Feliz Hernandez (Photo by Mike Tigas courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Felix Hernandez won barely more games than he lost in 2010 as part of the Mariners’ 101-loss season.
But even at 13-12, the Mariners’ right-hander wound up as the big winner in the American League, coming home Thursday with the Cy Young Award as voted by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
“It is a very emotional day for me,’’ Hernandez, at home in Venezuela, said in a statement released by the Mariners. “I’m very proud that I was able to accomplish this not only for myself, but for my family, my country and my team. I don’t have the words to describe the way I feel.’’
For the Mariners, this was the first Cy Young win since 1995 when Randy Johnson became the first Seattle winner. Two left-handers, David Price of Tampa Bay and C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees, finished second and third in the BBWAA voting.
“We are all proud of Felix for achieving this tremendous honor,’’ general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He is the ultimate competitor and a great teammate, I know I speak for our entire organization, our fans and the entire Northwest when I say that this is honor that is well deserved.’’
The question this year more than in any other year was whether someone like Hernandez, who had dominant statistics across the board, could get more voting support than someone like the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia (21-7) or the Rays’ David Price (19-6) who had played for better teams and had run up quite a few more wins.
In the American League in 2010, we have one of the best have vs. have-not matchups ever.
Sabathia already had one Cy Young in his trophy case, and his statistics this time around were certainly worthy of another.
But he pitched for a team that scored a ton of runs for him; Hernandez pitched for a team that didn’t score for anybody. It’s possible that no pitcher has pitched so well for a team so incapable of taking advantage of it.
Hernandez, 24, led the league in innings pitched (249.2), earned run average (2.27), quality starts (30) and opponents’ batting average (.212).
On the other hand, the Seattle offense was dead last in the AL in virtually every important hitting statistic, including average, runs, RBIs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
That meant that Hernandez took the mound every fifth day knowing that to give up one run was to risk a loss, to give up two runs was to invite a loss and to give up three or more runs was to virtually guarantee a loss.
He responded the best way a pitcher can – by being a dominant pitcher. In 15 of his 34 starts, Hernandez pitched at least seven innings and allowed either one or zero runs. That was amazing, but it didn’t always translate into victories.
Sabathia was buoyed by 7.31 runs worth of support and Price by 7.03. On the other hand, Hernandez got just 3.10 runs per start. That’s no way to rack up wins.
In Hernandez’s 12 losses, the Mariners scored just seven runs when Hernandez was in the game. In 10 of his 34 starts they scored either one or zero runs, and 15 times it was two runs or less.
Winning wasn’t what Hernandez did best.
But as Thursday’s vote showed, pitching was.
Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus, the lead voice for the Seattle Mariners since their inception, died Wednesday.
The 75-year-old, who was inducted into Cooperstown in 2008, reportedly died of a heart attack and was found by his wife, Marilyn, on the back deck of his Seattle home late on the kind of sunny Seattle afternoon that he loved.
“This is a terrible loss,” club president Chuck Armstrong said. “He has been the link between the fans and the team since the club was founded.”
Niehaus, who started his career with the California Angels in 1969, moved north when the Mariners began play in 1977 and was widely credited with expanding the Mariners’ fan base during decades of losing before the team finally came into its own competitively in the 1990s.
He was so much the epitome of the organization that when Seattle moved into Safeco Field after the All-Star break in 1999, Niehaus was chosen to throw out the first pitch.
“We knew he was slowly winding down, but this is a real slap in the face,” former Seattle outfielder Jay Buhner said. “We lost a family member. He was like another dad to me.
“He was the consummate professional, and he was such a huge fan of the game. He loved baseball. He never wanted to take a day off. He always wanted to be out there.”
Niehaus had not been held back by his health in recent years, but in 1996, he had to go through two angioplasties, at which point he gave up smoking and altered his diet.
“Dave has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977,” Mariner Chief Executive Officer Howard Lincoln and Armstrong said jointly in a statement. “Since calling Diego Segui’s first pitch strike on opening night in the Kingdome some 34 years ago, Dave’s voice has been the constant with the franchise.
“With the exception of his love for his wife, Marilyn, his children and grandchildren, there was nothing Dave liked more than the game of baseball and to be at the ballpark. He was the voice of spring and summer in the Northwest.”
With such catchphrases as “My, Oh My” and his “Fly Away” call for home runs, Niehaus could describe a game in poetry and not just in prose, and he was one of the reasons the Mariners’ radio broadcasts were such a Pacific Northwest staple.
“I marveled at how at his age, every day at 2 p.m. he was at the ballpark and refused to miss a game,” fellow Mariner broadcaster Dave Sims said. “He was that dedicated to the game. He was somebody you could talk baseball with, contemporary or old school – whatever you wanted.”
Broadcasters around the country ranked Niehaus up there with the best.
“I loved driving home from our games,” Rangers announcer Eric Nadel said Wednesday, listening to him do the Mariners games from the West Coast on XM. “He was a wonderful friend to me as well, really funny, and always willing to share his great wisdom.”
The summit of Niehaus’ career was his 2008 Cooperstown induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I’m glad he not only got into the Hall of Fame, but he got to enjoy it,” former Seattle manager John McClaren, now a Nationals coach, said. “He was at the top of his game, and he got all those tributes, which he absolutely deserved.”
Simultaneously with Niehaus’ passage to Cooperstown, the Mariners named the Safeco Field broadcast facility in Niehaus’ honor.
“He got a chance to go to work every day in a facility named for him,” Sims said. “That had to be great for him.”
Buhner, who has done some radio and TV work for the Mariners, said it’s hard to imagine doing a game without Niehaus close at hand.
“No one will be able to replace him,” Buhner said. “Oh, my God, it will be tough the first time to announce a game without him.”
SEATTLE – The Tampa Bay Rays won the most games in the American League last year (96), the New York Yankees were next in line at 95 and then there were the Seattle Mariners, who won the fewest games in the league at 61-101
And while the two AL East teams clearly don’t have much in common with the Mariners, those four teams do share this – each team came away with multiple Gold Gloves when the AL’s defensive awards were announced Tuesday.
The Yankees had three-quarters of the AL infield in first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Robinson Cano and shortstop Derek Jeter.
The Rays completed the infield with third baseman Evan Longoria and also saw left fielder Carl Crawford honored.
The Mariners captured the other two outfield spots with center fielder Franklin Gutierrez and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.
“It’s amazing for anyone to do what Ichiro has done,’’ Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “10 years in a row is sensational when you consider what he’s done offensively as well as defensively.
“What he’s done is unprecedented at both ends of the game.’’
As for Gutierrez, the Mariners thought he deserved to win the award last year when it went to former Mariner Adam Jones of the Orioles.
“We were all excited about Franklin’s defense last year,’’ Zduriencik said. “A year ago we thought he was the best. Obviously the voters do, too.’’
Rounding out the Gold Glove team were Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer and White Sox’s pitcher Mark Buehrle, who probably had the award locked up on opening day when he crossed into foul territory to make a sensational backhanded scoop/flip for an out, a highlight clip that was shown around baseball all season.
The two oldest winners, Ichiro (37) and Jeter (36) have the most notoriety involved with their awards.
For Ichiro, the win is his 10th in succession, tying him with Ken Griffey Jr. and Al Kaline for the most outfield Gold Gloves in AL history. Only Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays (12 each) won more in the National League, and Andruw Jones also won 10 Gold Gloves, but in the NL.
It was Ichiro’s second award for defensive excellence this year, getting the Fielding Bible nod as the game’s best right fielder earlier in the month.
As for Jeter, he won his fifth Gold Glove despite suggestions that he’s past his prime defensively. He had an UZR (ultimate zone rating) of -4.7, a statistic that suggests he was below average this year. But in the balloting of the league’s managers, Jeter got the call over relative unknowns Cliff Pennington of the A’s (UZR 9.9) and Alexi Casilla of the Twins (UZR 4.0).
Crawford, Cano and Gutierrez were first-time winners, while Buehrle and Longoria now each have two, Mauer has three and Teixeira four.
Buehrle’s win was no surprise, if only because his wife, Jamie, posted a congratulatory message on her Facebook page Monday. The post was quickly taken down, but the word was out.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)
SEATTLE – Ted Simmons, a one-time general manager in Pittsburgh and most recently a coach in San Diego, has signed on with the Mariners as senior advisor to general manager Jack Zduriencik.
“I am excited to add Ted to our front office group,’’ Zduriencik said in a statement released by the club. “His experience as an All-Star player, front office executive, scout and big league coach will be very valuable to us as a sounding board and advisor.’’
Simmons has most recently been the bench coach in San Diego (2009 and 2010) and in Milwaukee (2008), where he worked with Zduriencik before both men left the Brewers’ organization.
He has a history of being with winners, which is one reason the Mariners had the interest in him they did. San Diego went from 63 wins the year before Simmons arrived to 75 wins in 2009 and 90 wins in 2010.
The former catcher was the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992 and 1993, winning the NL East the first year.
He played 21 seasons in the big leagues with St. Louis, Milwaukee and Atlanta, making All-Star teams eight times.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)
SEATTLE – New manager Eric Wedge dug into his past and into the Mariners’ recent past, as well, in putting together the Seattle coaching staff for the 2010 season.
Wedge is bringing back three of the men who finished on the Seattle staff last year: Mike Brumley (first base), Carl Willis (pitching) and Jason Phillips (bullpen catcher). Also joining the staff are former Giants’ infielder Robby Thompson (bench coach), 14-year veteran pitcher Jaime Navarro (bullpen) and Jeff Datz (third base).
The one man who doesn’t figure into to Wedge’s past or Seattle’s is the new hitting coach Chris Chambliss, the former Yankee who has managed at Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox organization the last two seasons. He’s been a hitting coach for the Yankees, Cardinals, Mets and Reds.
Meanwhile, the Mariners got word from first baseman Casey Kotchman that he is opting for free agency rather than accept an outright to the minor leagues.
“I figured he would do that,’’ general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We’ll see what happens going forward, but this is something that we expected.’’
That news followed fast on the Mariners’ decision not to pick up the contract options on three players from last year’s roster – left-handed starter Erik Bedard, first baseman/DH Russell Branyan and third baseman Jose Lopez.
Those moves trim about $20.5 million from the Seattle payroll for the 2011 season – the buyouts for Lopez and Bedard will cost the club about $250,000 – although that’s not to say that none of the three will be with the Mariners next season.
Lopez is still one year shy of free agency, and he will be eligible for salary arbitration that would keep him with Seattle for the 2011 season if the club doesn’t trade him.
Bedard, who is coming back from left shoulder surgery, was in the same situation last year and signed a one-year contract for low base pay ($1.5 million) and high incentive based bonuses ($8 million).
Bedard, Branyan and Kotchman conceivably could be back under contracts similar to the one Bedard signed last year, but none of those eventualities is considered large.
Meanwhile, Wedge will be having a conference call with his new staff within the week and have a face-to-face gathering in the not too distant future. He wants the club’s coaches to act as a unit well before spring training.
In Chambliss, he brings to Seattle a 17-year big league hitter who has been a hitting coach in both leagues since ending his career, although Wedge and Chambliss haven’t worked together.
“Our professional history is across the diamond as coach and manager when I was managing,’’ Wedge said Thursday afternoon. “I saw him when I was player, and I’ve know a lot of people who have known him. He’s highly respected and the consummate professional. You can’t go out and find anybody in baseball who hasn’t said that about Chris.
“He really knows hitting. His experience will be great for us.’’
Given that the 2010 Mariners had the worst offense in the Major Leagues and the poorest performance by any Seattle team ever, Chambliss will have some challenges in front of him. He had a .279 average in 17 years in the big leagues as a first baseman and hit 185 Major League homers.
Wedge is bringing back three of the men who finished on the Seattle staff last year, Mike Brumley (first base), Carl Willis (pitching) and Jason Phillips (bullpen catcher). Also joining the staff are former Giants’ infielder Robby Thompson (bench coach), 14-year veteran pitcher Jaime Navarro (bullpen) and Jeff Datz (third base).
Willis was pitching coach under Wedge in Cleveland for seven seasons and also filled the same role under Daren Brown in Seattle the final two months of the 2010 season.
Thompson, who was a coach in 2005 for Willis in Cleveland, is getting back in uniform this year after taking some time away from the game while his sons were in high school. One of them is now in college and the other two are in the minor leagues, so Wedge said Thompson was facing some “empty nest’’ issues.
General manager Jack Zduriencik said that Brown has agreed to return to the Seattle organization as the manager at Triple-A Tacoma, the job he had before taking over for the fired Don Wakamatsu. Minor league instructor Alonzo Powell, who took over as the hitting coach, will return to his minor league duties as well, Zduriencik said.
For the third time in the young history of the Fielding Bible Awards, Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki has struck gold.
Ichiro was named winner of the Field Bible’s award for best-fielding right fielder for the third time in the five-year history of the awards.
Ichiro had to beat out Cincinnati right fielder Jay Bruce for the award, making the Mariner outfielder one of five American Leaguers to be named. Four National League players won recognition.
The awards have historically been announced before the Gold Glove awards, which are the traditional barometer for fielding excellence. However, Gold Gloves are given to nine positions in each league, making the Fielding Bible awards a little more difficult to win.
John Dewan, the author of the Fielding Bible and one of the 10 voters, said in making the announcement that “Ichiro made three home-run-saving catches last year, saving five runs for the Mariners.’’
St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina became the first player to be listed first on all 10 ballots. It’s his fourth consecutive award (he finished second by six points in the initial voting in 2006). Molina tied first baseman Albert Pujols, his Cardinals’ teammate, with four consecutive wins, but Pujols, who won from 2006-09, was dethroned by Oakland’s Daric Barton.
There was one other major upset as Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford was toppled in left field by Bret Gardner of the Yankees.
The awards, which are posted in the 2011 Bill James Handbook, broke down like this:
Catcher, Molina; first base, Barton; second base Chase Utley, Phillies; third base, Evan Longoria, Rays; shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies; left field, Gardner; center field Michael Bourn, Astros; right field, Ichiro; and pitcher, Mark Buehrle (White Sox).
Bourn displaced the Mariners’ two-time winner, Franklin Gutierrez, who was the winner in center field in 2009 after having won in right field (over Ichiro) in 2008 while playing for the Indians.
John Hickey, formerly of Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com). Follow him on Twitter: @JHickey3.
There’s no way to tell if this will translate to Cy Young Award voting support, but Seattle starter Felix Hernandez was named The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Wednesday.
He was also the only Mariner named to TSN’s American League All-Star team. Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, the Major League’s hits leader with 214, lost out to Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Carl Crawford of the Rays.
Hernandez had just a 13-12 record for the woeful Mariners, thanks in major part to the fact that he got worse run support from his offense than any pitcher in the AL. He did lead the league in earned run average (2.27), starts (tied at 34), innings pitched (249.2), batters faced (1001), fewest hits per nine innings (7.0) and quality starts (30).
His candidacy for the Cy Young based on those numbers prompted a spirited debate during the final month of the season leading up to the voting. Votes are cast by two members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) from each AL city, and while Hernandez had broad support, there’s no way to tell if those assigned to vote will go with Hernandez or one of the other candidates.
C.C. Sabathia, the New York left-hander who already has a Cy Young Award earned while pitching under new Seattle manager Eric Wedge in Cleveland, lead the league with 21 wins, finished sixth in ERA (3.18) and tied Hernandez and the Angels’ Jared Weaver with the most starts (34).
Two other lefties, David Price of the Rays and Jon Lester of the Red Sox, both won 19 games, tied for second in the league behind Sabathia and attracted voters’ attention. Price finished third in the league in ERA (2.72) while Lester was ninth (3.25), and while neither finished in the top 10 in innings pitched, both ranked in the top 10 in strikeouts (225, third, for Lester and 188, eighth, for Price).
The issue that was debated was how important wins are in evaluating a Cy Young Award candidate. It can easily be argued that wins are out of a pitcher’s control, particularly if he plays for a team, as Hernandez did, that had the worst offense in the league.
In the categories he could control – ERA, innings, strikeouts (he finished with 232, one behind AL leader Weaver) and quality starts – Hernandez was unmatched by his rivals. His win total, however, may doom him if voters insist that wins are a defining characteristic of the Cy Young winner.
Hernandez finished second in the Cy Young last year to Zack Greinke when Hernandez had 19 wins and the Royals’ Greinke had 16. Greinke had the league’s best ERA at 2.16 in 2009 while Hernandez was second at 2.49.
For the complete list of The Sporting News award winners: http://www.sportingnews.com/mlb/feed/2010-10/2010-baseball-a
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)
SEATTLE – Eric Wedge, who helped build the Cleveland Indians from an also-ran to a division winner in Cleveland, was introduced by general manager Jack Zduriencik as the new manager in Seattle Tuesday, and his mission will be very much the same.
“I think they are further along here with some of the things Jack has done behind the scenes,’’ Wedge said. “They’re further down the road here than where we started in ’03. So that is encouraging.
“As you maneuver and you move and shake down the road and have to make these decisions and put this puzzle together, that’s the fun part. I’m looking forward to that. We’ve got some pieces here, and it’s our job to continue to develop these pieces and go out and see what we can do beyond that.’’
The two players Wedge singled out initially were starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.
“I’m obviously a big believer in starting pitching and all that that means,’’ he said. “I’ve been around a few special starting pitchers in the past, and you have one here in Felix, one of the best in the game. If you are going to start, you have to start there.
“If you look at the consistency of Ichiro, arguable the most consistent hitter in the history of the game, if not one of the most of the consistent hitters, you know what you can count on. Jack has done a great job in the short term. We are going to blend all this together.’’
Looking around baseball, there are plenty of outsiders who see the addition of Wedge, who finished first once, second once and twice won 90 games in seven years with the Indians, as a plus.
Former Seattle starting pitcher Cliff Lee, who is leading Texas against New York in the American League Championship Series, was once sent down to the minor leagues and was sent to Triple-A Buffalo by Wedge in the middle of what was for Lee a disastrous 5-8, 6.29 2007 season with the Indians.
Lee could be expected to harbor a grudge, but given that Lee found his game during his eight starts at Buffalo and has come back to be one of the best pitchers in the game, including winning the 2008 Cy Young Award, the left-hander is solidly in Wedge’s camp.
“I think they’ve got a very good manager in Eric Wedge,’’ Lee said. Lee pitched for the Mariners up until a July trade to the Rangers. “He’s got good makeup and a great knowledge of the game.
“Guys like playing for him. I liked playing for him.’’
There is a suggestion that Wedge is intense to the point of abstraction, and that intensity is seen by his players and coaches, not so much by the media and the fans.
“He is intense, and I think that’s a good trait to have in a manager,’’ Lee said. “It projects out. He has high expectations of his players, and I think most players need those kinds of expectations.’’
Texas skipper Ron Washington, who has managed against Wedge for years, said the Mariners “are making a really good choice.’’
“He built that team in Cleveland up from a group of kids to a real contender,’’ Washington said admiringly. “He’s great with kids, and that’s the kind of team he’s going to have in Seattle to start with.
“And don’t forget that he was a catcher he played. Catchers have to see the whole game when they play, and that translates well if they become managers. He’s a solid baseball guy and a good person.’’
Yankee reliever Kerry Wood is another Wedge supporter.
“He’s a very good guy and a very good manager,’’ Wood said. He was the closer with the Indians a year ago when Wedge was winding down his seven-year stint in Cleveland. “He’s got great expectations for his players, and he does everything he can to get the best out of them.
“He respects the game and wants everyone else to respect it, too.’’
SEATTLE – The final day of the 2009 season was made memorable by the Seattle Mariners hoisting their two popular stars, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki, on their shoulders and carrying them around Safeco Field as the fans applauded a hard-earned 85-win season and an escape from the previous season’s 101 losses.
This year? Not so much.
The Mariners are back in triple-digit territory for the second time in two years, Griffey has retired and Ichiro and Felix Hernandez are the only beacons of light in what was one of the darkest seasons in Seattle baseball history.
From spring training expectations to yet another 101-loss season, 2010 has been a complete train wreck for the Mariners. They fired manager Don Wakamatsu only to find that his replacement, Daren Brown, had virtually the same winning percentage (.380 to Wakamatsu’s .375) – because – surprise! – the players remained the same.
You could win money betting on wholesale roster changes between now and next spring when the club reconvenes in Arizona mid-February next year. The only trouble would be finding someone who’d take the bet.
And the changes won’t just be players. Brown is probably not going to return as manager, although he’s likely to stay in the organization. General manager Jack Zduriencik, who appears to have survived, said Brown was the interim manager when he promoted him to take Wakamatsu’s place. The 19-31 record Brown has compiled hasn’t won him a return engagement, although he will likely get an interview as Zduriencik looks forward to making a decision by the end of the month.
What is it, exactly, that the Mariners need?
“It’s hard to say, because we all believed in this team,’’ Ichiro said Sunday. “We thought we’d play up to expectations.’’
And Ichiro, who had two hits Sunday to finish with 214 for the year, is wary about next season, too, one of the few in the organization willing to admit that 2011 could be a duplicate of 2010. The worst offense in the American League this year could be the same next season if more productive hitters aren’t developed or imported.
“It’s hard to say how I can be optimistic, because I don’t think anyone should be,’’ Ichiro said. “This is reality. We have to take it to heart. Just because we haven’t done anything and remain optimistic doesn’t mean everything will turn out (all right) next year.
“We have to reflect on our failures individually. I think we can do that. We can work on what failed. The solution we have to find is how we can put that together for the team. That’s the answer I’m trying to find.’’
Ichiro isn’t saying he wants out of Seattle – “we’re not in that situation,’’ he said – but he’s been here 10 years and has been to the post-season exactly once. That was in his first year, 2001. At 36 – he turns 37 this month – he doesn’t have an abundance of time left.
He and Hernandez are assured of being in Seattle in 2011. As for everybody else on the roster, it’s a roll of the dice as to who will be back and who will be gone.
Third baseman Jose Lopez, who got one final at-bat as a pinch-hitter Sunday after having suffered a dislocated right middle finger on the last road trip, has a club option for the 2011 season, but there’s no guarantee the club will pick it up after he went from 25 homers and 96 RBIs to 10 and 58.
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (.245, 12 homers and a team-high 64 RBIs) has three years left on his deal. He’ll probably be back, but his drop off from 2009’s .293, 18 and 70 has to give the Mariners some pause.
Closer David Aardsma saved 31 games, but he also went 0-6 with an ERA that jumped nearly a full point – from 2.52 to 3.44 ERA from 2009 to 2010. The Mariners’ might well decide that they can lose 90-plus games without having to pay Aardsma close to $4 million or so he’ll get in salary arbitration.
And so it goes down the roster – infielders and catchers, starters and relievers, outfielders and DHs. Some of them have promise. Some have only hope. But almost all of them performed beneath the levels expected when the season began.
All of them are subject to the off-season phone call telling them they’ve been traded, released or demoted.
As bad as the summer was, it’s going to be a tough winter in Seattle.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)
It was Fan Appreciation Night on Friday at Safeco Field.
It’s a good bet that the few fans who bothered to make their way into the park – 19,656 was the announced crowd – did not appreciate much of what they saw.
The Mariners were down 1-0 before they came to the plate Friday, and down 7-0 before they got a chance to bat in the second inning.
All Seattle, a team needing to win two of the four games of this final series to avoid 100 losses, has done so far is put on a startling display of how they lost the first 97 times.
Poorly executed pitching, anemic offense and less-than-memorable defense have led to the Mariners’ being outscored 17-1 in the first two games of the series, including Friday’s 9-0 debacle.
Frankly, there’s not much to appreciate in that, not when the Athletics, a mediocre offense at best, have five more runs than the Mariners have hits.
And there probably isn’t much to appreciate in the fact that one of the club’s two bright spots this season, right-handed starter Felix Hernandez, isn’t being given a chance to pitch in front of the home folk Sunday. He’s being replaced by Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Having Hernandez pitch would be one way to show the fans a little appreciation, but that’s not going to happen. It’s one more disappointment for Seattle fans who have gotten used to such things.
Oakland is 11th in the league in runs scored, but for the first two nights of this series, interested spectators have been duped into believing the A’s know how to hit with the best of them. The reality is that Doug Fister on Thursday and Luke French on Friday couldn’t make quality pitches on demand, and they paid the price against an offense that hadn’t scored eight runs in consecutive games all year until now.
A’s first baseman Daric Barton made French pay, hitting a solo home run in the first inning, then capping a six-run second inning with just the second grand slam of the season for the A’s.
“It really wasn’t my night,” French said in the quiet of the Seattle clubhouse. “Obviously, they hit the ball hard off me. It’s going to happen. And it’s not very fun.
“It’s not the way I wanted to end my season, but you have to move on.”
That last sentence could apply to most of the rest of the roster.
Sometime in the next 72 hours, it’s likely that general manager Jack Zduriencik will come to a final decision on whether he wants to retain interim manager Daren Brown, who is 19-29 since taking over for Don Wakamatsu on Aug. 9, on a noninterim basis.
Under Wakamatsu, the Mariners were 22.5 games out of first place; they’ve made it to 28 games out since Brown took over. Wakamatsu’s winning percentage this year was .375, and although Brown’s is better (.396), the improvement is only marginal – the matter of one win, to be exact.
It hasn’t been a particular fair way to judge Brown, giving him only about 50 games in which to show his mettle, but then it wasn’t a particularly fair way to judge Wakamatsu, saddling him with a team without much hope of scoring runs.
Friday’s shutout was the 15th thrown against the Mariners this year, 10 under Wakamatsu’s watch and now five under Brown.
No matter what the decision is on Brown and his coaching staff, thumbs-up or thumbs-down won’t make a difference unless and until the front office peoples the lineup with some genuine offensive stars.
Ichiro is one – perhaps the only one at this point – but even there, a problem exists. Ichiro collected his 211th hit of the season Friday, and walked, but he didn’t score. He has, in fact, reached base 259 times this year – 211 hits, 45 walks, three times hit by a pitch – and has scored only 73 runs.
As a counterpoint, Arizona’s Mark Reynolds, who has the fewest hits (100) of all major leaguers with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, has scored 79 runs.
Clearly the Mariners are stranding Ichiro on base way, way too often. And until that changes, whatever plans Zduriencik has for managing the club is of secondary importance.
John Hickey is a senior MLB writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com).