Mariners Insider

It doesn’t get any easier for Mariners in second half

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on July 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm with 15 Comments »
July 11, 2012 2:09 pm

When the traditional second half of the season begins Friday at Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners may or may not have a slightly altered roster – either way, they’ll be facing the Texas Rangers.

General manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge have huddled during the All-Star break to determine what moves can be made to improve a 36-51 team that’s long on potential and short on results.

Players who struggled through the first half – and there are plenty on a team ranks 25th in runs, 29th in batting average, 30th in on-base percentage and 29th in slugging percentage – don’t have a free pass in the second half, Zduriencik said.

“Nobody is on scholarship here. We look for players to improve, and they’re evaluated every time they take the field. If they don’t think that’s true, they’re fooling themselves,” he said.

There aren’t as many moves available as you might think.

Franklin Gutierrez, for instance, won’t be back from his concussion. Erasmo Ramirez will miss his first turn in the rotation as his right elbow heals. Mike Carp is closer – but his shoulder issues will likely need more time.

Listen to any sports radio talk show, and fans are making plenty of moves.

Send Justin Smoak to Tacoma. Get rid of Chone Figgins. Send out Dustin Ackley. Stop catching Miguel Olivo. Dump Brandon League …

There may be merit to some or all of those suggestions, but the Mariners need a 25-man roster vs. Texas on Friday, and sending players out means replacing them.

And for the only team under .500 in the American League West, there’s not much help available in Triple-A right now.

In Tacoma, for instance, 32-year-old Luis Rodriguez is batting .310 and can play anywhere in the infield. His big-league career average over 407 games: .238.

First baseman/designated hitter Luis Jimenez is batting .318 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI, and while that’s been good enough to make him a Triple-A all-star, the 30-year-old has never played in the majors.

Third/first baseman Alex Liddi, who started the year with the Mariners, is at .267. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz – a marvelous defensive player and another Triple-A all-star – is batting .307 but is a lifetime .208 hitter in 255 major-league at-bats.

Young infielders Carlos Triunfel (.240) and Nick Franklin (.239) have struggled in Tacoma.

Only Liddi and Triunfel are on the Mariners 40-man roster, meaning to bring any of the others up, someone on that 40-man would have to be designated for assignment.

Trade options appear no better unless the Mariners are willing to deal their young players for the young players of another team. League’s value is down. Figgins doesn’t have one. Olivo might bring back a minor league player.

Zduriencik doesn’t like dealing from a point of weakness. Unless a move helps, why make it? And his glass-half-full view of the 2012 Mariners remains more than optimistic.

“I think we’re in a reasonably good spot. The win-loss record is disappointing, but if you look at what’s been accomplished, the team is better than a year ago,” Zduriencik said.

“Take the bullpen. We’ve seen Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge – even Stephen Pryor – emerge in the first half. All of them look like ‘pluses’ moving forward.

“We knew the team was going to have spurts, be inconsistent. But you look at Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero. They’re just kids.

“You look at the 3-4-5- spots in our lineup this first half, many times they’ve all had less than a year of experience at this level,” Zduriencik said.

“John Jaso is a nice piece, and he’s going to be in a Mariners uniform for a long time. Michael Saunders has established himself as a major league player.

“Brendan Ryan is as good a defensive shortstop as there is in the league, and in the past he’s shown he’s a better hitter than this. If we can get him in the mid-.250s, what a player!”

Bring Zduriencik back to his struggling young players, he will acknowledge not everything is where he’d hoped it would be.

“Players like Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley are facing a challenge  – they’re not there yet, not where we think they can be. I think they can bounce back,” Zduriencik said.

“Justin was the Player of the Week one week, then fell back. He hasn’t been consistent.”

So what do the Mariners need most? Wedge points to a veteran leader in the clubhouse – and the clear absence of one in Seattle.

“We don’t have a mentor in the clubhouse, and our young players could use that,” Wedge said. “I don’t care how good your staff is, how often you talk to you players, a veteran leader can be more effective at times.

“You ask any manager, he’ll tell you the same thing. One, two guys like that in any clubhouse makes you better.”

The Mariners veteran position players aren’t that guy.

Figgins isn’t playing, Olivo is more a cheerleader than a mentor and Icihro, the only other veteran player, has always chosen to lead by example.

At the All-Star break, the Mariners team batting average was .230, the second worst in franchise history. The worst? That was .225 – last year.

Where’s the improvement?

When the second half opens, Smoak, Seager, Ackley, Carp, Olivo, Ryan and Ichiro will each have a lower batting average than they did last season.

Does that point a finger at batting coach Chris Chambliss? Wedge insists it does not.

“We hired Chris Chambliss because we knew we’d struggle. We wanted his experience, his confidence, his patience. Chris is a confident baseball man,” Wedge said.

“He’s told these player what they need to know. He’s worked with them every day. The ball is in their court now.”
Zduriencik isn’t totally surprised by the struggles of his young team.

“We knew we might struggle at times. If we’re behind in the seventh, eighth, ninth innings, we’re seeing the best the opposing team’s bullpen has – and it’s our kids vs. those pitchers. That’s a challenge,” he said.

“We will add to get better, but this year we need to gauge what we have, determine what we need. In the past, there are players this organization has given up on and traded away, and they’ve become much better players.

“Before we trade a player, we have to know we know his upside. We have to think we have someone with a better upside.”

Wedge talked about the inexperience of his club.

“The kids we have up here have less than a thousand minor league at-bats,” he said. “They’re going through their turmoil up here. We believe in their talent.

“You look at the first half. Jaso has given us the best at-bat. Saunders has been the most consistent, and Seager has been the most productive hitter we’ve got.

“A year ago, Seager had just gotten here, Saunders was in the minor leagues and Jaso was on the bench in Tampa. They’ve come a long way. We’re asking a lot of young, inexperienced players to come a long way all at once.

“That’s tough on them,” Wedge said. “And it’s tough on everyone else.”

Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. Yes, to quote Beavis & Butt-Head, “We Suck. Huh-Huh Huh-Huh”.

  2. GaryW209 says:

    Just another day as a Seattle Mariners fan. I can’t stand much more disappointment. Does anyone ever wonder what it would be like to be a fan of team that was a perenial winner? I can only dream of having a baseball team in Seattle that wins as often as New York or Philidelphia or St. Louis. We need to face reality. With no salary cap in baseball, the big market teams will continue to buy up the best players available and the beat goes on and on and on and on. When will the owners ever wake up and insert a salary cap to this ridiculous charade?

  3. bbnate420 says:

    The lack of a salary cap is HARDLY the M’s only problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. VNHLNFAN says:

    Maybe at next years all star break as a team they will batting .235?

  5. I like one statement from this article,

    “John Jaso is a nice piece, and he’s going to be in a Mariners uniform for a long time.”.

    While really a back up, I do see Jasso as being a capable back up on a winning team.

  6. GaryW209 says:

    Lack of a salary cap is indeed not the Mariners’ only problem. But it all starts there. With the best players wanting the most money and the big market teams able to give it to them, it is natural that the two sides will get together leaving the smaller market teams to struggle through rebuilding year after year. The Mariners have lost several big name players to the big market teams in the name of the almighty dollar. Alex Rodriquez is one fine example. Very, very few quality players haved wanted to stay in Seattle. When one team can outspent the rest of the league by $100,000,000 what can we expect? They will continue to go.

  7. I turned on KJR to hear about the All-Star game and got an M’s rant. It’s tiresome, but the ranters are correct; this team is not fun to watch, two games out of three, right now. (The last game I went to, they came back from 1-4 and won 5-4; a great baseball experience. Doesn’t happen nearly enough.)

    Life is too short for me to go around griping constantly, or listen to rants. I’m going to tomorrow’s game. We’ll see what they look like.

  8. bbnate420 says:

    The main reason, besides the money, that big hitters at least don’t want to come here s SAFECO FIELD! Whether you buy it or not, players believe it is a horrible hitting park. And the NUMBERS MORE than back up that assertion. I’m not saying that salary doesn’t play a role. But there are lower salary teams, see Pirates, competing. We’re not going to be the Yankees. If we waste 27 mil a year on Bilbo and Ichirold, there is hardly any chance for us. Sadly, I fear because of the RETARDED ownership, they will continue to overpay Ichirold after this season. I HOPE I’m wrong.

  9. bbnate420 says:

    timeout, I cannot knock you but, I cannot personally financially support this team any longer until they dump the two-headed moron known as Armstrong/Lincoln and move on from mistakes like Ichirold and Bilbo. I MORE than respect what Ichiro has done here but, even if he was a fairly decent player still, which he isn’t IMO, he has no place on a team in our position. He isn’t going to be playing when this team is ready to compete, if ever. God it’s nice to have PC/JS running the Hawks. They don’t do this BS!!!!!! Bilbo is just a TOTAL waste of space that the aforementioned two-headed moron wants to hang onto in their MISGUIDED attempt to FOOL the fans. Fail trolls is FAIL!!!!!!!

  10. Nice rant, bbn. You’re entitled.

    I’ve been invited to the game. I suppose you’d say no, but I’m looking forward to hanging out with my friends.

    Regarding Ichiro, nothing new to say, so no comment.

    Regarding Figgins, I wasn’t a fan of the signing, and am disappointed to be right this time. He’s much worse than I expected. He’s not playing enough for me to get all het up over. Why bring up a kid who needs to play every day to sit like Figgy does most days? If they find a competent vet to replace him, or even call up Rodriguez, I’d be happy if they let him go. I can’t figure out why they’re hanging onto him, but I can’t imagine they think they’re fooling anyone who follows the team. There’s not enough makeup in the world to cover that pimple.

    What does “Fail trolls is FAIL!” mean?

  11. bbnate420 says:

    It means that Armstrong/Lincoln are failing to fool any M’s fans that aren’t retarded into thinking that Bilbo still can be a player here or get anything in return! It’s an internet saying. May not have worked so well. To me, and I have said this many times, it’s one thing to make a bad signing. It happens to every team. It’s FAR worse IMO to hang on to a POS just to try and save face when that time has LONG since passed. Keeping Bilbo is MUCH worse IMO than signing him.

    No, I wouldn’t turn down a ticket if a friend invited me. I assumed you were paying to go to the game. I was wrong. Not that you can’t pay to go to every game if you wish! I have supported this team financially over the years but, I personally CANNOT see myself buying a ticket to another M’s game until Armstrong/Lincoln are GONE! I am willing to support a losing team if there is ACCOUNTABILITY and the team’s number 1 priority is WINNING! That doesn’t seem to be the case with the current ownership. They care more about saving face, which they still FAIL HORRIBLY at and cow towing to Ichirold, than winning. I WILL NOT support that! Hoping someone will take this team from absent/Nintendo boy!

  12. bbnate420 says:

    Oh yeah, in case i didn’t mention it, move the F$%&ING fences in already!!!!!!!!

  13. bbnate420 says:

    I will post a positive post next time. I am dangerously in moo territory! 8)

  14. EXCUSE ME??????!

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