The Seattle Mariners were supposed to be the San Franciso Giants of the American League in 2010 – a team built around its pitching that scored just enough to pile up those low-scoring wins and knew how to play the game.
Certainlny, that’s what Jack Zduriencik tried to build, but mistakes doomed the Mariners long before spring training began. They weren’t just moves that didn’t work, they were poor decisions about what players could do. And when they couldn’t do them, a manager and coaching staff praised for its work in ’09 was blamed for not getting the most from its talent a year later.
The result, of course, was that the Mariners were never the Giants. San Francisco will open the World Series as National League champions. Seattle will try to rebound from another humiliating season.
What happened? Let us count a few of the ways it went bad.
– Ken Griffey Jr. was re-signed after batting .214. Not only didn’t he hit a home run in two months, he failed time and again to drive in the runner from third base with less than two outs. Angry, embarrassed and frustrated, Junior became a walking time bomb.
– Chone Figgins was signed to score runs and be a top-of-the-order catalyst. Instead, he failed to hit .200 in April, pouted when dropped in the batting order and became the most vocal anti-Wakamatsu player by May. Figgins was far less than the Mariners believed him to be, on or off the field.
– With better options available, the team acquired Casey Kotchman and named him the regular first baseman. Kotchman became a dead pull hitter – and an easy out – and spent much of the season grousing about Wakamatsu and his placement in the Mariners lineup. A major mistake.
– The trade that brought Jack Wilson and Ian Snell from Pittsburgh at the deadline in ’09 didn’t cost Seattle much in talent, but it saddled the team with two hugely unproductive players in ’10. Wilson’s days as a regular were doomed by injuries before and after the trade, and Snell had a big-league arm that wilted under major-league pressure.
– Signing Eric Byrnes. A scrappy oufielder supposed to inject hustle and determination, Byrnes probably cost Seattle three April games with poor defense in left field and his infamous drawing back of his bat on a suicide squeeze. Once released, Byrnes drew zero interest from 29 other teams, and chose to play softball.
– Milton Bradley flipped off Texas fans the first week of the season, then had a mental cave-in in May. The bigger problem? He didn’t hit, couldn’t stay healthy but – with Junior – gave the Mariners the least productive designated hitter duo in the league.
Other than that, the Mariners were the Giants. With Bradley, Figgins and Wilson still on the roster, the decisions that helped doom Wakamatsu may linger to shorten the honeymoon for Eric Wedge.