Pressure Is Mounting On Struggling M’s
The Seattle Mariners find themselves in familiar territory, once again, at the All Star Break. Their record, 36-51, is the worst in the American League and they find themselves 16.5 games back in the AL West.
It’s obvious that many of us saw this coming but after a decade of futility this disgruntled fan base is clamoring for answers regarding the direction of the franchise.
They have a better record on the road (20-26) than they do at home (16-25) which has left fans petitioning for the fences to be brought in.
But that is far from the only problem.
Sure, the lack of offensive production deserves a large chunk of the blame but it’s much more than that. The slow and discouraging development of many young players coupled with some questionable transactions have all contributed to this prolonged slump.
All is not lost, however. Despite being on pace for another last place finish there are multiple things that can turn this season into somewhat of a success.
Trade Felix Hernandez
Let me begin by saying that this is a move that will create quite a stir among the fan base but it is necessary if this team wants to compete any time in the near future. The Mariners are more than two years away from competing with the Angels and Rangers (heck, the Athletics) in the AL West.
With just two years left on Felix Hernandez‘s contract the team is left at an ultimatum.
Give him an extension and pay the man upwards of $180 million or cut your losses and get three or four major league pieces for the future.
I would love to see Felix stay in Seattle and help us win a World Series but the reality of that happening is slim to none. If we are truly rebuilding, trading Felix for major league ready prospects is something that has to be done. If not this season, then this Winter.
The immediate reaction for many fans is going to be negative but the return is going to outweigh what we are giving up.
Trading Felix and getting a substantial return will give fans the same type of allure and vision towards the future that they got when Jesus Montero arrived. As hard as it is to trade Felix right now, it’s necessary at this point in the rebuild.
Montero has to prove he is the catcher of the future
When the Mariners acquired Montero from the Yankees for Michael Pineda, New York GM Brian Cashman stated that Montero was “the best prospect he has ever traded.” So far, the results haven’t quite measured up to Cashman’s touted remarks, but Montero is still extremely raw.
The 22-year-old is batting just .245 with eight HRs and 28 RBIs — a far cry from being dubbed as a savior for this annually anemic offense.
In the second half, I expect Montero’s numbers to improve. He’s only 335 AB’s into his major league career which is a very small sample size to measure future success. There’s a large consensus that says that Miguel Olivo needs to go.
That’s a fact.
But, Eric Wedge wouldn’t continue putting him in the lineup if Montero proved himself as a viable catcher that can handle the everyday duties.
I’m a proponent that the DH position should be a spot for strictly a hitter. Isn’t that what it was implemented for? We have two catchers hitting in our lineup on most nights.
If Montero can prove himself to be an everyday catcher Jack Zduriencik can go find a bat instead relying on a catching platoon in our DH spot.
The job is Montero’s to take. If he can seize the moment and prove to Jack Z, Wedge, and our fans that he is, indeed, the catcher that we traded for, it will go a long way towards putting people in the stands and infusing a glimmer of hope for the future.
Justin Smoak needs to prove he isn’t a bust
Way back when Cliff Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers for a relatively unknown first baseman named Justin Smoak there was a majority of people who thought we were getting a future perennial all-star.
Boy, has Smoak proven that prospect ratings — he was rated the #13 prospect in baseball — mean absolutely nothing.
In a little over two full major league seasons his stats look like this: .220 batting average, 39 home runs, and 137 RBI’s. The glaring stat there is his terrible batting average. What’s so concerning is that he hasn’t hit over .239 in his brief career and has shown no signs of improvement at the plate.
He’s striking out a lot but that is to be expected out of a power hitter. The problem is, he hasn’t solidified himself as a power hitter yet. He’s having a better power year this year (11 HRs) at the break than in previous years but his on-base percentage has dropped nearly 50 points.
I still think it’s too early to call him a bust, but Smoak’s time is slowly running out each time he walks back to the dugout after a horrendous strikeout or a critical pop fly.
Smoak can still turn his 2012 campaign around and help this team in the second half. If he can show that he can make the necessary improvements to be a threat at the plate in the big leagues we can set to rest the bust talk and he can focus on his game.
If that takes a stint in Tacoma, I’m all for it.
But it needs to happen soon because many people are becoming more and more impatient as the strikeouts pile up and the batting average dwindles.
Cut Chone Figgins
I think this could make the Mariners’ second half successful in it’s own right. Zduriencik needs to swallow his pride and admit that he made a terrible move.
Whether it be eating his salary or paying for him to play somewhere else, Chone Figgins needs to go. He’s taking up a roster spot that can be used to get one of the kids from Tacoma some valuable playing time and he provides no value to an already terrible lineup.
With his well-publicized struggles the past few seasons it will be hard to get any kind of value in return for Figgins but, one way or the other, he needs to go.
In 51 games this season, he’s batting .186 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Last season he hit just .188 in 81 games. In his seven full seasons with the Angels he never hit worse than .276 so it’s safe to say he’s seen better days at the expense of the Mariners.
Unless, of course, we’re all happy with paying $9 million for a sub-Mendoza-line-hitter because if that’s true, well, I’ll happily shut up.
All in all, if this is truly a rebuild that the ownership and front office is dedicated to — which I think they are — they need to get rid of the bad apples.
So, Figgins, go away, you’re a bad apple.
Avoid 95 losses and don’t lose 17 games in a row
That doesn’t mean don’t lose exactly 95 games and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s okay to lose more than 95 games. The context of “Avoid 95 losses” means don’t lose more than 95 games.
Don’t do it, Mariners.
Last season the Mariners went into the All Star Break with a respectable record of 43-48. That means the Mariners won 43 of their first 91 games in 2011 as opposed to the 2012 campaign where they’ve won just 36 of their first 87 games.
If my math is correct, this team was better at the All Star Break in 2011.
We all remember the infamous 17-game losing streak. Well, they shouldn’t do that again either.
The 2011 Mariners ended the season with a record of 67-95 and 29 games out of first place. The 2012 Mariners are on pace to finish with the same record.
That’s just swell.
I guess it’s pretty logical to assume that if they finish with a better record than 67-95 this year would be a successful season and thus, a successful second half because they didn’t get worse?
Wins are ultimately what is going to determine whether the Mariners have a successful second half or not. I think that it should be considered successful if they finish with 75 wins.
That means they’ll end up with a record of 75-87.
That would be a pretty respectable season for a team that most assumed would lose close to 100 games.
For that to happen, the Mariners need to go 39-36 in the second half.
That’s going to be a tough record for the Mariners to achieve but it certainly isn’t impossible. Granted, it would be tough if they traded Felix Hernandez but pitching hasn’t been the problem for the Mariners.
There is a lot to be unhappy about so far but there are certain things that can fall the Mariners way to make this a building block season headed into 2013 with a clean slate.
But, like many of you, I’m so tired of having to wait for next year.