Mariners keep finding new ways to lose
The Mariners are losing and have several pressing issues — not the least of which is who should be hitting in the No. 3 spot in the order. It doesn't seem like Ichiro is a good fit.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Earlier this week, after one of the deflating Mariners losses (it's getting hard to keep track of all of them), manager Eric Wedge declared that his team needed more production out of the three hole.
Didn't he know who was hitting there? Isn't it Wedge who, every game, as consistent as sunrise, pencils Ichiro into that hole? Doesn't he know that Ichiro is one of the least productive good hitters in the history of the game?
Here we are, two months into another long-looking Mariners season, and once again, we have an Ichiro question that the team refuses to answer.
Last year, Ichiro often looked tired and still he tied for the league lead, playing 161 games. Meanwhile, Casper Wells, supposedly one of the pieces of a brighter Mariners future, at times seemed welded to the bench.
This season, the former leadoff-hitting Ichiro hasn't been much help hitting third. He has 14 RBI in 162 at-bats.
A few things:
If this truly is a team in a fully committed rebuilding plan, why is Wedge giving so many at-bats to a 38-year old outfielder who obviously is in decline? Why is he robbing Wells or Mike Carp or Alex Liddi of plate appearances?
If there is some decree from above that Ichiro must play, why in the name of Ken Griffey Jr. is he hitting third? Ichiro might be going to Cooperstown, but with him in the three hole every day, the Mariners are going nowhere.
The Mariners' lineup is heavily left-handed. Why does lefty Ichiro get four at-bats every game?
In Wednesday's let's-find-another-way-to-lose, 11-inning loss to Cleveland, Ichiro was 0 for 6, but worse, he was 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. He saw a mere 17 pitches in those six at-bats.
If Wedge's hands are tied, it's a sad commentary on the state of this team. If they aren't tied, he should put the productive hitters in productive places. Move Dustin Ackley back to the third spot. Or move Justin Smoak, whose bat has awakened on the road, into that spot. And move Ichiro way down.
This trip, which will end with three games in Colorado, has been a disaster. The Mariners have swung the bats meekly. Their starting pitching has been sketchy. Even Felix Hernandez got shelled in Cleveland.
What does it say about this trip when the only thing worth celebrating has been a Kevin Millwood outing? Millwood doesn't count. He's merely a place holder for all of the supposed phenoms in the minors.
And for all the anguish about the performances of Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Miguel Olivo and Brandon League, they don't count either. All of them will be gone by next season at the latest.
The only thing that matters about League's struggles as closer Thursday — his third blown save — is that his trade value suffers. The Mariners need League to be effective so they can deal him in July.
So here we are, it's mid-May, but already this feels like another elongated Cactus League season.
This year is a show-me showcase for the kids — Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders, Kyle Seager, Carp, Liddi, Wells, Ackley and Smoak. It's survival of the fittest. So far, their results have been mixed.
Sure, it hurts Mariners fans to watch all of this losing all over again. I swear every time I look up either reliever Steve Delabar is surrendering another home run or some Mariner is grounding out with runners in scoring position.
In Thursday's loss, Delabar gave up a game-tying three-run homer to Jose Lopez. Jose Lopez! Jose Lopez!
A trip like this is a painful part of the growth process. But that doesn't mean we have to watch Delabar pitching in clutch, late-inning situations, time after time. It doesn't mean we have to watch all of the sloppiness that surrounded Hernandez in Wednesday's loss.
And, most important, it doesn't mean we have to watch Ichiro every day, hitting third and taking valuable at-bats away from the up-and-coming kids.
Paraphrasing a former colleague of mine, the Mariners need a No. 3 hitter in the worst way. And Ichiro is a No. 3 hitter in the worst way.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com.
More columns at www.seattletimes.com/
|The Mariners, who start a three-game series at Colorado on Friday, are 1-6 on their current trip and have been outscored 40-19.|
|Friday||Yankees||6-2 loss||Ibanez's three-run homer off Felix is killer|
|Saturday||Yankees||6-2 loss||Noesi pitches well, other than 4-run 2nd inning|
|Sunday||Yankees||6-2 win||Millwood steals show from returning Pettitte|
|Monday||Red Sox||6-1 loss||Lester goes distance, M's never really in game|
|Tuesday||Red Sox||5-0 loss||Struggling Beckett gets well against M's|
|Wednesday||Indians||9-3 loss||Rare clunker from Felix, who can't get through 4|
|Thursday||Indians||6-5 loss||Jose Lopez (!) ties it; League loses lead in 11th|
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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