at Safeco like they do on the road. Never mind that year after year the M’s batting average stinks. Never mind that Safeco is where good hitters go to die. Aurelia, Cirillo, and many others, make your own list. How about Beltre whose average dropped 69 points the year he arrived and went up 56 points the year he left? The Big Leagues are FULL of players who couldn’t hit til they got out of Safeco. Even Bloomquist, who is now hitting .287 for the Diamondbacks. Couldn’t be the park. Why on earth would you change anything? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Move in the fences. Change the background. Fill up the park with dehumidifiers. Turn off the lights. Do SOMETHING!

    • Dr. Bones

      My vote goes to a giant fan blowing warm air over the crowd and out to center and the power alleys during April, May, and June. Crank it up and we’ll all be happy.

  • one174

    Never mind 13 years of mostly failure at Safeco. These “kids” will eventually adapt and hit at Safeco like they do on the road. Never mind that year after year the M’s batting average stinks. Never mind that Safeco is where good hitters go to die. Aurelia, Cirillo, and many others, make your own list. How about Beltre whose average dropped 69 points the year he arrived and went up 56 points the year he left? The Big Leagues are FULL of players who couldn’t hit til they got out of Safeco. Even Bloomquist, who is now hitting .287 for the Diamondbacks. Couldn’t be the park. Why on earth would you change anything? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Move in the fences. Change the background. Fill up the park with dehumidifiers. Turn off the lights. Do SOMETHING!

    • Dr. Bones

      My vote goes to a giant fan blowing warm air over the crowd and out to center and the power alleys during April, May, and June. Crank it up and we’ll all be happy.

  • jafabian

    The fences didn’t make a difference when the M’s first moved into Safeco Field. Smoak needs to quit going for the fences and start using the entire field when the team plays at home. Sure, moving the fences in would be great for the hitters but what about the pitchers? Instead of losing 3-1 games they’d start losing at 8-4 scores. Safeco Field made Paul Abbott a 17 game winner.

    Only half the season is played at Safeco. What’s the excuse when they’re on the road? Professionals make adjustments. Not all fields are the same. Instead of trying to jack the ball out the hitters should focus on using the field more, getting on base and moving the runner over.

  • jafabian

    The fences didn’t make a difference when the M’s first moved into Safeco Field. Smoak needs to quit going for the fences and start using the entire field when the team plays at home. Sure, moving the fences in would be great for the hitters but what about the pitchers? Instead of losing 3-1 games they’d start losing at 8-4 scores. Safeco Field made Paul Abbott a 17 game winner.

    Only half the season is played at Safeco. What’s the excuse when they’re on the road? Professionals make adjustments. Not all fields are the same. Instead of trying to jack the ball out the hitters should focus on using the field more, getting on base and moving the runner over.

  • Lodowick

    Houston…we have separation. The booster rocket Mariner has achieved its purpose of lifting competitors toward the heavens and has now disengaged, fuel spent, and is in free fall toward the Sound. Promethean attempt. Sisyphusian result.

  • Lodowick

    Houston…we have separation. The booster rocket Mariner has achieved its purpose of lifting competitors toward the heavens and has now disengaged, fuel spent, and is in free fall toward the Sound. Promethean attempt. Sisyphusian result.

  • brandon

    Mariners need new ownership, pure and simple. We are tired
    of waiting for the big turn-around. This organization has done NOTHING to try
    to improve itself; it wants to spend as little money as possible and hope. The Mariners
    used to have a $100+ million pay-roll; we’ve turned that into an $80million
    Tripple-A team!!! Year after year Jack Z collects his pay, while big free
    agents go elsewhere. STOP FOCUSING SOLY ON DEFENCE!! & GOOD PITCHING IS GREAT, BUT
    POINTLESS IF YOU CAN’T SCORE!! SIGN A HITTER!!

  • brandon

    Mariners need new ownership, pure and simple. We are tired
    of waiting for the big turn-around. This organization has done NOTHING to try
    to improve itself; it wants to spend as little money as possible and hope. The Mariners
    used to have a $100+ million pay-roll; we’ve turned that into an $80million
    Tripple-A team!!! Year after year Jack Z collects his pay, while big free
    agents go elsewhere. STOP FOCUSING SOLY ON DEFENCE!! & GOOD PITCHING IS GREAT, BUT
    POINTLESS IF YOU CAN’T SCORE!! SIGN A HITTER!!

  • FloydZ

    And yet the 2001 Mariners, playing at the same ballpark, hit for a .288 average and an .805 OPS. And they didn’t have a Griffey or A-Rod or any other “slugger”-type players. Olerud and Edgar weren’t considered power hitters, but they managed to hit over 20 homers while averaging over .300. Every starter hit over .250 . . . in the same ballpark as today. In 2006 the team average was .272; in 2007 it was .287; and as late as 2008 it was .265. The fact that the current bunch of players has been mired at a team average of about .234 for the past 3 years is a testament to the players, not the ballpark. Moving the fences in is akin to a whiner changing the rules of the game when he can’t win. The current crop of Mariners just plain can’t hit. Maybe they will, eventually. But altering the field to compensate for a poor batting team just seems wrong. And as many others have pointed out, why is it that visiting teams seem to hit just fine at Safeco? Bringing in the fences will help the visiting teams score runs as much as it would the M’s.

  • FloydZ

    And yet the 2001 Mariners, playing at the same ballpark, hit for a .288 average and an .805 OPS. And they didn’t have a Griffey or A-Rod or any other “slugger”-type players. Olerud and Edgar weren’t considered power hitters, but they managed to hit over 20 homers while averaging over .300. Every starter hit over .250 . . . in the same ballpark as today. In 2006 the team average was .272; in 2007 it was .287; and as late as 2008 it was .265. The fact that the current bunch of players has been mired at a team average of about .234 for the past 3 years is a testament to the players, not the ballpark. Moving the fences in is akin to a whiner changing the rules of the game when he can’t win. The current crop of Mariners just plain can’t hit. Maybe they will, eventually. But altering the field to compensate for a poor batting team just seems wrong. And as many others have pointed out, why is it that visiting teams seem to hit just fine at Safeco? Bringing in the fences will help the visiting teams score runs as much as it would the M’s.