BY Art Thiel 07:38PM 07/01/2012

Thiel: Great pitching, stern lectures not enough

Mariners squander another outstanding pitching effort, this one by Jason Vargas, and reach the seasonal midpoint going nowhere. Again.

Manager Eric Wedge, right, can't be accused of giving mixed signals this season. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

On a day when the Mariners were accorded the mandatory minimum allotment of berths in the All Star Game (one), while six others of Mariners heritage made the gig (Adrian Beltre, Asdrubal Cabrera, R.A. Dickey,Adam Jones, Bryan LaHair and David Ortiz), the current assemblage gurgled, twisted and twitched before spitting up a close defeat to a good team it should have beaten.

How’s that for a short-term and long-term summary of the Mariners at the halfway point of 2012?

This is a team that can at times be competitive with the best, but can sustain almost nothing because most of the prime-time guys that should be the heart of this team are playing elsewhere. For Mariners fans, the word exasperation gets about halfway there in describing the futility.

For manager Eric Wedge, he sometimes seems halfway to crazy, but if the listener cups ears and squints eyes, it’s possible to understand what he sees. Sorta.

Over four games, the prodigious offense of the Red Sox was held to nine runs and 30 hits. They were 3-for-27 with runners in scoring position. And yet after a 2-1 win in 10 innings Sunday, Boston had a series split and no one was more thrilled than Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

“We played four games here and their pitching was very, very good,” he said. “I’m glad we were able to score two runs and get out of here with a split.”

Unsurprisingly, Wedge’s emotions were found 180 degrees away.

“When you make (Boston starter Felix Doubront) throws 100 pitches in 4 1/3 innings — you need to do a helluva lot more” than one run, he said. The Mariners had their usual tiny ladle of four hits, but had seven walks and a hit batter, yet could do nothing save for third-inning run off a sacrifice fly by Ichiro.

“We had plenty of guys up there to get a big hit for us,” Wedge said. “We should have been in better position at the end to win; a chance to take three out of four against a pretty good ballclub, you gotta finish those games off.”

But for one pitch that turned into an eighth-inning home run from Dustin Pedroia, Mariners starter Jason Vargas was a stud, giving up only four other hits over eight innings. But as been the case most of the season, and for most of three seasons, the Mariners do not have enough major league average hitters to support splendid pitching, much less average pitching.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this year’s trudge to the bottom of the American League West is the absolute, resolute belief by the manager that this franchise is on the right track.

Never in my time covering the Mariners have I heard a manager speak with such unqualified conviction about the eventual fate of this outfit. As you may have heard, Wedge went off publicly after the 5-0 loss Friday in which they were dispatched on two hits and 81 pitches by journeyman Aaron Cook. Saturday, he went off privately, closing the clubhouse doors for 22 minutes to lay figurative wood on a team that can’t lay literal wood on a baseball.

Sunday morning, he seemed a little spent, which at first he attributed to a pre-game workout. He finally got around to owning up to a little emotional fatigue.

“Yesterday was a long day,” he said, meaning more than the 11 innings it took to beat the Red Sox 3-2. “I said things yesterday that weren’t easy to say, but needed to be said.”

Then he repeated the theme he began in spring training despite the fact that the Mariners are deeper in the hole (34-47) than they were a year ago when they lost 95 games.

“It’s important for everyone to understand that we are going to do this,” he said of playing championship baseball. “It’s a matter of whether you’re going to be part of it or not. There’s no ifs, no in-betweens, no 99 percent. I have 100 percent confidence that we will accomplish what set out to do. It takes special people in that locker room to make that happen. We’ll see.

“It’s important for people to understand what my intentions are and what my belief system is. No more, no less than that. Confidence is a powerful thing. I’ve got good reason to believe what I believe.”

Hearing that, most people would be ready to charge through a wall. Most people, however, wouldn’t be Mariners’ fans, who’ve spent most of a sports lifetime merely beating their heads against the wall.

That’s the most difficult part of Wedge’s message. Everything he says is true, but it is laid out atop a moribund franchise that is exactly like most of its current hitters — in between. Years of poor personnel decisions and mysterious governance have left them reliant on hope and force of will instead of baseball talent.

Wedge can lecture all he wants, and he won’t make Ichiro hit more line drives, won’t make Justin Smoak more confident, won’t make Miguel Olivo more disciplined, won’t make Jesus Montero older or Brendan Ryan stronger.

Time and experience are going help some of these guys; for others, it is too late. As much as Wedge strains to pull them along, the previous years of baggage is burdensome.

Not saying he shouldn’t have called out his team; that’s what managers are supposed to do after debacles like Friday. But he screams into a void that can only be filled by years and years of talent growth and acquisition. Some might argue this, but I don’t find among position players in the clubhouse any slackers, poseurs or phonies.

The concern is whether their shortcomings are going to pile up as they did a year ago starting Friday, when the Mariners began a club-record 17-game losing streak. Back then, it was Wedge’s first year, and expectations were minimal. This season, Wedge has expectations, even if many others have ceased to share them.

Wedge remains undeterred.

“I will say this,” he said. “For those fans who get on board now — and I understand they are skeptical; that’s a part of it — they’ll have a much more enjoyable ride; that much more satisfying for them.”

Getting on board the bandwagon would be so much easier if there were more than five runs to talk about in the past 39 innings, and more than a team .197 batting average at home this season.

But I doubt Wedge has an alternative position. If he is any less intense and absolute, where does that leave the Mariners? Might get him fired, which has always been the scapegoat of choice for club ownership, but it won’t be because he wasn’t as clear, obvious and direct as a David Ortiz hack at a middle-in fastball.


YourThoughts

  • Old Goat

    Saint Wedge is developing a much more notable “twitch”. It reminds me somewhat of Herbert Lom from the old Pink Panther movies, the only difference being unlike the Ms offense sometimes Inspector Clouseau got lucky. Between the players that are pitching their hearts out to no avail and Wedge who somehow stays positive I think we have several M’s that are nearing sainthood.

    • Artthiel

       I like it. Wedge as Inspector Dreyfus. Replace the Moose with with the Pink Panther.

  • Old Goat

    Saint Wedge is developing a much more notable “twitch”. It reminds me somewhat of Herbert Lom from the old Pink Panther movies, the only difference being unlike the Ms offense sometimes Inspector Clouseau got lucky. Between the players that are pitching their hearts out to no avail and Wedge who somehow stays positive I think we have several M’s that are nearing sainthood.

    • Artthiel

       I like it. Wedge as Inspector Dreyfus. Replace the Moose with with the Pink Panther.

  • RadioGuy

    Ha ha, Old Goat, great reference…I could see Wedgie saying “I’m going to KILL you, bwahahaha!” to some batter who watched a called third strike to end an inning with a runner on third.

    God it hurt reading those names, Art.  Who knew about Ortiz but Jones should never have been dealt away for Bedard, Cabrera AND Choo should still be in Seattle, you never give up on a knuckleballer like Dickey because they eat innings like Kobayashi eats hot dogs, LaHair was given away after never being given a fair chance and it’s safe to say that Beltre has done just fine since leaving Safeco.  Oh well, hindsight is what it is.

    Boston may be the only team more happy to get away from Safeco than the Mariners…Seattle’s pitching for the entire series was superb.  But the hitting?  Argghh!  They’re swinging the bats like they’re afraid to fail.  Tough to watch.

    • Artthiel

       And the list didn’t even have A-Rod. To be fair, lots of teams passed on LaHair and Dickey. But Jones is a killa.

  • RadioGuy

    Ha ha, Old Goat, great reference…I could see Wedgie saying “I’m going to KILL you, bwahahaha!” to some batter who watched a called third strike to end an inning with a runner on third.

    God it hurt reading those names, Art.  Who knew about Ortiz but Jones should never have been dealt away for Bedard, Cabrera AND Choo should still be in Seattle, you never give up on a knuckleballer like Dickey because they eat innings like Kobayashi eats hot dogs, LaHair was given away after never being given a fair chance and it’s safe to say that Beltre has done just fine since leaving Safeco.  Oh well, hindsight is what it is.

    Boston may be the only team more happy to get away from Safeco than the Mariners…Seattle’s pitching for the entire series was superb.  But the hitting?  Argghh!  They’re swinging the bats like they’re afraid to fail.  Tough to watch.

    • Artthiel

       And the list didn’t even have A-Rod. To be fair, lots of teams passed on LaHair and Dickey. But Jones is a killa.

  • Bayviewherb

    watch for Olivo, Ryan and Figgins to either be traded or released. Olivo is a veteran third catcher that doesn’t need one. Ryan is an acrobat on defense but look for another team like the Dodgers that need help at SS and perhaps another power team that doesn’t expect offense from a SS. Then there is Chone. Apparenty they don’t want to wastethe huge alery he is contracted for. Get real. They already have. Open jup a roster spot for one of the many overachievers in AAA  

    • Artthiel

       Those three are throw ins on a deal involving Vargas. No team will seek them on their own.

  • Bayviewherb

    watch for Olivo, Ryan and Figgins to either be traded or released. Olivo is a veteran third catcher that doesn’t need one. Ryan is an acrobat on defense but look for another team like the Dodgers that need help at SS and perhaps another power team that doesn’t expect offense from a SS. Then there is Chone. Apparenty they don’t want to wastethe huge alery he is contracted for. Get real. They already have. Open jup a roster spot for one of the many overachievers in AAA  

    • Artthiel

       Those three are throw ins on a deal involving Vargas. No team will seek them on their own.

  • FedUp

    My brain can’t seem to retain the name of our current manager and GM in the same way that I can’t seem to find memory space to learn new phone numbers. What’s the point, anymore? 

    • Artthiel

       I’m sure there’s an app for autosaving Mariners managers/execs.

  • FedUp

    My brain can’t seem to retain the name of our current manager and GM in the same way that I can’t seem to find memory space to learn new phone numbers. What’s the point, anymore? 

    • Artthiel

       I’m sure there’s an app for autosaving Mariners managers/execs.

  • LeonRussell

    SOS from Wedge.  What a joke.  What Wedge says means nothing.  Makes no difference at all.  All managers say this same shet when their teams play badly.  Does Wedge honestly think what he says will make any difference, or is he just putting on a show?

    This team has almost no talent.  How can any manager win without talent?

    As I wrote about a month ago, after a similar rant by Wedge, Wedge should just shut up and stop making a fool of himself.  This is not his fault   He has no talent to work with.  

    And if the pitching comes back down to earth in the second half, this is going to get really, really ugly.

    By the way, not even close to one game sold out for a weekend series against the Red Sox?   Those games used to be sold out before the season started every year.  I’ll be there’s still a lot of tickets left for when the Yankees come to town this month, also.

    This should be a lesson for all the pathetic NBA fans in this town:  a new stadium/arena doesn’t make any difference at all, if the team playing in it isn’t worth a dam.

    • Artthiel

       Flowers to Leon. He needs cheering up.

      Wedge cannot say nothing. That was part of what fired Wakamatsu. Wedge also has to manage up (front office) and out (fans and media) , which is what a lot of the words are aimed at. But he’s not a phony — he believes what he says.

      Although I’d go real light on the “I didn’t come out there to fail” rhetoric. M’s managers are set up to fail.

  • LeonRussell

    SOS from Wedge.  What a joke.  What Wedge says means nothing.  Makes no difference at all.  All managers say this same shet when their teams play badly.  Does Wedge honestly think what he says will make any difference, or is he just putting on a show?

    This team has almost no talent.  How can any manager win without talent?

    As I wrote about a month ago, after a similar rant by Wedge, Wedge should just shut up and stop making a fool of himself.  This is not his fault   He has no talent to work with.  

    And if the pitching comes back down to earth in the second half, this is going to get really, really ugly.

    By the way, not even close to one game sold out for a weekend series against the Red Sox?   Those games used to be sold out before the season started every year.  I’ll be there’s still a lot of tickets left for when the Yankees come to town this month, also.

    This should be a lesson for all the pathetic NBA fans in this town:  a new stadium/arena doesn’t make any difference at all, if the team playing in it isn’t worth a dam.

    • Artthiel

       Flowers to Leon. He needs cheering up.

      Wedge cannot say nothing. That was part of what fired Wakamatsu. Wedge also has to manage up (front office) and out (fans and media) , which is what a lot of the words are aimed at. But he’s not a phony — he believes what he says.

      Although I’d go real light on the “I didn’t come out there to fail” rhetoric. M’s managers are set up to fail.

  • Will

    Rooting for the Mariners is akin to rooting for a squirrel on a cage wheel. No matter what, they continue to spin and go exactly nowhere.

    • Artthiel

       Now that the Wash Nattys are the best team in NL, they may well make the World Series, leaving the Mariners as the last team in MLB without the honor.

  • Will

    Rooting for the Mariners is akin to rooting for a squirrel on a cage wheel. No matter what, they continue to spin and go exactly nowhere.

    • Artthiel

       Now that the Wash Nattys are the best team in NL, they may well make the World Series, leaving the Mariners as the last team in MLB without the honor.

  • Old Goat

    Especially if the Squirrel gets loose and ends up flattened in the road.

  • Old Goat

    Especially if the Squirrel gets loose and ends up flattened in the road.

  • Pingback: Hickey: Big Papi a big fan of Mariners’ pitching | Seattle Mariners

  • jafabian

    All the problems the team has been having offensively at home makes the early years at Safeco even more impressive.  But really, the difference is that a veteran team made up the club whereas this is a young one.

    • Will

      They’re up and down like a yo-yo, spinning all the while.  Seriously, if you’ve ever followed a team having the occasional low time but then bounces back, that’s a very different experience (I once lived in SF and LA) … the Mariners are in the dictionary … look up “futility”.

      • Artthiel

         Actually, it’s a function of too much youth in too many positions, and too much old in two — RF and C.

    • Artthiel

       Lots of veteran crust on the 01 team. Also before steroids were a bad thing.

  • jafabian

    All the problems the team has been having offensively at home makes the early years at Safeco even more impressive.  But really, the difference is that a veteran team made up the club whereas this is a young one.

    • Will

      They’re up and down like a yo-yo, spinning all the while.  Seriously, if you’ve ever followed a team having the occasional low time but then bounces back, that’s a very different experience (I once lived in SF and LA) … the Mariners are in the dictionary … look up “futility”.

      • Artthiel

         Actually, it’s a function of too much youth in too many positions, and too much old in two — RF and C.

    • Artthiel

       Lots of veteran crust on the 01 team. Also before steroids were a bad thing.

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

    Let us not forget about Michael Morse and Shin Soo-Choo.  If either were still with Seattle, they would easily be the best hitter in our lineup.

    • Artthiel

       Aren’t you too young to remember those guys?

    • RadioGuy

      Shoot, I’d totally forgotten about Morse.  Another giveaway of a guy who could play multiple positions but kept getting jacked around and never got a legitimate shot in Seattle.  Now I really want to barf.

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

    Let us not forget about Michael Morse and Shin Soo-Choo.  If either were still with Seattle, they would easily be the best hitter in our lineup.

    • Artthiel

       Aren’t you too young to remember those guys?

    • RadioGuy

      Shoot, I’d totally forgotten about Morse.  Another giveaway of a guy who could play multiple positions but kept getting jacked around and never got a legitimate shot in Seattle.  Now I really want to barf.

  • Kelly B Peterson

    I’m wondering why no one is seeing a correlation with Mariners hitting in 2010, 2011, and 2012 with this announcement in February of 2010.  Think any other teams will sign up after Mariners exclusive agreement is over at end of season?  http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20100225&content_id=8139880&vkey=pr_sea&fext=.jsp&c_id=sea

  • Kelly B Peterson

    I’m wondering why no one is seeing a correlation with Mariners hitting in 2010, 2011, and 2012 with this announcement in February of 2010.  Think any other teams will sign up after Mariners exclusive agreement is over at end of season?  http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20100225&content_id=8139880&vkey=pr_sea&fext=.jsp&c_id=sea

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

    I should also add that the team’s offensive approach is what leads to a lack of run production.  With a lineup lacking a true power hitter, the Mariners must play “small ball” every single home game.  No hitter should be immune to laying down a bunt or executing a hit and run.  Every time the M’s manage to get a runner to first with less than one man out, I’m having the next guy lay one down if I’m Jeff Datz- especially when we’ve shown we can’t string together hits or hit for power.

    Safeco Field was built for team’s to play small ball.  The Mariners have lost sight of that over the past three years.  Instead they opt to complain about how the fences are too deep.

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

    I should also add that the team’s offensive approach is what leads to a lack of run production.  With a lineup lacking a true power hitter, the Mariners must play “small ball” every single home game.  No hitter should be immune to laying down a bunt or executing a hit and run.  Every time the M’s manage to get a runner to first with less than one man out, I’m having the next guy lay one down if I’m Jeff Datz- especially when we’ve shown we can’t string together hits or hit for power.

    Safeco Field was built for team’s to play small ball.  The Mariners have lost sight of that over the past three years.  Instead they opt to complain about how the fences are too deep.