Sunday, July 17, 2011

With 2011 hopes gone, Mariners must turn focus to the future

Another game was lost with one swing, over before it was over.
In Sunday's second inning, Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland crushed a Blake Beavan changeup for a three-run home run, and probably none among the 30,335 incredibly loyal fans inside Safeco Field
 truly believed the Mariners had the firepower to come back.
This team is on pace to score about half as many runs as the 2001 team. It is on pace to hit almost 100 fewer home runs than the 2000 team. It is on a march to make history. The team batting average is .221.
The Mariners' offensive futility makes you wonder if they could score off Robinson Cano's dad.
Sunday's 3-1 loss was their ninth in a row. They are nine games below .500 and 11 ½ games behind the division-leading Rangers.
Manager Eric Wedge keeps saying his hitters have to square up on the ball. In other words, the hitters have to hit. But this team can't hit. There is no meat in the meat of the order.
When his Mariners team began to sink into the abyss a few years ago, then-manager John McLaren said that the players had to play like the backs of the baseball cards say they should play. They had to live up to their career numbers.
Well, this team is playing to its baseball-card numbers. These players, with the dramatically disappointing exceptions of Ichiro and Chone Figgins, are playing to their histories.
And now, the goodwill that was built through a surprising May and June has been used up. The soft parade of scoreless innings, the dreary days and nights of suddenly uninspired baseball, have caught up with the 2011 Mariners.
"It's tough to watch," Wedge said of the hitting slump. "It's tough to live through."
Truthfully, this is the team we expected to see coming out of spring training.
And now that reality has caught up with the Mariners, the rest of this season — in Seattle and on the farm — should be about evaluating talent. Seeing which prospects from a collection that includes Justin Smoak, Greg Halman, Kyle Seager, Beavan, Mike Carp (who was recalled from Class AAA Tacoma after the game), Carlos Peguero (who was optioned back to Tacoma), Alex Liddi (at Tacoma), Nick Franklin (at Class AA Jackson), Josh Lueke (at Tacoma), James Paxton (at Class A Clinton) and others can turn out as good as Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda appear to be.
At this point in the season, the question of whether the Mariners should be buyers or sellers at the fast-approaching trade deadline practically is moot. There's isn't a trade out there that will save this season.
Sure, they can deal closer Brandon League. The last thing this team needs is an All-Star closer who has very few games to close. But trading League isn't going to net the Mariners much of a prospect.
The window of opportunity for making a decent deal for Erik Bedard probably closed when he went on the DL with a knee injury.
The Mariners could deal the slumping Ichiro (to the Yankees?) for a decent prospect, but do you really think that's going to happen?
The only other realistically tradable piece is reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, who is signed through 2014. But he won't be traded, nor should he be traded.
Dealing Hernandez would be business as usual for the Mariners. Just another indication they aren't willing to spend the money it takes to be competitive.
Trading Hernandez would tell the fans what too many of them already believe: This franchise isn't in it to win it. Trading Hernandez would be Pittsburgh Pirates thinking. Kansas City Royals thinking.
It would be unconscionable.
The Mariners have to change their tightwad image. If this new administration is going to succeed, it is going to have to spend seriously and smartly during the offseason.
With two outs in Sunday's ninth inning, Smoak lofted a harmless fly ball to short left field, ending another unthreatening ninth inning.

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