At first glance, you'd think that the Mariners are making a big deal about that magical 1995 run because this is the ten-year anniversary of the season, and it is truly something to be celebrated. Look a little closer, though, and you begin to suspect something else. See, ten years ago, the Mariners dropped as far as three games below .500 in the middle of summer before rallying to take the division in dramatic fashion. That the team struggled for a few months before taking off is common knowledge to anyone and everyone who's ever claimed to be a fan of the team. Presumably, the moral of the story is that you should never count someone out until they've been mathematically eliminated from the race.
...which brings us back to 2005, because the current batch of Mariners are pretty awful, and the guys in charge know it. How do you retain fan interest in a sorry sack of crap team? Remind everyone what a similar sack of crap team was able to accomplish just a decade earlier! Fans will continue to show up, say the suits, because everyone wants to be able to say "I was there when the 2005 Mariners turned it around." The only differences being that the 1995 team had a handful of superstars, the 2005 group is ten under .500, and the nostalgia ad campaign has been running for quite some time. So, maybe that's not the idea after all, but you can't tell me you don't have your doubts about the whole "anniversary" thing.
Today was just the latest in a series of duds, with Ryan Franklin getting himself in a heap of trouble early and the lineup unable to mount much of a rally against the streaking Joe Blanton. I'm not kidding when I say that Adrian Beltre's home run was the only remotely encouraging moment of the game; Franklin was bad, Villone didn't throw strikes, and - outside of the homer - the hitters combined for two singles and a walk while striking out seven times and hitting into a double play. I guess you could say that Beltre's barehand pick-up-and-toss was pretty cool, but even that came after the ball deflected off of Ryan Franklin's leg. The Mariners are bad, their games are boring, and it's incredibly difficult to make them sound entertaining in game recaps. I'm reaching the end of my wits.
So, on to Ol' Reliable:
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +11.2%
Biggest Suckfest: Ryan Franklin, -28.7%
Most Important Hit: Beltre homer, +13.1%
Most Important Pitch: Kielty double, -14.4%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -28.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -19.7%
The lineup was terrible, but Franklin was a little worse, earning himself the majority of the blame for tonight's loss. That's what happens when you put your team behind by three runs in the first and groove pitch after pitch. The A's picked up four consecutive hits in the first inning to give themselves the lead, and each of the balls were smoked - this wasn't DIPS Theory at work, this was good hitting against bad pitching. Throw in a leadoff homer in the second and you've got yourself a pretty reasonable approximation of the downside of Franklin's pitch-to-contact plan of attack. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and you can never have a good idea of which one you're going to get ahead of time. More unpredictability is the last thing this team needs.
Starting Rotation Strikeout Rates:
League Average: 16.6%
Sometimes I wish we'd just have the relievers start and the starters relieve.
Adrian Beltre's updated June: .312/.386/.442. He hit a few balls real hard that died short of the wall at Petco over the weekend, and finally broke out with his first home run since May 21 tonight, a no-doubter to left field. I really am convinced that the selective singles hitter we've seen this month represents something of a transition stage between Clueless Beltre and Locked-In Beltre. I don't know why it's taken him so long, or why his success couldn't just carry over from last year without any kind of frustrating 2+ month adjustment period, but when you start as poorly as he did, I don't think you can make up all that lost ground in one fell swoop. If I'm wrong, I'll eat a hat, but I like the direction he's headed. He'll have the chance to beat up on Texas and Kansas City pitchers for a week, starting this Friday.
Miguel Olivo mound conference with Ryan Franklin, pre-demotion:
Franklin: "What do you want?"
Olivo: "You throw ball, not good."
Franklin: "You're the one who called that pitch."
Olivo: "That pitch, easy to hit. Muy easy."
Franklin: "Like you'd know what an easy pitch to hit looks like..."
Olivo: "Now throw, throw better pitch. See? Yes."
Miguel Olivo mound conference with Ryan Franklin, post-recall, Jeff's fantasy:
Franklin: "What do you want?"
Olivo: "What were you thinking on that one?"
Olivo: "That guy's a pull hitter. I set up outside and you threw a fastball on the inner half. And you wonder why you get pounded so often?"
Franklin: "Wait, what?"
Olivo: "Look, I'm in control, here. I tell you which pitches to throw, and where to throw them. Try paying attention to what I'm doing with my fingers and my glove, since you obviously don't have a clue what to do otherwise."
Olivo: "It's simple. You don't even have to think. You just pitch how I tell you to pitch. Ready? Break."
Miguel Olivo mound conference with Ryan Franklin, post-recall, reality:
Franklin: "What do you want?"
Olivo: "It's my turn to hit."
Franklin: "This is the pitcher's mound."
Olivo: "Then where's the dugout?"
Franklin (:gesturing:): "Over there."
Olivo: "Fascinating." :walks away:
Franklin: "There are two outs."
Olivo: "Two whats?"
After watching him today, I'm actually a little more confused by Olivo's being back in the Majors than I was when I first heard about the move yesterday afternoon. On strictly a performance basis, he hit a pretty good single, so that's neat, but he was still out in front of offspeed and breaking pitches. On an appearance basis, he was sporting an altered stance from the ones we've seen before. Rather than having an open or closed stance, Olivo's feet were perpendicular with the pitcher's mound, and he had his bat resting on his shoulder instead of cocked back behind his head. Now, Miguel's been in the minors for a month - is that really a long enough time for him to get comfortable with a new stance, a stance which is markedly different from the one we saw when he first came over last summer? And is that all he and the coaches worked on in Tacoma? It certainly wasn't situational pitch selection, as it appeared that Olivo was just relaying pitch signals from the dugout to the pitchers instead of calling them himself. I guess what it really boils down to is, why did the Mariners recall Olivo from Tacoma so quickly, when he couldn't possibly have figured much out in the four weeks he was gone? I'm happy to see him back in the Majors, and I hope he can put the past behind him and fulfill his considerable potential, but I just don't see why this was done.
Come to think of it, I wonder if the dugout was only relaying pitches and leaving the location up to Miguel. That would explain the four fastballs down the heart in the first inning.
I'm tired of this. Day game tomorrow (12:35pm), which gives most of us a handy excuse for missing it. If you're tuning in, you've got Gil Meche going up against Dan Haren, who's been phenomenal. Sounds great.