One of the stranger quirks about sports fans is that they're always demanding that their teams get respect. Respect respect respect. You wouldn't believe how badly fans of good or decent teams want their teams to be respected. They're always complaining that opposing broadcasters don't give their team any respect. They're always complaining that ESPN and other outlets don't give their team any respect. They're always complaining that the other team's fans don't give their team any respect. I don't know exactly why this is, and my theory's still in development, but it's almost universally true.
So with that in mind, sorry, Rangers fans. Were the Rangers coming off a dominating four-game sweep of, I dunno, the Rays, or the Angels, or the White Sox, that would be one thing. But the Rangers completed a four-game sweep of the Mariners - the ice-cold Mariners - and the Mariners' hitters looked so bad throughout that it's hard to believe the Rangers even had anything to do with it. Sometimes after a team gets shut down the manager will tip his cap to the other pitcher, but does anyone believe the Mariners got shut down because they were playing the Rangers? It's my belief that the Mariners got shut down because they were playing baseball.
Obviously we can assume that the Rangers' pitchers pitched well, and the Rangers are a good baseball team that's much better than our baseball team, but nobody cares right now, because that isn't the story. The story isn't about how well the Rangers pitched. The story is about how poorly the Mariners hit, and about how poorly the Mariners have been hitting for a while. The Mariners had a team OPS of .636 on July 1st. It has stayed the same or dropped every game since.
So if Rangers fans are looking for respect from Mariners fans, I'm sorry to say they're not going to get it. Not now. They may get general respect, in that we all know the Rangers are good, but they won't find respect for the Mariners' having been limited to two runs in four games, because one gets the sense that Mariners could've been limited to two runs in four games by Kevin Jarvis. And I don't mean mediocre, peak-level 2000 Kevin Jarvis, who posted an ERA+ of 98. I mean Kevin Jarvis now. The 41-year-old Kevin Jarvis who does God knows what, God knows where. This Kevin Jarvis probably could've limited the Mariners to two runs in four games too, and he's a senior geophysicist.
There is a bright side to this whole situation. The 2006 Mariners dropped out of contention in a hurry when they lost 11 games in a row in August, and I still have a vivid memory of Adrian Beltre snapping that skid when he slashed a walk-off solo homer against Ron Villone and the Yankees. When the Mariners' offense wakes up, and/or when the Mariners finally win again, it's going to feel great. But it's only going to feel great because of all this recent nonsense. All struggling teams struggle, but, offensively, this is one amazing struggle.
A small selection of bullet holes, since whatever:
- So that's three starts for Blake Beavan, with 20 innings pitched and six runs allowed against the Padres, Angels and Rangers. I'm not sure if he'll get another start against Boston or if Erik Bedard will re-assume his spot in the rotation, but the lesson here is that, hey, here's a reminder that anything can happen over a small sample. One should never freak out over a 15-day DL assignment, because the window is so small that a player's replacement can easily overperform. Who knows if Bedard himself could've managed to allow just six runs over 20 innings? Erik Bedard went on the DL, and - so far - that hasn't really hurt the Mariners one bit, even though, on talent, Bedard's replacement is much worse.
Beavan wasn't great today, and I suspect he'll never be great, but as people like to say when they want to offer an opinion without having to think too much, he held his own. The Mitch Moreland home run came on a changeup that was pretty much right where Beavan wanted it to be, and the Rangers didn't do any other damage. Beavan looked more or less how you'd expect him to look in a big stadium against a good offense. Things could've unraveled early when Nelson Cruz batted with the bases loaded in the first, but Beavan blew him away with a fastball located well near the outer edge. Beavan responded with a little fist pump, as if he thought he had a chance of winning.
- Said Dave Sims when Justin Smoak batted with two out and none on in the bottom of the ninth:
Smoak trying to keep the spark alive.
Jeff Gray has pitched three times in the last six games, which is as many times as he pitched between May 11th and July 8th. He has not pitched in a win since April 21st. The White Sox and Mariners are a combined 1-11 when Gray makes an appearance. Relievers are all about knowing their roles. Closers like to know they're closers. Setup men like to know they're setup men. Eric Wedge is good about assigning roles. I wonder what Jeff Gray's role is called.
- In the next team meeting, Gray is going to lean back with his arms resting on the chairs beside him, looking around with an innocent expression on his face.
- To compensate for the Mariners' offense being so terrible, we have all developed the ability to be content with lesser achievements. All five Mariners hits this afternoon were met with rousing applause. When Greg Halman singled in the bottom of the fifth, right after Justin Smoak singled, Dave Sims said "another one!" with this excitement in his voice like he hadn't so much seen consecutive singles as consecutive 110 mile-per-hour fastballs.
- In between his last appearance on July 2nd and his appearance today, Jack Wilson grew a thick goatee. He also came up with an RBI single in the eighth to drive in the Mariners' only run of the game. Look for him to play more often, as Eric Wedge will assume that he's new.
- With two out and none on in the top of the seventh, Blake Beavan drilled Ian Kinsler in the ear flap with a fastball. Kinsler went down to the ground, got up on his arms, and before long he was making his way to first, staying in the game. Wedge immediately pulled Beavan and replaced him with Jeff Gray, since Jeff Gray's fastball could at least knock a batter out.
The Mariners have an offday tomorrow, giving the hitters a chance to cool down after consecutive one-run outbursts. Don't touch them, they're lava!