BY Art Thiel 06:39PM 08/01/2018

Thiel: Mariners’ moves don’t keep A’s from gaining

The new acquisitions improve marginally the Mariners’ chances, except that wasn’t visible after the Astros won a series at Safeco that allowed Oakland to catch Seattle.

Despite hitting .290, Ben Gamel finds himself in AAA Tacoma. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

No team in the American League scored fewer runs in July than the 77 posted by the Mariners. So it is understandable that you may have reached for a hefty cocktail upon hearing the news Wednesday morning that they sent away a regular a batting .290, tied for fourth on the team (.798 OPS is third), to AAA Tacoma.

Perhaps Ben Gamel has a hygiene issue, or is a bad tipper, or doesn’t laugh at team jokes. What the Mariners claim as the reason for his demotion is Guillermo Heredia is a better defender who can play all three outfield positions. So, they say Heredia deserves to stay on the roster for now as the fourth outfielder, despite hitting lately as if he were attempting to catch a butterfly with a fry pan.

The logic for the puzzling move might be there somewhere. But after losing two of three at home to the division-leading Astros — missing injured stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer — including Wednesday’s dreary 8-3 defeat (box), the logic grew a little more elusive.

The Mariners scored seven runs in the series, suggesting the hitting sorrows of July were not confined by the calendar, and more in need of roster attention.

As a result of adding four reasonable but indistinct players in five days ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline, the Mariners seem engaged in much roster shuffling to minimal apparent improvement. Or maybe that’s the impression created by the fact that the Oakland A’s, an 8-3 winner over Toronto Wednesday, have caught Seattle in the standings, both 63-45.

Being run down by the perpetually scruffy franchise, the baseball equivalent of a smoky 1963 Corvair — six weeks ago, the Mariners led the A’s by 11 games — adds to a sense of unease among fans. The A’s do not share the Mariners’ problem of having to manage an over-abundance of talent.

For perspective on Seattle’s offensive slump, in July the Indians scored 153 runs, the Twins 142, Yankees 140, the Red Sox 134 and the A’s 133. The Mariners’ 77 runs were the worst in MLB.

But the lone offensive upgrade at the deadline was Cameron Maybin, 32, joining his seventh team in seven seasons, and ninth in 12. He replaced Heredia in center field Wednesday and had a hit and two walks.

“The energy he brings, he gives us another athlete, runner, who adds to the way we play,”
general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters. “Over the last month or so, he’s been in a really good place offensively and has played a strong center field this year.

“He fits into the theme of what we’re doing.”

A cynic might suggest that the theme is a fall from grace and a high place.

Even though he’s a journeyman’s journeyman, Maybin is an uptick over Heredia, who will now platoon with Denard Span in left field. Span has been a trade-deadline steal from Tampa, only the theft occurred May 23. Whether the uptick is worthy of Gamel spending up to a month in Tacoma — at worst, he will return Sept. 1 when rosters expand — remains to be seen.

With the addition of Sam Tuivailala from St. Louis, Zach Duke from Minnesota and Adam Warren from the Yankees, the bullpen upgrade is noteworthy. But the acquisitions may be more of an innings-eating operation than an attempt at dominance.

And the additions bumped reliever Chasen Bradford, he of the 5-0 record and 2.70 ERA, to Tacoma with Gamel, again through no fault of his own.

Wade LeBlanc Wednesday had his worst performance of the season (seven runs on 10 hits in 4.1 IP), nearly on the scale of the previous outing of Felix Hernandez, who was so bad against the Angels that manager Scott Servais called it noncompetitive.

LeBlanc lost for the second time in his past four starts after winning his first five decisions. Now comes Hernandez, in the opener Thursday of a four-game series with the Blue Jays and their insufferable countrymen in the Safeco Field stands.

Hernandez needs to get into the fifth or sixth inning giving up less than four runs, or be rendered inert for much of the rest of the season. Realistically, the Mariners can’t demote him, trade him or send him to the bullpen. They might put him on the disabled list, in which case Dipoto’s moves become more understandable.

As Hernandez and LeBlanc falter, relievers new and familiar must deliver five and six innings a night, which gets us back to the departures of Gamel and Bradford.

“I still think Gamel and Bradford play a big role in us getting to the playoffs, I really do,” Servais said before the game. “It could be in two weeks, it could be on Sept. 1, but these guys are going to play and be a part of what we’re doing here.

“It’s just you can only have 25 on the roster right now.”

But those 25 were just caught by a smoky, 1963 Corvair.


  • Nads

    Puzzling for sure, Art, with a dose of disappointment added. Gamel and Bradford were actual producers. Like Heredia very much but he needs to learn in Tacoma how to effectively wield the bat. Makes one wonder if the M’s thinkers have lost their collective minds. Why continue to hang on to Nick Vincent who is hurting the club. And it is evident that Felix needs to develop a hang nail and be placed on the 60 day DL.

    • art thiel

      Nobody’s losing their minds; there is merely disagreement. That’s ball.

      And I just saw tonight Felix made it through 5 with two runs. Tell the firing squad to stand down.

      • Husky73

        Fun fact— Verlander and Felix both have about the same amount of innings on their odometers. Verlander is an ace. Felix staggers from the dugout to the mound to start the first inning.

  • Joe Clark

    I was thinking more of a 70’s Chevrolet Vega than a Corvair personally. And right now the Mariners have become a Pinto that has been rear ended.

    • Kevin Lynch

      You beat me to the ‘rear-ended Pinto’, Joe! I was going right there. If it’s me…there’s no way as a manager I could face Ben Gamel at this point. This sends the wrong message to the team. Well, four games with the scrabbling Jays. Then a tough nineteen game run. Let’s see what kind of Corvair they’re driving on August 27.

      • art thiel

        I xee your Vega and Pinto, and raise you a Pacer.

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          I’m all in with a Gremlin.

          • Husky73

            The Yugo wins (loses) hands down.

  • Husky73

    This 2018 Mariner Optimist is trying to think of something uplifting to say. I got nothin’ for ya, other than there is two months to go. Lots of baseball to be played. Here’s a fun fact: Mariners payroll is around $160 million. The A’s payroll is around $75 million.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      It’s not how much you spend, it’s how you spend it. Doesn’t hurt that the A’s probably have the best GM in baseball, news flash, it’s not JD. And the best scouting division in MLB also. Staying with the A’s, can anyone imagine how good the A’s would be with a $160 million payroll?

      • art thiel

        Once everyone agreed Beane was right, they stole his methodology and he lost his advantage.

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          You’re correct, I should have said one of the best, not the best anymore. But you have to admit he does more with less than any other team in baseball practically year in and year out.

    • art thiel

      It’s often been a 2-to-1 ratio, and it never stops the A’s from embarrassing the locals.

  • Effzee

    This is going to be an agonizing plummet.

    • Theyfinallyfiredcable

      I’ve been watching the games thru split fingers lately . It’s really hard to see this happen , but I suppose we should be glad they didn’t just run the wagon into the ditch by June like so many times before ..

      • Effzee

        I’d rather the wagon was in the ditch sooner than later. Saves me a bunch of wasted energy and attention. I’d rather just have them remain ignorable from the get go than believe the dirty rotten lies their early record told me.

        • art thiel

          C’mon, guys. It’s been an entertaining season with two months to play out. You probably didn’t want Dipoto to give up Walker and Marte, and that worked out. I don’t agree with sending down Gamel, but he can be back in 10 days. Not a season-killer.

          • Effzee

            Not a season killer, you say?

    • Ron
  • Alan Harrison

    I’d love to be the club that was “Unsafe at Any Speed.” It’s better than being an attractive low-end, overpriced Caddie losing its lug nuts, its brake fluid, and its antifreeze. Still, I suppose the Caddie is still there in the race, and I didn’t think it would be during spring training. It’s hard to be an M’s fan. BTW, if they somehow snatch that $180 million of King County tax money away from the homeless, it’ll be pretty easy to jump ship, even if they win the World Series.

    • art thiel

      Every fan base will say, it’s hard to be a _______ fan. They’ve lost ground, but it’s not like they’re France with the Louisiana Purchase.

      • Alan Harrison

        How dare you bring perspective to the irrational sports fan???

  • coug73

    Rearranging the deck chairs. Go figure. I think the suits are over analyzing the players/game.

  • Tian Biao

    There must be some very good reason for taking Heredia over Gamel. DiPoto and Servais don’t do anything by chance. My guess is: it’s the hair!

    • art thiel

      Heredia needs to save a game with a leaping catch over the fence.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    From Mike Salk today :

    “This may be the last chance to see him ( Felix ) start this year. If he could be removed from the rotation this year, then no roster spot would likely be guaranteed next year – the final season of his contract. Followed through to the end, this could possibly be the last start for Félix as a Mariner.”

    • art thiel

      Mike gets to drag this one out next week too — Felix goes 5 IP, two earned, 92 pitches.

  • Mark Thurston

    To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how they got to 20 something games over 500 with this team to begin with. . I’ve been watching these guys every since Ken Griffey Jr first turned his hat backwards and I must say this team has been the most bizarre of all of them. This makes about as much since as the A’s most recent run to catch the M’s.. . at this point I’m just watching and trying to learn. .so that I can make some sense of it all.

    • art thiel

      That’s an entirely reasonable position, Mark. These guys in May-June all played over their heads at the same time, In July, simultaneous regression.

      You can’t explain gravity either, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy not flying off into space.

      • Kristafarian

        “You can’t explain gravity either, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy not flying off into space.”

        The marijuana is a big help.

  • (redacted)

    I remember them sending Heredia down at the and of April when he was actually hitting very well to keep Ichiro on the roster. Now they keep Heredia up even though he’s been one of the worst hitters in the league the past 2 months. And considering his -.9 dWAR, his defense isn’t good enough to make up for it. I guess since Dipoto got his contract he isn’t under any pressure to make logical moves.

    • art thiel

      Maybe Ichiro influenced the decision to keep Heredia. Among many Japanese, guilt is powerful.

      • (redacted)

        If Ichiro is seriously influencing Dipoto’s roster decisions, we have even worse problems than I thought

  • bugzapper

    “As Hernandez and LeBlanc falter, relievers new and familiar must deliver five and six innings a night…”

    Geepers, Grande, thanks for finally validating what I posted over a week ago. Dipoto spent the trading deadline stocking up on innings-eating, mediocre, stop-gap relievers, instead of getting us the dependable starter(s) we really need. The Felix Conundrum is bad enough, but when LeBlanc has a bad outing, or Leake has two bad ones in a row, you simply can’t expect Paxton and Gonzalez to carry the team. Especially at 3.1 runs per game.

    But rather than get a quality starter or two, Dipoto gorged himself on a mop-up crew of guys who have to come in early and stay late because another starter just blew up. It also says plenty about the way Servais handles pitchers. He’s a complete boob.

    Ownership and management of this team are the equivalent of changing deck chairs on the Titanic. It doesn’t seem to mather — oops, I mean matter — who’s in charge. They’d rather buy more cheap furniture, hoping they can use it flotation, than avoid the approaching iceberg. Or, to borrow the sled dog metaphor, unless you’re the lead dog the view never changes. It sure hasn’t in the last 16 years, and I’m well tired of staring at the rear ends of every other AL West team.

    Yet, once again we witness the unavoidable, inexorable Annual March to Ignominy. No doubt the trophy for Best Ignom will be awarded to Dipoto and Servais in a fireworks-laden, hydro-race-punctuated (with these guys yellow always wins), spectacle of grandiose proportion on Fan Appreciation Night.

    While we fans are once again left to grumble, “Thanks for nothing, you f’ing bobbleheads!”

    • art thiel

      When you get your bitter on, there’s no one better, El Jefe.

      • bugzapper

        As has often been conceded by those who know, you NEVER want to get on my bad side. I’ll make you regret it in print while your eyeballs burn forever in Hell.

      • bugzapper

        Btw, to recap the last seven days of Mariners futility: The team just lost a series to the Rangers. THE RANGERS! Last place, 22 games out in the AL West! The M’s are now 9-19 since Jerry signed his fat extension; 2-6 since my last post, having coughed up 55 runs in the process.

        Meanwhile, the classless Servais went to Bob Beamon Olympics-record lengths to humiliate Felix Hernandez two nights ago, leaving him in long past any reasonable amount of time. Whatsa matta, Scotty? 8-4 isn’t enough of a beat-down? You think going up to 11 works for anyone besides Spinal Tap? (Well, okay…it’s worked for Texas and the Angels in the last two weeks.) You f’ing moron. Beamon? Mo betta we just beam Scotty to the Delta Quadrant. Keep him there for 23 years. Given his managerial skill set, that may be enough Star Date time to whip the Hirogen into a playoff-caliber team. But I doubt it.

        And how’s about those great, recently-acquired Jerry’s Kids? Warren comes in and excretes a game-winning dinger in his first appearance. Zach Duke, he of the 32.40 ERA, can’t find the strike zone with both hands and an Old Woody frame. Tuivailala turns in several mediocre stints, then does the equivalent of a Kevin Mitchell sneeze, falling off the mound and onto the DL. It’s gotten so bad that even the still-wet-behind-the-ears Matt Calkins goes on record calling the free-fall out for what it is: A full on choke. He also echos El Jefe and others with, “And you could certainly point to general manager Jerry Dipoto, who has yet to add a much-needed starting pitcher. ”

        Ya think? Anyone still holding their breath?

        Lastly, a Final Insult. Remember that Mike Hauschild guy who pitched six innings of 4-hit, no-run, 5 SO baseball in the Jays’ recent 7-3 win? You know…the latest chucker to assume the mantle of Cy Young vs. the hapless M’s? Yesterday the Bosox beat him like a goat-skin drum. He didn’t make it to the second out of the third inning. 3 hits, 4 ER, 3 BB, no SO.

        I now return control of your column to Lewis Black.

  • Effzee

    No playoff caliber team keeps running a 1-6 reliever with a 6.00 ERA out there.

  • Howard Wells

    M’s brass: “well, as the rabbit in the race we ran as fast as we could for as long as we could..job well done…next?” Of course they are saying that slightly spun. Are they happy with ticket revenue? Was there an uptick over last year? They got me to go twice this year and other than the hour it took to get the 6 miles home, we had a great time.

  • Earl Foutch

    So, Bradford returned to pitch against TOR Friday night and entering a 4-1 game in the 9th he left trailing 7-1; he blew chunks, so there’s that to chew on.

  • Ken S.

    Well, at least the M’s saved their annual slide into oblivion until August.I had my hopes up for a rare good season. (sigh) Maybe next year?

  • Kristafarian

    I hope this little slumpage is merely temporary —
    when the Seattle Mariners get HOT, once again, it’ll be for the Playoffs.
    When it Counts.