This is what it looks like when a team rolls over.
Facing such luminaries as Sean Douglass, Jason Grilli, and Mike Maroth, the Mariners managed all of 17 hits in a three-game series against Detroit, getting outscored 16-4 and falling to a season-low 22 games below .500. The good news, as Jerry points out, is that the M's are setting themselves up to get another shiny draft pick - the moved a game closer to #4 overall today, with a loss and Tampa Bay's win in Anaheim, and mathematically they still have a shot at #2. The bad news is that we still have to stomach watching these assbags play another six games before we can call it a year and head our separate ways for six months. At this point, even the team must be aware of how difficult they are to watch. If the Mariners were a 15 year old girl, they'd have serious self-esteem and body image problems.
Ever the frontrunner, Gil Meche got a headstart on the offseason by coming out with dead arm after two innings. We didn't actually get to hear this report until the game was over, though, leading to six innings of bewildered facial expressions and guesses as to what he did to himself this time. While that was taking place, Shigetoshi Hasegawa imploded and the Mariner lineup went as limp as...well, use your imagination. Really limp. Throw in a colossal home run off another Seattle pitcher who obviously doesn't belong in the big leagues and you've got yourself one hell of a well-spent Sunday afternoon.
Mariner bats in the series: .189/.284/.256
Tiger bats in the series: .289/.330/.567
If you added up the lengths of all five Mariner hits today, it probably still wouldn't be as long as Pena's homer.
Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +10.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Shigetoshi Hasegawa, -26.2%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez double, +11.7%
Most Important Pitch: Wilson single, -10.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -28.2%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -19.9%
The "dead arm" phenomenon is not new to Gil Meche. We saw this happen in 2000, when Gil complained that he couldn't get any power on his pitches after appearing in 15 games. He took the remainder of the summer off, hoping that several months of rest could cure what ailed him, but he showed up at Spring Training the next year with the same problem. A visit to Dr. James Andrews (a name you never want to hear in conjunction with that of a young pitcher) confirmed that Meche had a torn labrum (edit), requiring pretty major surgery. He didn't throw another pitch in a competitive game until the second half of the Texas League season in 2002, where he sucked. It took him quite some time to get back to form, even if that form wasn't anywhere near as good as people thought it would be.
Now the dead arm is back, and it's brought another premature end (albeit just barely) to Meche's season. Getting away from the mound was the best thing Gil could've done today when he realized that something was wrong, but the team has openly questioned his durability before, and probably won't be too happy with this latest incident. You have to wonder if this sour end will be enough to make the Mariners non-tender Meche, for once acknowledging that he's not worth the trouble. The alternative is that they realize just how starved they are for starting pitchers and bring Gil back for one last go round, trying everything they can to squeeze productivity out of his tattered right arm.
When contemplating Meche's future with the organization, then, the suits will need to think about just how much they can realistically expect to get out of the guy. They've already got his spotty stastical history, but now they've got another injury to pile on top of that. What does today mean in the long run? The term "dead arm" isn't bad in and of itself - if anything, it's encouraging that Meche is experiencing normal fatigue without getting his mechanics all out of whack and busting his elbow. It's actually a pretty common issue for pitchers, at least compared to various other ailments. Eddie Guardado came up with dead arm last summer and has pitched as well as anyone could have predicted this season. Mariano Rivera gets it at least once a year, but it's never been a major issue, as he's only the best closer of all time.
Where it becomes troubling is when you recall that Meche has had this before, and it turned out pretty much as poory as possible. He didn't think it was a major issue back in 2000 (it actually went away for a start here and there before he finally got shut down), and he's not likely to think it's that major this time either, but that's just the competitive bulldog nature that you find in any professional athlete coming out. The truth of the matter is that he has an extensive medical history that makes you raise your eyebrows whenever he gets a bump or a scrape.
Does Meche have a busted shoulder? At this point, that doesn't seem likely, although it's a wonder the whole thing didn't just completely fall to pieces in 2003. What he does have is a shoulder that seems incapable of holding up through a full season of starting without getting tired, hurt, or both. The team is skeptical about his endurance. The fans are finally coming around to the fact that Gil Meche is not going to suddenly flip a switch and turn into a quality Major League pitcher.
So put him in the bullpen.
I don't think the right thing to do has ever been this obvious. Meche has logged more than 600 big league innings showing that he's not effective in the rotation. His limbs can't hold up under the weight of 30+ starts in a year. The organization still loves his stuff and wants to try everything it can to help Meche realize his famous potential.
So put him in the bullpen.
There are enough similarities to Eric Gagne there to make it worth a shot. Converted starting pitchers almost always have more success in the bullpen, simply by dint of the fact that they can cut the worst pitch(es) out of their arsenal. How can you draft a guy in the first round and commit ten years and millions of dollars to his development, then let him go without trying everything in your power to find a role in which he can succeed?
Put him in the bullpen. You know you're going to bring him back anyway, settling for a few $million outside of arbitration, so please, for the sake of everyone involved, give him a shot in relief. If it doesn't work out, then hey, at least you tried. And if it does, then you can finally point to his high selection in the '96 draft and tell people that you know what you were doing all along. You can thank me later.
Kameron Loe and Felix Hernandez face off at 7:05pm PDT on Tuesday in a game featuring two pitchers who're actually fun to watch. Nothing doing tomorrow.