- Before the year started, anybody who was anybody predicted that the Mariners would end up winning ~81-84 games, and that there existed the potential for more (even a first-place finish) based on the sheer amount of young talent on the roster. Truly, there wasn't (and still isn't) a team better poised to take everyone by surprise than the Mariners, who looked strong, flexible, and loaded with breakout potential.
One of the problems with predicting how a team does based on how it looks on paper, though, is that this operates under the assumption that the resources on the roster will be maximized to the fullest extent, that the right people will bat in the right places and that as little playing time will go to the worst players as possible. Preseason predictions assume that the roster will be managed perfectly, and that only injuries can cause a deviation from this ideal.
Preseason predictions don't take into consideration people like Mike Hargrove.
Since topping out at 42-40, the Mariners have lost eight of their last ten games. In the first game of this little skid, Hargrove refused to send Eduardo Perez to the plate on two separate occasions when he very easily could have driven home the winning run and sent the M's into a tie for first place. It might've been the worst-managed game of the entire season, and it made people realize that the team had been hot in spite of - not due to - having Hargrove at the helm.
Today (and, to a lesser extent, yesterday) we witnessed another managerial debacle, already addressed by Dave at USSM. The real pièce de résistance was Hargrove going with the excruciatingly horrible Julio Mateo instead of Rafael Soriano or, more alarmingly, JJ Putz in the eleventh inning of a tie game. Predictably, Mateo lost the game, and the Mariners lost the series. Why didn't Putz pitch, you ask? Here's why:
Mateo was in the game because closer J.J. Putz warmed up three times during Saturday's loss and was deemed unavailable by Hargrove on Sunday.
(Bear in mind that Mateo threw two innings the previous day. Soriano threw one, Putz threw zero.)
Honestly, I don't know how to take this anymore. Hargrove was given a talented roster, but through the magic of loyalty to veterans, aggressive baserunning, poor bullpen management, little use of a good bench, and general incompetence, he's managed to piss away winnable game after winnable game. Obviously you can't singularly blame Mike Hargrove for any given Mariner loss, since it's the players who determine the final score, but over the course of the season he's made so many bad to awful decisions that, if I were to give him a Win Probability Added rating, he'd almost certainly be rounding out the bottom. Nobody is ever directly responsible for a loss, but over time the partial blame can add up, and suddenly you realize that one guy has basically cost your team a handful of games. That's Mike. With a perfect skipper, the Mariners would be in first place right now. With an average manager, they'd be at least .500. That, more than anything else, has to be the most maddening fact of the season.
The 2006 Seattle Mariners are a good, talented team, capable of making the playoffs if a few things were to break the right way. However, they're just not good enough to win with Mike Hargrove. The roster was built in such a way that, in order to squeeze out every last drop of production, it must be handled with careful attention paid to detail. And that's just not Mike Hargrove. It's not who he is, and it's not what he does.
I can't stand the thought that Seattle's own manager could end up being the reason why the Mariners miss out on the playoffs. I guess the skeptics were right. I miss Bob Melvin.
- Yeah, I realize that everybody complains about their favorite team's manager. They're like third base coaches, in that you only really notice them when they do something stupid. That said, Mike Hargrove is a special kind of stupid, and this is more than your run-of-the-mill "Manager X needs to be fired" daytime talk radio caller rant. Unlike, say, Willie Randolph or Ron Gardenhire, Mike Hargrove really is that bad, and he really does need to go.
- A shame that the outcome had to go and spoil Yuniesky Betancourt's miraculous game-tying home run off of BJ Ryan. The approximate odds of that happening, based on respective career HR rates: 1.27%, or once every 79 plate appearances.
- After today, I'm convinced that we'll never be able to tell whether or not Adrian Beltre is finally coming around, because he's developed this nasty habit of looking phenomenally retarded in one at bat and spectacularly awesome the next. While he smacked two doubles and drew a walk this afternoon, he also offered arguably the worst swing of all time at any level of baseball on a low-outside curveball in the top of the third. The pitch started five feet away and ended somewhere behind first base, but Adrian swung at it anyway, making up for a month's worth of decent plate discipline in half a second. If you were watching the game, you know what I'm talking about; if you weren't, don't fret, because you'll be seeing it on AJ Burnett highlight reels for the next decade until he retires.
- Based on what was shouted near a microphone around home plate in the bottom of the third, I have it on good authority that Vernon Wells thinks Vernon Wells is a "stupid son of a bitch."
- I was going to write a list of things that are funnier and/or more entertaining than the Geico gecko, but for the sake of my fingers, I'll do the opposite and compose a list of things that are less funny and/or entertaining than the Geico gecko:
- According to folklore I just made up, the Angel of Death is accompanied by a smokin' hot bimbo whose sole purpose is to ease the pain that comes with the realization that you're dead and going to Hell. She appears rather suddenly just prior to quietus and sticks around until the deed is done and the soul is released from its body, at which point she returns to her otherworldly necromantic abode for cocktails and casual sex with men who are better looking than you. Sure enough, she was in attendance at the Rogers Centre today, showing up to stand behind home plate and bear witness to the bottom of the eleventh:
Mysterious accomplice to Death whose face is constantly hidden by the FSN header graphic, you can find my email address in the right-hand menu bar. I understand the necessary side-effect of making your acquaintance, but while it's not ideal, I'm not sure a life of watching Mike Hargrove manage your favorite baseball team is a life worth living anyway.
- Willie Ballgame entered the game hitting .193 with one double against right-handed pitchers, and proceeded to drop an o'fer in five at bats. Given that Jeremy Reed was 0-23 against southpaws before he hurt himself, I suppose we should at least be thankful that Hargrove didn't get his platoon backwards.
I don't feel like writing anything else. Jarrod Washburn takes his sterling 5.70 road ERA to Yankee Stadium tomorrow, taking on frustrating groundballer Chien-ming Wang at 4:05pm PDT.