BY Steve Rudman 12:16PM 06/25/2015

Mariners setting wrong-end-of-history marks

By his own admission, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon stays awake at night wondering what to do about his mystifying and under-performing ball club.

Despite Nelson Cruz’s 19 home runs, the Mariners still don’t generate enough runs. /Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

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:

Year Manager No. Skinny
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:

Year Manager Month Gms. Runs R/PG Skinny
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.


  • Lodowick

    Excellent article. Oh, lord. It will take a special sort of ignition and a special ignitor to get the M’s into the playoffs this year (cue Mora’s PLAYOFFS?!). Say hey, what’s Lou up to these days? But again, I don’t think Lloyd is responsible for the play of all 25 players. You can check his contract but I don’t think that’s in there. And it’s all 25 players and their results that have placed the Mariners where they are at this minute. In last place.

  • Rj Smith

    Trader Jack Z needs to go. He assembled this current mess & over the past 7 years has brought us other offensive stars as J.Wilson, C. Wells, B. Hall, C. Hart, C. Figgins, J. Smoak, D. Ackley, B. Ryan, A. Jackson, R. Weeks, J. Ruggiano, N. Franklin, M.Trumbo, etc.

    Not to mention the fantastic deals he made getting nothing for Washburn & Fister. Speaking of Doug Fister….. not only would he look pretty decent in the M’s rotation, but I swear in all honesty, he is a better hitter than Ackley & it’s not even close. Dead serious.

    • Trygvesture

      JZ is a very bad GM. He just IS. Why pretend otherwise? He can’t put a team together– no idea what a balanced team looks like in personnel terms. Plus, he can’t evaluate talent except for minor leaguers and, in some cases, he’s been pretty good at all-star seeing pitchers. He saw a good one in Pineda, and knew somebody would take him off their hands for little or no return. Ditto Cliff Lee; ditto Fister et al. Most don’t see Z as competent, let alone likeable; not even close to believable with his smarm talk.
      The M’s have been good when they had a competent GM; bad when they haven’t, right? Sure, Gillick traded the farm to win. But they won. He had a great and balanced team and a manager to match and fit the players’ needs to be their best. Sure, Woody brought Lou, but that was for the PR value. Turned out to end up a great working combination with Gillick in charge.
      Working for Lincoln seems to preclude sustainable excellence — history would say that people with real baseball cred can’t stand him and leave. So, Z somehow pleases Lincoln’s style in the meeting room and executive memoing, slips out of blame by snide and smarmy remarks to the media about players– and remains here as the best proof of the Peter Principle ever.

      • Rj Smith

        Yeah Trader Jack Z is definitely awful. It’s a toss up between him & Bavasi as to who damaged the franchise the most. It is going to take a very long time to recover from the mess those 2 made. I live in Chicago, the Cubs brought in Epstein from Boston & his regime stripped it down & did a total rebuild. Now their farm system is loaded to go with the good young players currently on the big club. The M’s need to find a smart baseball guy for a rebuild.

        • Trygvesture

          No smart baseball guy can remain in Lincolnland. No have. None will. He is an iron-fist corporate throwback. Baseball people won’t knuckle under to his satisfaction, it appears, and then they leave. It’s never been diofferent in Marinerland under Lincoln. I
          “Insubordination” is lincoln’s response to the clear spoken baseball experts. He wants smarmy obesance. And he wouldn’t recognise competence in a GM if Cy Young or Tony Larussa or Lou Pinella or Cashman or gillick or … came and sat on his desk. He hasn’t and he won’t. He’s got the wrong head for baseball. Numbers and rigid old school hierarchy are his only game.
          Luckily, he’s old now, and can’t hold the job forever.

  • jafabian

    I think Lloyd knows exactly what’s wrong with the club. He can’t do anything about it though and has to play the hand he’s dealt. Translation: he didn’t put the roster together and Lloyd could lose his job because it’s a roster that doesn’t work well with one another. The Dodgers got rid of Kemp, Ramirez and Gordon in part due to chemistry issues. Can the M’s follow their lead? Might be too many cooks in the kitchen for the M’s right now.

    • Effzee

      … that and they already hired the next M’s manager, in Edgar. Does anyone *not* see that move as setting up the replacement for when they hang the blame on Lloyd? Poor Edgar. Another sacrificial lamb. They are already lining up how to get more people in the stands in August and September, and Edgar generates fan interest. I mean hey, its tried and proven that WINS will bring the fans, in droves… But nope. Winning baseball games has never been the focus of this franchise. Never has been, never will be.

      • Trygvesture

        Oh, I think Lincoln thinks winning is part of his mission statement and objectives, blah blah blah, but he ain’t got the heart, the soul or the baseball street sense to ever, ever, figure out what to do. He want’s baseball to fit his extra-tidy, charted out, hierarchical world of his old school experience in gameland. He will never, ever try to BE a street smart, baseball-thinkin’ guy. At least, that the trajectory his history with the Ms would project.

      • jafabian

        Edgar isn’t the next manager and I’d be surprised if he went for it. He doesn’t have the experience necessary after such a long time away from the game. My prediction is that unless the M’s go to the World Series Jack is out as GM. Management will follow their last successful formula with Pat Gillick and hire someone with previous GM experience. One that at least went to the playoffs if not the World Series. Gillick did not fire Lou when he came on board and the next GM won’t necessarily can Lloyd when they come on board. Like when Gillick joined the M’s, this team has some great things about it. Just some pieces need to be tweaked here and there.

  • Rj Smith

    At least they couldn’t lose last nite with no game

  • Jeff Shope

    So what else is new with them joke front office leadership