By his own admission, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon stays awake at night wondering what to do about his mystifying and under-performing ball club.
Mariner fans of a certain vintage (or dotage) will recall a ghastly streak that befell the franchise from April 24-30, 1986, when a Seattle lineup featuring Gorman Thomas, Phil Bradley, Jim Presley, Spike Owen and Danny Tartabull endured an epic strikeout spree that helped turn Chuck Cottier’s managerial career into a face plant.
In a four-game debacle at Oakland, the Mariners fanned 47 times, including 16 April 24 (Jose Rijo had 14 of the 16). The Mariners then moved to Fenway Park in Boston, where they fanned 36 times in two games, including a major league record 20 by Roger Clemens April 29.
That 1986 team, having warmed up for the spree with 18 K’s against Oakland April 18, went on to strike out a franchise-record 1,148 times, a futility mark that stood until 2011, when an Eric Wedge club was punched out 1,280 times, or 7.9 K’s per outing.
Today we have the Jack Zduriencik/Lloyd McClendon mess, anointed a World Series contender when spring training ended, and now the most baffling team in the majors – even to its own manager.
“I find myself sitting in bed at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning trying to figure out what the hell is going on,” McClendon told reporters Tuesday. “At some point — and I’m not like the masses — but at some point we’ve got to get it going. You have to start showing signs of coming out of this — or do something drastic if we don’t.”
Almost time for drastic: On their current track, the Mariners will strike out 1,330 times, 8.21 per contest, obliterating the 2011 franchise record.
Three months into their 39th season, the Mariners have fanned 13 or more times in a game 10 times, including 16 once (May 28 vs. Cleveland) and 15 twice (April 13 at L.A. Dodgers and May 8 vs. Oakland).
To illustrate the stupefying lameness that stat represents, the following are the most 13+ strikeout games recorded by Mariners teams by June 30:
|2015||Lloyd McClendon||10||15+ strikeouts 3 times, including 16 vs. Clev May 28|
|2013||Eric Wedge||8||K’d 19 times twice: by Detroit April 17, CWS June 5|
|1986||Chuck Cottier||6||Boston’s Roger Clemens recorded 20 K’s April 29|
|2012||Eric Wedge||6||Worse yet to come: M’s K’d 20 times by LAA Sept. 25|
|2014||Lloyd McCllendon||4||In three of the games, Mariners whiffed 14 times|
|2002||Lou Piniella||3||Mariners whiffed 14 times vs. Texas April 20|
|2011||Eric Wedge||3||Mariners fanned a franchise-record 1,280 times|
In 18 seasons, mostly recently 2009, the Mariners reached June 30 without one such game. In 11 other years, most recently 2006, they had one such game by June 30.
No wonder the Mariners are on track to score 549 runs, a total that would be the second-lowest by an American League club in the past 20 years. It probably figures that only the 2010 Mariners scored fewer, 513.
But the trend is worse than it looks. The Mariners scored 79 runs in 22 games (3.59 per) in April and 107 in 28 games in May (3.82). This month, the Mariners have tallied 62 in 23 games, 2.69 per contest. With four games remaining before the calendar flips, that makes this the worst-scoring month in franchise history:
|2015||Lloyd McClendon||June||23||62||2.69||No runs in 5 games|
|1988||Dick Williams||June||27||73||2.70||Williams fired June 5|
|2011||Eric Wedge||July||26||72||2.76||.218 team batting avg.|
|1983||Rene Lachemann||May||26||73||2.80||Lachemann fired May 6|
|2014||Lloyd McClendon||July||25||73||2.92||Season-low .644 OPS|
|1983||Rene Lachemann||April||24||74||3.08||Mariners ended 60-102|
|1986||Chuck Cottier||April||21||74||3.52||Cottier fired May 7|
No wonder McClendon stays up half the night. And this will keep him up even longer: The year before the Mariners signed Robinson Cano (2013), they averaged 3.85 runs per game. In the season and a half since lavishing Cano with a $240 million contract, the Mariners have averaged 3.75. Since adding Nelson Cruz, they have averaged 3.39, including 2.69 this month.
So the Mariners committed $297 million to two players and their scoring goes down? The only conclusion to draw is that if the Mariners magically added Babe Ruth in his prime, they would hit fewer home runs.
On the first day of spring training in Peoria (Feb. 25), McClendon addressed the issue of the big expectations surrounding his team. He told reporters:
“Expectations are very high, and that’s OK. I understand it. But we can’t get caught up in expectations . . . I think we’ll be up to the task. Good players win championships, and Jack (Zduriencik) has gone out and provided us more talent to give us a better opportunity to get that done.”
Two days ago, with expectations largely dashed, McClendon sang this tune:
“The outside expectations for the Mariners are getting to the point where they’re absolutely ridiculous.”
Before long, McClendon won’t be going to sleep at all.
After playing 42 games in 44 days, the Mariners took Thursday off. They will begin a three-game series in Anaheim Friday against the Angels. Taijuan Walker (5-6, 4.94) will oppose RHP Matt Shoemaker (4-5, 5.20) in the series opener.