Mirror, mirror on Mariners' wall: Time for a hard look
The Mariners have been chewed out, and they've had players-only meetings. They've charged the mound, released players, dipped into the minor...
Seattle Times baseball reporter
Buried deepThe Mariners last won the American League West in 2001. In six seasons since, the AL West champ has won an average of 96.5 games. The Mariners would have to go 81-40 the rest of the way to win 96 this season. The Mariners are 15-26, and would have to play at a pace of ...
.669 (81-40) to win 96 games
.620 (75-46) to win 90 games
.545 (66-55) to finish at .500
The Mariners have been chewed out, and they've had players-only meetings. They've charged the mound, released players, dipped into the minor leagues, all in search of an ever-elusive spark.
To say it's desperation time is stating the obvious. What it really is is introspection time.
The Mariners' front office has to figure out what it is. Not what it wants to be, or thinks it should be, or could have been, if only.
It's time for a realistic, dispassionate state-of-the-Mariners assessment, which will dictate the steps that follow.
They must decide if the Mariners really are, in manager John McLaren's term, "a good team playing terrible baseball." And even if they are, is it already too late to matter?
Or do the results at the quarter pole tell a different story: That of a bad team playing terrible baseball. One that, after Monday's heart-wrenching loss in Texas, was on pace to lose 101 games — worse than the darkest days of the Bill Plummer and Bob Melvin regimes.
It's a team that ranks last in on-base percentage. A team that still fancies itself as strong defensively but isn't. A team that after Erik Bedard's meltdown when handed a 5-0 lead on Monday ranked 11th out of 14 American League teams in earned-run average (4.63) by its vaunted starting rotation.
Yes, they've had adversity. The J.J. Putz injury in the second game of the season was devastating, especially when compounded by the decline of Eric O'Flaherty. The Bedard hip injury didn't help, either.
But the Angels have had far worse adversity — seasonlong injuries to their top two starters, John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, as well as stretches without key offensive players Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick — and they're thriving.
Even more painful to Mariners management has to be watching the Oakland A's, after stripping their roster of key players, sprinting out to the division lead on the strength of an exciting young pitching staff. And doing it with a $48 million payroll — approximately $70 million less than the M's are paying their underachieving roster.
It's enough to make one wonder whose way of doing things is the right way — or at least, it should.
It's not quite accurate to say no one saw this coming, the monumental debacle that has marked the first quarter of the M's season.
There were, indeed, analysts who predicted this team was dangerously overrated, that it wasn't the "one piece away" that the Bedard trade suggested — that the Mariners were, basically, a disaster waiting to happen. And they had the statistical evidence to back it up.
Kudos to them, most of whom come, it must be said, from a sabermetric bent, looking at the vast storehouse of numbers in nontraditional ways. And shame on me, who bought into the popular wisdom that last year's 88-win record plus this year's addition of Bedard equaled a championship run.
Can the Mariners dig out of their hole? Of course they can — it has been done as recently as 2005, when the Houston Astros found themselves with a 15-30 record and 14 games out of first place on May 24.
That's a worse record, a bigger deficit, and a later date than the Mariners — and, of course, the Astros played .632 baseball the rest of the way and made it into the World Series.
Other examples are available to tease and tempt the Mariners into thinking they still have a shot. Just last year, the Colorado Rockies were nine games under .500 on May 21, but they, too, made the World Series after a closing stretch of 21 wins in 22 games.
The 2001 A's and 2003 Marlins were both 10 games out of first at one point and made the playoffs — and even won the World Series, in Florida's case. Closer to home, and to the heart, the 1995 Mariners trailed by 10 games on July 28, and we all know how that turned out.
But the numbers, and history, are heavily against the Mariners. When teams get into the territory of 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of first place, they almost never get out. Almost.
Are the 2008 Mariners another glorious exception? It's just about time to make the hard call.
Just remember this: It's a fine line between hope and folly.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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