Picked preseason as a team that could exceed .500, the Mariners are on their way to 90 losses. What should they do with Jack Z and Eric Wedge?
It’s happening again.
The Mariners (66-84 before Tuesday’s game) are winding down another losing season, their eighth in the last 10 years. It’s becoming more difficult to envision the end-game in general manager Jack Zduriencik’s rebuilding plan.
The Mariners are 24th in runs (576), 27th in batting average (.239), 26th in on-base percentage (.306) and 21st in slugging percentage (.390) after spending the off-season “upgrading” their offense. The John Jaso/Michael Morse trade has revealed itself a bust. Filling the back end of the starting rotation with Brandon Maurer, Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders was the worst idea since this. Or this.
Catcher Jesus Montero, formerly pegged as a 25-30 home run, middle-of-the-order type, whiffed his way into a demotion to Tacoma after just 29 games (.208/.267/.590), then the MLB suspended him 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
His fall from respectability mirrored former closer Tom Wilhelmsen’s.
The “Bartender” became bereft of the ability to throw a fastball for a strike, and was eventually demoted to Triple-A Tacoma, where they briefly tried him as a starter. Turned out that not being able to throw strikes in the first inning netted the same result as not being able to throw strikes in the ninth inning.
He has since been recalled and is trying to carve a role as a set-up reliever. He’s done well during the last seven days, throwing five innings, yielding two hits and one run.
But performing well in low-leverage situations has only momentarily halted a tumbling career arc. The Mariners are suffering a similar dip, though their inadequacy is best represented by a level of fan apathy reminiscent of the early Kingdome days. That’s what happens when the fans can count four playoff appearances among 36 years.
There are a few who have separated themselves from the losing culture by having productive seasons. In 148 games, third baseman Kyle Seager has 22 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .271/.343/.788 slash line. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who Seattle acquired in the off-season by trading Jason Vargas to the Angels, has a 2.7 WAR and a .793 OPS in 144 games. Felix Hernandez (5.1 WAR) and Hisashi Iwakuma (6.1) have been dominant at times the top of the rotation.
September call-ups Taijuan Walker (3.60 ERA in three starts) and James Paxton (2-0, 0.75 ERA in two starts) provide hope that the 2014 starting rotation could challenge Oakland for tops in the AL West.
Club officials confirmed on background Zduriencik was given before the winter meetings a one-year extension through 2014. His immediate future seems uncertain because team CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong refused to comment on his job status. They’ve also stayed mum about the future of manager Eric Wedge, whose deal expires at the end of the season. The Mariners are 4-11 in September.
What do you think? Should the Mariners hang on to the current regime for another year, or is it time to begin yet another agonizing rebuild?