Someone please explain why I rushed home from work for this.
There's no fun in watching these games right now. The pitching's bad. The offense is lousy from top to bottom, as you can't count on any single hitter to consistently get on base. There's no one real interesting in the bullpen. Just two months ago, I would've given anything to be able to watch some meaningful baseball; now, I'd give anything to make it stop, at least for a few weeks. Leads feel like deficits, run-scoring hits feel like outs, and big pitches feel like a mere delay of the inevitable. This afternoon, it got to the point at which I was asking myself what it would take to get me interested in the games again. I couldn't answer my own question.
The Devil Rays are ahead of us in the standings right now. So are 24 other teams. It helps the psyche a little to know that Oakland's having it even worse, but that itself could stand to improve, since I'd prefer that Anaheim be in the cellar instead. May 28th, and I'm already leaning on schadenfreude to get me through the season. What does that tell you?
You can expect today's sequence of events to be a recurring theme through the year - mediocre start, spotty relief, and precious little from the lineup. Despite leading 1-0 for two and a half innings, it never really felt like the Mariners were in front; it was more like they just had farther to fall. And fall they did, with back-to-back RBI singles in the fifth for Tampa Bay essentially sealing our fate (let's be honest). My body barely registered any kind of response to Richie Sexson's run-scoring knock a few minutes later, because as much as I try to trick it from time to time, my mind knew that the rally would end there, and that we'd still be losing. It became a chore to sit and watch the game from that point forward, as I began to fight with myself over whether or not it was really worth paying attention to a one-run game, but Phelps' seventh inning home run mercifully freed me of my shackles, allowing me to step away and go somewhere else for the rest of the night. Nevermind Ibanez's two-run double - all that did was give us another reason to be pissed off at Boone.
The graphic creates the mistaken impression that this was an interesting game. The Mariners peaked with Randy Winn's leadoff double in the fourth, but that disappeared pretty quickly as Tampa Bay would soon tie the game. It was pretty much all downhill from that point forward, save for a few spikes here and there that only served to excite the casual fan who is unaware of just how bad this team really is right now. Sexson and Ibanez were the "heroes" of the game, going 3-6 with two walks and three RBI's, while it was Boone, Mateo, and Winn who cost us the most with some poorly-timed outs and bad pitches. The most important play of the game was Boone stranding three runners in the sixth (-15.0%), followed closely by Winn's strikeout at the end (-14.5%). Ibanez's two-run double was the most "helpful" hit of the day for the lineup, as it raised the team's chances of winning from "exceedingly slim" to "a little less slim" (+11.6%). Note that Thornton is credited with a +0.025 rating despite allowing a single to the only batter he faced; this is due to a sample size issue in the reference data which gets balanced out over a full season.
This was really kind of a worst-case scenario start for Gil Meche. After stringing together several decent-to-good starts against solid lineups, he struggled against a weaker one, failing to throw consistent strikes to one of the most aggressive offenses in recent history. His K/BB ratio on the year is way too close to breaking even, and it seems like whatever gains he may have had in the second half a year ago disappeared over the winter. For the first time since the beginning of April, there was absolutely nothing encouraging to take from Gil's start. Not that it really means anything - given our depth issue in the rotation, Meche will have all the time in the world to work things out. Don't be surprised if Hargrove and Price work him hard, because he's getting more and more expensive every year, and at some point we have to find out once and for all if there's anything else worth discovering under the surface.
The Law of Averages is catching up with Julio Mateo really, really fast. After allowing seven hits and one run in his first 15.1 innings, he's allowed 20 and eight in his last 14.
There's a Tampa Bay season ticket holder by the name of Rob Szasz who's made himself into something of a C-list celebrity by loudly heckling an opposing player ever day. With the dome and the small crowds, you can hear him pretty well over the radio or on TV. He was all over Bret Boone today, and at one point even drew contentious ire from the normally affable Ron Fairly. This got me thinking - you can usually get a pretty good idea of how the season is going by paying close attention to how Fairly conducts himself over the air. Observe the Fairlyometer, complete with an arrow indicating where we stand at the present:
Another loss to the Devil Rays and we might have ourselves a Code Green.
Long before the Aflac Frankenduck advertisement began to air during every 125-second commercial segment, there was Money Tree, which might have the worst running ad campaign in the history of the universe. Can you imagine how the initial brainstorming session went down?
Ad Exec #1: "So how can we market our product?"
Ad Exec #2: "I've got nothing."
Ad Exec #3: "How about we get two people dressed as comically oversized green caterpillars, put them on a fake branch, and have them discuss the several benefits of doing business with our company?"
Ad Exec #1: "I like it, but it's missing something. I don't really know...quite..."
Ad Exec #2: "Wait, I've got it - put them in a tree made of money."
Ad Exec #3: "Good. Run with that."
Maybe these asshole caterpillars wouldn't need to take out so many loans if they climbed out of the tree and found some damn jobs. It's bad enough that I have to sit in one place and watch the Mariners for three hours every day; these ads aren't doing much to brighten my viewing experience.
Neither is Darnell Coles, the extent of whose insight rivals that of the desk at which you're sitting. He's like a combination of Tommy Lasorda's old school conventional wisdom and Dave Myers' bad timing. At one point during the sixth inning, he went so far as to exclaim in so many words that "this team never quits", despite the fact that, since about April '04 or so, that's totally all they've done. He also became the first Mariner announcer of the year, I believe, to fall into the trap of assuming that Olivo's defense is good because his offense is not. It makes you wonder - is Coles a worse broadcaster than he was as a player?
In Randy Winn's opinion:
That's a fine idea and all, but Winn touched on the main problem - if you can't get on base, you can't score runs. They aren't getting three-run homers, stealing bases, or advancing runners for the same reason - there's never anyone on. If guys start reaching base, then the problem will take care of itself, but that's a tall order when your biggest free agent acquisition is busting and the bottom of your lineup essentially forfeits two innings of potential offense.
The whole situation has apparently been bad enough to drive Mike Hargrove certifiably insane, a condition which reveals itself in the following quotation:
Tune in tomorrow at 3:15pm to find out if Hargrove really totally loses it and brings a gun to the stadium to end everyone's misery. According to Dave Henderson, such an occasion would be "something new" that makes watching the game all worth it. God knows it won't be the Sele/Fossum matchup.