BY Adam Lewis 03:01PM 09/17/2013

Grim Mariners season nears end. What now?

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?

RF Michael Morse was injured often and mostly hapless during his second stint with the Mariners, before being traded to Baltimore. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

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?


YourThoughts

  • Emil’s sick of this

    Sixth option: It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference until the team is sold, CEO Howard Lincoln and President Chuck Armstrong are fired and new ownership concerns itself with winning and not just with a return on its investment.

    • Adam Lewis

      By selling the team, the return on their investment would be huge. Forbes evaluates their worth at around $650 million.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.smyth.585 Kevin Smyth

    I’ve followed this team since 1977, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a Mariners season. I had hope at the beginning of the year, but I also believed that having two black holes in the starting rotation, and no legitimate (unbroken) center fielder were potential big problems. I didn’t project a bullpen full of arsonists.

    Jack Zdurencik developed one legit player in Seager, and a bunch of question marks in Saunders, Smoak, Ackley, et, al. He’s made some good deals and bad deals. But most importantly it’s tough to figure out where we are. This season is a big step back from last year, and it isn’t clear how we get to .500 let alone compete for a division. It’s time to let Jack and Wedge go, though the blame must ultimately rest with Lincoln and Armstrong.

    • Adam Lewis

      Don’t forget about Jeremy Bonderman. That’s three black holes in the starting rotation, if you want to get technical.

  • Leon Russell

    “Picked preseason as a team that could exceed .500″
    By whom? The national press pretty unanimously picked the M’s to finish 4th in the A.L. West again this season, and they is where they currently sit. I don’t think anyone except a few Seattle homer sports writers expected the M’s to be worth a dam this year. Why would they? The M’s have only 2 starting pitchers, no bullpen and a joke of an offense.
    So, how about listing all the “experts” who picked the M’s as a team that could exceed .500 this season? Or, was that just your prediction?

    • Trygvesture

      Well, you’re obviously right about the personnel assessment: 2 starters/no bullpen/joke offense. Or, maybe not. Joke of an offense is too kind.
      But the performance predictions were out there, scattered but out there, and based on the agent-generated hype for certain players, on the sell-job by Z et al and by the for-sure slow but steady blkueprint for rebuilding with supposed mmeasurable benchmarks– which were believable because of the fluke of Z’s first year.
      Of course you always get a homer view at home, thus the term. Problem is, outside of SPNW writers, nobody else has the moxie to call out the losers at the corporate exec level on their their specific failings until they’re off the beat or, if they do call out the losers with specifics, they sound amaturish and snarky.

      Those two captains of the Clownship should be publically, professionally and repeatedly skewered six ways from breakfast for the specifics of their duplicity, incompetence and snake-oil thievery for ripping off the taxpayers and non-performance of their contract to operate the stadium for the public benefit: they’ve alientated the public and made stadium visits an unforgiveably overpriced commodity, serving not the public at all while serving the disinterested Ninetendo profiteers nicely.
      The Board should also be called out in like manner– misfeasance would be, I believe, generous in describing their governance as a fiduciarily obligated oversight entity.
      AARRGGHH.

      • Tim

        It’s been to the point that when I turn on sports radio and the M’s are on, I just turn it off. The M’s are a joke and I haven’t been to a game in seven years and refuse to while the current regime including Howard and Lincoln are in charge.

        • zigzags

          I’ve been an M’s fan since I can remember. Even back in the early 90′s when the M’s were horrible, I’d still read about them in the paper every day.

          No more. As soon as I hear the M’s game on 710, I jump straight to KJR or turn on some music. I can’t stand another second of the Mariners.

          I can’t imagine how Rizzs and crew must feel day in and day out covering this team.

    • Adam Lewis
      • Leon Russell

        One blogger picked the M’s to MAYBE get in a one-game playoff to make the post season? lol What a joke. Pretty much without exception, every major national sports publication picked the M’s to finish FOURTH in the AL West.

        SI.com picked the M’s 4th: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130327/baseball-preview-hub/

        Bleacher Report picked the M’s to finish 4th: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1467880-predicting-the-final-2013-mlb-standings

        “4. Seattle Mariners- These last two spots are almost guaranteed to go to the Mariners and Astros and neither team will be competing for a division title in 2013. The only reason Seattle got this spot was because of ace Felix Hernandez.”

        Sports betting lines had the over/under for M’s wins in 2013 at 72: http://www.sportsbettinglines.com/baseball/mlb-season-team-win-totals/

        • Adam Lewis

          The overwhelming sentiment entering the season was that the Mariners could improve on their 77-85 record in 2012. That still made it very possible for them to finish fourth in the AL West.

          Bleacher Report was not a legitimate news source until very recently, so I don’t really take any stock in you citing them.

          Agree to disagree. My point was that I wasn’t pulling the statement out of thin air. Thanks for reading.

          • Leon Russell

            You are wrong. That was not the overwhelming sentiment among the national media whatsoever. The overwhelming sentiment was that the M’s were not going to be any good at all this year. Just like last year. Why do you think the “over/under” for national betting sites for M’s wins in 2013 was 72? Which would be 90 losses, of course.

        • Adam Lewis

          Larry Stone, who I consider among the best baseball writers in the country, chose them to go 83-79, and finish fourth.

          http://blogs.seattletimes.com/hotstoneleague/2013/03/29/comparing-the-2013-and-2012-mariners-plus-a-predicted-record-and-finish/

          • Leon Russell

            Larry Stone is a “homer” Seattle sports writer. Like you.

      • Leon Russell

        Here is an ESPN site which gives 21 different predictions for the 2013 MLB season, and not one of them predicted the M’s would be in the post season this year. And a few predicted 3 teams in the AL West being in the post season, which means the M’s would finish 4th.

        http://espn.go.com/mlb/preview13/story/_/page/13expertpicks/espn-expert-team-predictions-2013-baseball-season

  • Tom

    Easy answer.

    It’s like asking which came first, “the chicken or the egg?”

    The GM may hire the manager, scouts, players, etc. but Chuck and Howard will hire the GMs who best fit their parameters, ideals and expectations. And who knows, maybe Chuck and Howard intervene more than we think. How else do you explain decisions like going through managers as if they’re chewing gum or signing OLDER veterans to expensive or even semi-expensive contracts?

    Until Chuck and Howard are history, this team is going to be stuck in perennial mediocrity like the NY Jets, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, etc.

    • Adam Lewis

      Maybe they should sign Tim Tebow?

  • jafabian

    The entire organization needs to be put on notice. The Seahawks and Sounders have a much stronger brand than the M’s right now. The Huskies are flying high in their updated stadium and Chris Hansen AND the NHL are waiting in the wings. In this economy the Seattle sport dollar can only go so far. Can they really afford to put thru their umpteenth five year rebuilding plan?

    Everyone from players, coaches, scouts, etc should be conveyed on the sense of urgency to win. There’s a danger of a culture of complacency setting in that the club hasn’t seen since the 1980s. You could say it set in sometime after 2003. Take a page from the Lou Pinella playbook and bring in players who want to win. Who can take the heat of a pennant race. If you can’t take it don’t hesitate to get rid of them as Lou did with Mike Schooler among others. Get a plan in place if someone goes down or leaves they can be replaced ASAP. If Justin Smoak goes down, have a player ready to replace him or a deal ready to go to get one. If Carson Smith of the Generals needs to be replaced there’s a plan in place to do that. If anyone in the front office leaves, same thing. Can’t have the “cross that bridge when we come to it” mentality anymore. Especially in a division with the A’s, Rangers and Angels. Each of whom set the goal of winning the division every season.

    Take care of the current players. Lock up Morales and Iwakuma to three year deals. Sign Raul to another year. The goal can’t be simply making the playoffs because that isn’t a guarantee. The goal should be winning the division and doing what needs to be done to make that happen.

    • Effzee

      No. You are still pretending the current product has hope. There is none. The buffoons at the top must go, or no other decisions bear relevance.

    • Adam Lewis

      You sound like a GM in the making, Jafabian.

      • jafabian

        It’s really the blueprint that the Seahawks and to a degree the Sounders are following. And it’s working for them.

        • Effzee

          Now if we could only get some folks in the M’s front office with minds open enough to embrace change, we might have something here. The “blueprint” detailed above will NEVER be followed by the current M’s overlords. Until they go, nothing else matters.

    • art thiel

      It’s all about the absence of accountability. A common malaise of absentee ownership.

      • Trygvesture

        Or, it’s about non-baseball absebtee ownership. It’s perplexing that people continue to think that Yamauchi did us a favor. He was offered the ‘opportunity’ to invest an affordable sum (for him) in a way nobody from Japan had been permitted to invest previously: Gorton called in some political chips and Yamauchi got to purchase an MLB franchise, probably the only sure bet for off-the-charts ROI imaginable. And that’s proven out by the appreciation of the franchise. He won, not us. We even bought the stadium; his business profits mightily. We did him the favor, not vice versa.
        I see that news just broke a few minutes ago that he has passed away. I’m sure this will be a time of grieving for those who knew him and worked for him and I’m sorry for their loss.
        One can’t help but wonder, given the Nintendo ownership, what changes his passing may bring.

  • Will

    There’s no easy or quick fix, except if there’s new owners and new top management. Lincoln and Armstrong can fire Z and W … hell, they could fire the entire team but that won’t improve the M’s. Current management has proven itself to be nothing more than a bunch of bobbleheads.

    • Adam Lewis

      Next season they’re hoping to elevate to Dustin Ackley gnome status.

      • zigzags

        How about Beard Hat night, made from Dustin Ackley’s actual beard?

  • Larry GAHLHOFF

    hahahahahahahahahahaha……….

  • Me

    I worked for a season in a mid managment position at the safe. I’ve always belived you can tell a lot about people by how they treat those they dont have to be nice to. I was floored at the way Lincoln & Amstrong treated people. It is no surprise to me that quality front office people want nothing to do with Seattle. Remember when Gillick “retired” only to show up in Philly a couple years later.

    • art thiel

      If true, that’s a harsh indictment. But is not an unusual outcome when you’re the only ballgame in town.

  • CJ

    Jack is unfortunately another version of Bavasi. He knows how to build 3A but not a contending majors team. Gillick showed us how. Start with the pen. Teams press when worried abou one run.

  • Jeff

    I think the consensus was that the M’s could finish in 4th place, which they will, though I think many thought they could improve on last year’s 75 win finish, maybe win 80 games… nope. I will say that this year’s roster with last year’s bullpen performance would be a winning team. The bullpen collapsed year over year, in their own league with the Astros in woefulness. But I don’t mind that if they aren’t going to contend, just play badly and get the higher draft pick that is protected. Cleveland finished worse than the M’s last year, leading to a great change at manager and a couple good free agent signings with qualifying offers that allowed them to still keep their #1 pick. The M’s “should” be able to sign some top free agents with money coming off books and TV deal, hopefully that decision will be made by people not named Chuck, Howard, Jack or Eric