Seattle Mariners Successfully Play Professional Baseball

haha what on earth

(The Padres are on the verge of being sold by John Moores. The O'Malley group and Gary Jabara are the two reported finalists, and they're bidding at least $800 million. It's expected that a buyer will be announced shortly.)

Moores: So if you-
Moores: /checks score on phone
Moores: /clenches fist
Moores: ...if you just step right in here, you can watch the team in action!
Everybody: /hits
Runs: /score
O'Malley: Wow!
Jabara: What an unbeatable squadron!
O'Malley: This team is better than I thought, I will increase my bid.
Jabara: I will in turn increase my bid as well!
O'Malley: Not as high as me!
Jabara: I have caught the Padres fever!
Moores: Terrific.
Moores: One moment.
Moores: /answers phone
Moores: Yes
Moores: Yes
Moores: Yes, now you may eat.
Moores: Only Kix.
Moores: Against the Mariners, only Kix.
Moores: /hangs up

Black: /hangs up
Black: /pours Kix
Black: /eats dry Kix
Black: /smiles

Lately I've been more about the bigger picture than usual. Maybe because the smaller picture has been unpleasant, and I don't want to devote too much of my time to that which is unpleasant. But I think it has to do with having missed a whole week on vacation. Coming back from that, I realized how silly it is to care that much about the daily games in a season like this. It's not the games that are important. It's the progress, and how much of it is being made. You can't measure progress if you focus on one game, then the next game, then the next game. You need to take a step back, because it's like a section of sidewalk. From where you stand, it seems to be flat. From the other side of the road, you might notice a slope.

But what's the bigger picture? How big is the bigger picture? How big should the bigger picture be? The smaller picture right now isn't real good. The slightly bigger picture isn't much better. A slightly bigger picture than that still isn't a picture of unicorns riding dinosaurs. If you want a big picture that allows you to feel positive about the Mariners, even with all this losing, consider the segment where Dave Sims and Dave Valle had Bret Boone in the broadcast booth tonight.

At one point, the conversation turned to Boone's family, and Boone was asked whether, if everything broke right, he'd like one of his sons to play professional baseball. To carry on the family tradition. Boone didn't hesitate in saying yes, but then reminded the Daves of how the odds are so slim. Especially with baseball being more of an international sport now than ever before. Boone would like for one of his sons to play professional baseball, but he's certainly not going to just assume that it'll happen. You need otherworldly talent, and you need some strokes of good luck, although maybe fewer strokes of good luck if your last name is Boone.

Bret Boone was right - it's extraordinarily difficult to play professional baseball. It's only exponentially more difficult to play Major League Baseball. There are just so many levels to climb through, so many opportunities to fail. But look at the Seattle Mariners. Every single one of those players is a Major League Baseball player. From Felix Hernandez all the way down to Hisashi Iwakuma! Wow! It is just astonishing how much the various Mariners have accomplished in getting to this point. This is the highest level of baseball competition in the world, and all of those Mariners are right in the thick of it. Not a one of them has disapproving parents, not anymore, not now that they've all made it. All of them have made it.

The Mariners are not a very good baseball team, relative to other Major League Baseball teams. Of that we can be certain, even if the Mariners ought to have a slightly better record than they do. But the Mariners are playing against other Major League Baseball teams every single day, so how can you consider them failures? The Mariners' players are better than almost all of the other players in the entire world. They just happen to compete against many of the few who are better than them.

If that doesn't help you feel better about the Mariners then I'm sorry but I have nowhere else to go. Can't go much further than applauding the baseball players for being baseball players. I guess the next level would be applauding the players for having jobs. In this market? Shoot. Good for the Mariners. You don't want to be looking for a job in this market.

There was an alternate option for the first few paragraphs. I could try to save it for tomorrow or Sunday to save myself some thought exertion, but I'm coming out with it now instead because I am dreadfully impatient. For a while now we've been thinking that the Mariners have problems at home. In Seattle, they are 12-19, and they can't score runs. On the road, they are 18-23, and they can score runs. What people have assumed is that this must have something to do with Safeco, and its cavernous dimensions getting in the players' heads. But maybe it's not about Safeco at all.

Maybe it's about Mariners fans, and having to play in front of them. Maybe the Mariners don't like to win in front of Mariners fans for some reason. They struggle at home. They lost two of three in Arizona, and people kept saying how many Mariners hats and shirts they were seeing there. They lost tonight in San Diego, and one of my favorite things about going to Mariners games in San Diego was always how many Mariners fans came out to the ballpark. Maybe the Mariners can't stand support. Maybe the Mariners are trying to push us away. Maybe the Mariners are trying to break up with us?

The Mariners lost this game 9-5. There were 14 runs scored in baseball's most extreme pitcher-friendly environment. The Mariners slugged two home runs in the first two innings. Kevin Millwood had a 4-0 lead after two and a half. He gave it all back and then some, and to make matters worse, Clayton Richard helped his own cause with a perfect sac bunt, a two-run double, and an RBI single.

In the fourth inning, it was Richard who put the Padres in front 5-4. In the fifth inning, it was Richard who drove in a critical insurance run after the Mariners trimmed the deficit in the upper half. He wasn't getting lucky with fortunate batted-ball location - he smacked his double down the first-base line, and he hit his single hard and split the outfielders.

Clayton Richard wasn't the only Padres hitter to have a big game, but this game could've gone mighty different had Richard been held in check. I will remind you that Clayton Richard is a pitcher, and I will point out to you that, for his career before tonight, he'd batted .109 with a .272 OPS. The average NL pitcher this year has posted a .324 OPS, so Clayton Richard has been a below-average hitter, for a pitcher.

The Mariners have been punished by bad hitters before. The first one that comes to mind is Jeff Mathis, who was better against the Mariners than he was against seemingly anyone else during his time with the Angels. It was embarrassing when the Mariners got punished by Jeff Mathis. But at least Jeff Mathis is a position player, somebody who knows which end of the bat you're supposed to hold in your hands. Clayton Richard looks like he thinks you're supposed to eat the bat. That guy delivered big hits.

This guy delivered big hits.

Richardleg_medium

Richard has a sample of at-bats going back to 2009, his first full season in the bigs. To get the best idea of what Clayton Richard is as a hitter, we should consider his entire sample. But as far as 2012's sample is concerned, before tonight Richard was 1-for-25 with 17 strikeouts. Before tonight, Richard was basically you if you played at least one year of baseball in high school. Two run-scoring hits, and against a veteran in Kevin Millwood. We can't even blame Richard's success on a young pitcher making mental mistakes. Millwood didn't have it, and he really didn't have it.

You know the worst part? When the game was over, I started going over Richard's hitting stats, and I watched the video highlights, and I started thinking "that swing's not so bad." I started thinking "those plate discipline numbers aren't as terrible as I thought they would be." I started thinking "Richard has a better contact rate for his career than Josh Hamilton has this season." I felt myself starting to make myself believe that it was okay for the Mariners to get hurt by Clayton Richard. Not from the mound, but at the plate. I had to put my own foot down. "No, self," I told myself, "you cannot rationalize this. You cannot sell Clayton Richard as a guy who should get hits. You are too positive. Recognize and acknowledge the darkness in the world."

If you do want something to be positive about, since the Mariners lost, Kevin Millwood was bad, and Kyle Seager committed two errors, Charlie Furbush was great again over two innings of relief. Oliver Perez threw more strikes and wasn't as bad as two hits and a run. Miguel Olivo drew his first walk since April 27th and also yanked a home run down the left-field line. Ichiro finished with three hits, and reached base a fourth time when his speed forced an error. These are things to not be negative about.

But the big positive is Franklin Gutierrez. I have fond memories of Gutierrez blasting dingers in Petco, and tonight he blasted another, in the top of the first inning. Richard threw him a low 1-and-1 changeup and Gutierrez powered it out to left-center. So, there, Guti already has more home runs in 2012 than he had in 2011. Guti has more home runs in his last two games than he had in 2011. In 2011, he batted almost 350 times. Maybe you don't really count home runs in Chase Field, since everybody hits home runs in Chase Field. You count home runs in Petco Park. Especially home runs that clear a power alley.

Beyond the homer, Gutierrez singled three times. He was supposed to come back from his rehab assignment a little rusty, but instead he's batting .308 with power, and while one shouldn't read into those numbers, those aren't numbers that suggest rust. Franklin Gutierrez might be clicking, and where at some points it looked like he might have another lost season, it's still June. There's a lot of time left for Guti to play, and there's a lot of time left for Guti to re-establish himself as one of the better all-around center fielders in baseball. I'm not saying he's going to do that, but the early signs are positive. We got excited about his recovered strength, and already he's demonstrating that he's better.

Tomorrow Felix Hernandez opposes Jason Marquis. That is a mismatch of breathtaking proportions. The problem is that the rest of the Mariners oppose the rest of the Padres, too, and that might just even things out. Just because Felix is way better than Marquis doesn't necessarily mean it'll look that way tomorrow night. That's why you watch! For the surprises!

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