34-50, Game Thoughts

Okay, so the Mariners just got swept by the Royals, at home. That's one of those things that's supposed to be sufficiently embarrassing to drop you to your knees. "The Mariners just got swept by the Royals! At home! Why I never-"

But then, remember that, coming into the series, the Royals were the better team. They haven't pitched as well, and they haven't fielded as well, but the M's have had a woeful offense while the Royals have been about average, and that's a big difference. A big enough difference to give Kansas City a marked edge.

So when you think about it that way, it isn't getting swept by the Royals that's embarrassing. Sometimes you get swept by better teams. What's embarrassing is that the Mariners have been worse than the Royals in the first place. Say what you will about Dayton Moore deserving more respect than he gets from the internet, but there's no way his team was supposed to be better than Jack's this year, so the way it's played out so far has been the height of disappointment. The Mariners were media darlings. The Royals were a punchline. The Royals have gone on to be better. Repeat that to yourself. Live it. Embrace it. This is our reality.

The Mariners just got swept by the Royals, at home. It never ceases to surprise me how often it surprises me that this team is as bad as it is.

  • Brandon League threw 17 pitches tonight. 15 of them were fastballs. He allowed two walks and a home run. He now has a 5.40 RA, versus last year's 4.82, and a plummeting strikeout rate. There's no longer any arguing that what he's doing is generating better results. None. He's gone away from using his splitter as often, and in so doing he's made himself worse.

    This, of course, reflects very poorly on League, who clearly has the stuff but has little concept of how to use it properly. But it also reflects poorly on the coaching staff, who - if it wasn't at the heart of it - has at the very least aided and abetted League's reversion to being a mediocre reliever. Athletes, by and large, are morons. Not all of them, but many of them. It's up to the coaches, then, to steer the athletes in the right direction. The Mariners' coaches have failed in this endeavor with regard to League. They may have had a good idea, and their heart was in the right place, but this Brandon League is way, way worse than the one for whom the M's traded, and that isn't only League's fault.

    It's frustrating, because League was so exciting when he was shiny and new. Now he's developed a reputation, and it's hard to argue he doesn't deserve it. If he doesn't start pitching differently from this point forward, then at least two people are clueless.

  • Brian Sweeney, by the way, allowed his first run of the season on a wild pitch. He has seven strikeouts and zero walks in nine innings, to go with a 42% fastball rate. Only a matter of time before the M's show him what he's doing wrong.

  • The downside is that Michael Saunders struck out another two times. The upside is that he walked another two times and played another carom perfectly, making another strong throw to retire another runner on the bases. This time it was Billy Butler in the sixth, who rounded first a little too aggressively on what was from the beginning just a standard fat guy single off the wall. It was bad baserunning on Butler's part, but it still required an excellent play and throw from Saunders in left to get the out. It's great to see the defense show up, as Saunders looks as comfortable as anyone in the outfield. It's just another piece of the puzzle. The defense has arrived. The power has arrived. As more and more of Saunders' game translates to the big league level, there's less and less ground to go before we can consider him a quality young regular. He is getting there.

  • Jose Lopez has a .274 OBP, a .335 SLG, and 229 plate appearances from the cleanup slot. Against a very wild Kyle Davies, he swung at a first-pitch low-away slider to ground into a bases loaded double play, and later, in less egregious fashion, he grounded out with the bases loaded once more. He's like Adrian Beltre without the power. Which is to say he's really really bad. There was a point at which I was pretty convinced he was working himself out of this slump, but now I don't know that he'll ever get back, at least as a Mariner. It is just impossible to have any shred of confidence in a guy with so little idea at the plate.

  • It is entirely too hot in here for me to give this point its proper due, but I would like to nominate David DeJesus as the most boring good player in baseball right now. He's like slightly above-average at everything, he's incredibly consistent, he's played in Kansas City his entire career, and I can't remember hearing a single interesting thing about any extracurricular activities. He's just kind of there. He's always there. And he's reasonably productive. You're never afraid of David DeJesus in the Royals' lineup, but then, if he beats you, it's never surprising, because, hey, David DeJesus. That's just what he does, sometimes.

    If DeJesus were a little more injury-prone, he'd be a born Oakland A.

  • After Casey Kotchman's first home run, I glanced around my living room, trying to figure out what else was awry. But then the camera caught and held a shot of Kotchman on the dugout bench looking pained and forlorn as he took off his batting gloves, and I felt these pangs of sympathy for a guy who's just trying his damndest to hang on to a dying career. So when he ripped his second dinger of the game, I felt genuine delight. Way to go, Casey. Way to prove what you can still do. I said to myself, alone, in the heat.

    Casey Kotchman is only 27 years old. He's a former top prospect who's fought through debilitating mononucleosis, a concussion, and problems with his mother's health. He's now on his fourth team in three years, he hasn't hit consistently since 2007, and after struggling with the latest team to give him a shot, he's found himself blocked by a guy acquired for no more important reason than to provide some actual offense from first base to make the season more palatable for the fans. Casey Kotchman knows his time here is likely drawing to a close. So Casey Kotchman has to be wondering what comes next. Who's going to give him a chance? Who's going to roll the dice on a guy in his prime who once made Baseball America's top 25 four years in a row?

    I'm not saying Kotchman deserves another chance to start. But I'm just some guy sitting at home on his laptop. Imagine what it must be like for Kotchman - a guy about whom you never hear a negative word - who has to wonder every single day whether he's blown his last opportunity. It has to be agonizing. To be sure, he's already made some money in the game, but he could've been so much more. He should've been so much more. You see him launch the balls he hit today and it's clear that he has the ability. He just hasn't shown it often enough, and the result is that his days as a regular could very well be through before he turns 28.

    Baseball is a business, and oftentimes I'm as guilty of being insensitive as anyone. There are times, though, that I just feel so damn bad. I feel bad for Casey Kotchman. As meaningless as it was, the shot of him in the dugout resonated with me in a way that few shots do - in the way that shot of Jeff Weaver resonated with me during his complete game however many years back. I hope Casey Kotchman figures out his swing and lands on his feet. I don't necessarily want to see him try to get there with the Mariners, but I'd still like to see him succeed. For whatever reason, I feel like he deserves it.
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