"You guys... you lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry?!"
"Lollygaggers. What's our record Larry?"
"Eight n sixteen."
"Eight and sixteen. How'd we ever win eight?"
"It's a miracle!"
"It's a miracle."
It's actually 8-15 for the Mariners, but I didn't want to wait another day and risk ruining a quote that so tidily encapsulates the season so far, particularly since all reports indicate that Eric Wedge read his team the riot act after the contest.
I am not for one moment insinuating that people aren't trying. These are dedicated professional athletes and I'm sure the M's performance has infuriated them far more than it has us. The above quote is intended to resonate with the collective mood surrounding the team, not accuse an individual of a lack of effort.
Still, there's something about dropping two series against Houston with a broken roster and a million double play balls that has made the season feel lethargic thus far. It's bad enough to drop early season games. It's worse to do it against the worst team in the league. It's brutal to get blown out by said ballclub three times in a month.
But watching Ronny Cedeno deal the death blow is a new floor.
You might remember that in 2009 Ronny Cedeno was a Mariner and that he was bad. In 205 plate appearances as a Mariner, he posted a .167/.213/.290 batting line. He struck out in about a quarter of his plate appearances. He rarely walked. Every swing looked like a flail and he didn't seem to have much of an approach. Cedeno wasn't quite Ray Oyler, but he was an easy out.
Strangely, the one thing Cedeno did do occasionally was pop a home run. His shots were never impressive: on just about every one of them, he would take his prototypical feeble hack, slowly dragging his bat down through the zone, seemingly with only one hand attached to the bat. Occasionally, he'd get the fat part of the bat on the ball with just enough loft on his swing, and just enough strength behind it to poke one over the left field wall. Kind of like this. Then he'd trot around the bases with that little Ronny Cedeno smile of his. It was all rather adorable.
It looked like witchcraft, but Cedeno surprised us all with five dingers that season. That's a 15 homer pace over a ~600 plate appearance season, a pretty good output for a shortstop, and a headscratching total for a player with a wRC+ of 29. He may have been an awful hitter, but for the position, he was good at hitting homers, and even better at not being Yuniesky Betancourt. On the aggregate, I have positive memories of Cedeno as a Mariner.
There was nothing adorable or positive about his three run homer off of Saunders. Not the fact that it gave Houston a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 nothing lead. Certainly not how it doomed the M's to a second consecutive series loss to a team destined to drop 100 games this year.
We're still only 23 games into the year. A lot can happen. World Series winners have started worse than this. For now, though, this team looks and feels hopeless. Guys are out of position, people that shouldn't be on the team are starting, and it's just not a fun group to watch. I'm not giving up on the year, not by any stretch. But so far: screw 2013.
- For the third time in five starts, Joe Saunders wasn't very good. He allowed eight runs, two walks, and two homers while striking out two in five lousy innings. I'm not worried about him, in the sense that Saunders is a No. 4 or a No. 5 starter prone to a shellacking. He's the same guy he always has been. He's still throwing an 88 MPH fastball and the velocity and movement of his other pitches aren't appreciably different from season's past. Saunders simply needs sharp command of his pitches to succeed, and the Astros proved that even a lousy team can hit him hard if he doesn't have it.
- Endy Chavez has the sort of skills that make a positive impression. He makes a lot of contact, hustles around the field, and because he's quick and doesn't walk, gets a decent number of base hits. He has a hit in all but one of his starts this season, as a matter of fact. It's easy to watch Chavez every day and come away with the impression that he does a little something each game, whether it be make a nice catch, hit a single, or steal a base. Add it all up, and it's easy to feel like he's started hot.
Then you go to Fangraphs, and you see that even after a 2-4 afternoon, Chavez has a 76 wRC+ and still has no business playing as an every day outfielder or a lead off man on a major league baseball team.
- Having not watched too many of Houston's games before, I tried to come into this series with an open mind about Minute Maid Park. It's a quirky field, and I wanted time to decide if it was cute or tacky.
Verdict: What a dumb stadium. You can have a flagpole in the outfield, or you can have a hill in center, or you can construct an artificial home run porch in left, and call any one of them a colorful feature to distinguish your ballpark from everyone else's. Do all three, and you look like the minor league team your roster suggests you are.
- Justin Smoak homered today. It's up to you how much you want to get excited by a 340 foot line drive down the line against a Triple-A pitcher. I'm happy to see Smoak hitting the ball hard, but I'd like to see him do it against major league pitchers for a little while before we say he's out of his slump.
- My friend and I talked about Brendan Ryan's demotion, and pretty much covered all of the obvious ground. Ryan's a great fielder. Andino's ok with the glove. Ryan is a bad hitter. Andino is probably worse. We finished with:
Tom: "How'd he do today anyways?"
Me: "Eh, alright. He singled off the pitcher's ribs in the 9th."
Tom: "That should buy him a month." True to the blue.