BY Art Thiel 11:16PM 07/21/2014

Thiel: Mariners win as Lloyd quietly makes do

Manager said “nothing was more grueling” than the Anaheim series. But he won’t publicly ask for more hitting help. For a night, he didn’t need it — Mariners top Mets, 5-2.

Lloyd McClendon is attempting to be patient while working with little margin for error. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

During his pre-game press briefing Monday night, Lloyd McClendon was interrupted by a ring from his desktop phone. He answered.

“I got the press here, Jack,” he said, and hung up. Naturally, we encouraged McClendon to put the the Mariners general manager on the speaker, but he politely declined. Then I imagined what I would have said if I were the Seattle manager taking that call:

“#$%^&, Jack! We were one hit in two games from sweeping the Angels on the road — they’re the best @#$%&*  team in the game. Thirty-seven  #$%^& innings,  we lose two and burn up the bullpen and Cano’s legs are sore. What the &%$#@ are you doing?! Get me a %$#@& hitter before both our asses get fired!”

Something like that. McClendon would have been saltier.

Before the relatively easy 5-2 win home win Monday night over the New York Mets, the Mariners lost eight of their past 13, and five of the losses were by one or two runs. None were more agonizing than the weekend pair in Anaheim: 3-2 in 16 innings Friday and 6-5 Sunday.

Even McClendon, usually sparing when it comes to characterizing one game or series over another, could not mask the chore of playing hard and well and coming up short.

“Nothing,” he said, “was more grueling than the series in Anaheim.”

The teams featured brilliant pitching that thwarted offenses, which says much about Mariners pitching. Yet margins for error were minuscule.

Which is a large part of why many fans were agitated about Fernando Rodney’s imaginary arrow routine at the end of the eighth inning that seemed to irk the Angels into sarcastic mimicry after beating him in the ninth.

McClendon was having no part of the pantomime show influencing the outcome.

“I heard somebody say (Rodney’s arrow gesture to the dugout) fired up the Angels,” he said. “That’s a bunch of baloney.  They understand the importance of these games as well as we do.  The fact is, they had the best all-around player (Mike Trout) in the game up there, and a Hall of Famer (Albert Pujols) hitting behind him. That had a lot to do with winning the game, not Rodney’s arrow shooting.”

After the game, Trout and Pujols denied any malice toward Rodney, a former Angel who had his run-ins with manager Mike Scioscia. It’s highly doubtful that the next time the teams meet, Pujols and Trout seek to hit the ball harder when Rodney is on the mound.

McClendon even sounded a little Pete Carroll-ish in indulging the hijinks.

“This is an entertainment,” he said.  “Guys have all these signs for (hitting feats). I don’t know what they mean. Everybody’s got celebrations in the dugout. Somebody shoots arrows.

“In the old days, a guy does something you don’t like, you go out and fight. They don’t do that anymore.”

In the absence of someone charging the mound, bat in hand, I’ll buy McClendon’s view that an exchange of 14th-century imaginary weaponry is not even up to the standards of a sorority pillow fight.

But the fact that sideshows suddenly become topics of baseball intrigue suggest that fans are increasingly up for growing the romance. The exhausting weekend drama that went to the Angels 2-1 left Seattle 3-3 in the most recent series against the teams ahead of them in the AL West, Oakland and Anaheim.

They are close.

That only intensifies the drumbeat to add hitting talent. McClendon was asked if the paucity of offense against the Angels ratcheted up the pressure to deal prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

After a pregnant pause, he said, “My job is to to manage the team. I’m not trying to dodge your question . . . Our job to go out and do the best we can.”

Question dodged, Lloyd. I get it. You can’t say anything.

The facts speak for themselves. To cite one example, the DH position, Detroit,  McClendon’s old club, leads the American League with a .314 average and a .944 OPS. The Mariners DHs are last, hit .193 with a .567 OPS.

A drop of nearly 400 points from what he’s used to must be a shock to McClendon. But the show must go on, without conveying that anything is #$%%&* wrong.

Smoak optioned; starter to be summoned

After the game in which he was o-for-3 with a walk to drop his average to .208, first baseman Justin Smoak was optioned to AAA Tacoma. He’s making roster room for a starting pitcher Wednesday, as yet unnamed. Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 4.58 ERA) is starting Tuesday.

“We have three first basemen, so it’s tough,”  McClendon said, referring to Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. “It’s the numbers.”

Smoak was recalled from Tacoma July 11 after rehabbing a strained left quad, but his production hasn’t picked up.


Displaying hops no one knew he had, Dustin Ackley in the sixth inning reached over the fence to snag away a home run from Travis d’Arnaud. “I wasn’t sure I had it until I came down,” he said. “I felt like something was in there.” . . . Mike Zunino’s third-inning home run, his 14th, traveled 415 feet into the second deck . . . Starting pitcher Roenis Elias was pitching a stout game, allowing only a run on six hits with eight strikeouts, when he had to come out after 5.1 innings because of a cramp in his left forearm. It was not a big deal, “but I didn’t want to take a chance,” McClendon said. He won his first game since June 22, but it added another long evening for the bullpen. Four relievers allowed no earned runs and four hits . . . Brad Miller was given the night off at shortstop, and Willie Bloomquist responded with two singles and a double in his first three at-bats in the leadoff spot. He’s batting .284 as a starter.




  • Tim

    20/20 hindsight: Nelson Cruz was the answer back in the offseason. There. I said it. But, it’s not like they didn’t know…

    • Eric K

      I think Cruz was using the same strategy Beltre used when he was an undervalued free agent, sign a one year deal at a park that is great for right handed power hitters so he can put up big numbers, Fenway worked for Beltre and now Camden is for Cruz , Ms never had a shot at him even they wanted him.

      I think they need to resign themselves to the fact that they’ll only be able to get stud right handed hitters via trade, FAs with options will be out.

      • art thiel

        That has been the truth since the park opened in ’99, and moving in the fences didn’t change the perception of pitcher friendliness.

    • art thiel

      Probably true. Doesn’t mean he wanted to come here. If you were a slugger with choices, what home park would to take: Safeco or Camden?

  • Jamo57

    I’m sure Lloyd has fantasies of such a conversation with Jack, and I would imagine Jack daydreams about following through on such a conversation with Lloyd, but the sad fact is it’s the opposite that will keep them employed with the Ms. In other words, quiet ‘Yes Men’ who ‘play the hand they’re dealt’ so to speak.

    It’s left to the radio and TV guys to ‘upgrade’ the Ms talent by pitching to the audience how close to being the ’27 Yankees these guys are.

    That’s right out of the Mariner standard operating procedure manual.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think it’s unique to the Mariners. There’s almost always some tension between the manager and GM, even when one hired the other. But 12 years gone from the playoffs, it’s easy to presume the worst here.

  • Jack Z. Savage

    Hey, at least we now know where Ackley belongs. In the National League! TTMFA!!!

    • art thiel

      That’s still a major league, right?

  • 1coolguy

    When looking over the lineup and knowing JZ has been the head talent guy since 2008, I can find little to no value in his efforts. Anyone could have paid out $240m over 10 years (way above market, as the market was nowhere close) for a player – that didn’t take any skill.
    The area he has done well in is pitching, which of course has been the basis for their success this year.
    So what do we do with a guy that is 6 years into a body of work that has produced no every day players (James Jones excepted)?
    Of the 15 AL teams , the M’s are 11th in average.
    Interestingly, ALL teams 9th and above have scored more than 400 runs while ALL teams 10 – 15 have scored less than 400 runs.
    I give kudos to JZ for the pitching staff, which includes the AL’s best pitcher who was an M before the JZ reign.
    I say 6 years is long enough to establish a body of work and JZ has to go –

    • art thiel

      He has a lot of cred riding on Ackley, Miller and Smoak. But he gets credit for Seager, Jones and Zunino. Now that we’re into it, this season needs to play out.

      • 1coolguy

        I agree Art – those 3 are his boys and so far are failures. Zunino has been a good defensive catcher and somehow, with a miserable BA has hit 14 homers, which qualifies him as a keeper.
        One only has to look at the thin minor league rosters to know JZ has failed. I say replace him the day after the season is over.

        • Trygvesture

          A different owner would ask– “Why wait?” The Lincster will count the Zman yessir/yessirs and just ask, “Why?”