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Mariners Lose

Mariners lose!
Mariners lose!

It being a holiday, I should only hope you had better things to do than watch this game. Even if your better thing was doing nothing at all. Sometimes doing nothing at all is exactly what a person needs, and sometimes doing nothing at all is a whole hell of a lot better than watching the Mariners. Not all of the time, but few things are true all of the time.

This afternoon, the Mariners played the Orioles, and assuming you didn't watch or follow along, here's what you missed: the Mariners lost 4-2, and that makes it sound nice and close and competitive. It was 4-0 in the top of the fifth, and it was 4-0 after eight, and to that point the Mariners had one hit to their name. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Michael Saunders hit a groundball that J.J. Hardy couldn't field. That was the Mariners' hit, for eight innings.

The guy who was shutting the Mariners down was one-time Mariners prospect and one-time irritating MySpacer Chris Tillman, who came in with a lifetime 5.58 ERA in the major leagues. Over 36 starts, he'd been terrible, and this was his first start with the Orioles in 2012. In fairness, Tillman seems to have gained some velocity all of a sudden, and he does have a quality repertoire, but this wasn't so much about Tillman. This was about just another performance from the offense that appeared lifeless for far too long. Yesterday, the Mariners could've been perfect game'd. Today, the Mariners could've been one-hit.

The way the game ended was with Miguel Olivo flying out to the track as the tying run. As the ball left Olivo's bat, for only an instant I thought the Mariners might've completed their rally. That would've been dramatic, to be sure, but it would've buried the larger problem of all the nothing that continues to precede the something. This offense is this offense.

Sometimes when something bad happens to or with the Mariners, I step back and wonder how bad we really have it. We all like to think we're at the center of everything, that we're special, that we have it better or worse than everyone else, but that often isn't true. It's important to keep that perspective. With the offense, though, we have it pretty bad. We've been through a lot more lately than the other fans have.

The nightmare began in 2008. That was when the Mariners were supposed to take a step up from being a near-playoff team, but instead tumbled down several flights of stairs. The Mariners have been a big steaming pile of crap ever since, and while there was more sunshine than clouds in 2009, that was hardly sustainable, and that helped set us up for an awful 2010. It's been a rough road. This has been one of them old logging roads in the forest, and you're driving an old Toyota, and it just rained and there are potholes everywhere. In the right frame of mind, it feels adventurous. In a normal frame of mind, it feels shitty.

Since 2008, the Red Sox have scored 3,821 runs. That's more than anyone else in baseball, by seven over the Yankees. The 16th-place team is the Braves, at 3,236. In 29th we find the Padres, at 2,821. In 30th, we find the Mariners, at 2,708. That includes the Mariners' game today. The Padres haven't yet played their game today. Since 2008, the Mariners have scored 113 runs less than the next-worst team, and that next-worst team plays in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark in a league where pitchers hit. Then there's considerable distance between 29th and 28th.

It's not like the Mariners have been just another baseball team that struggles to score runs. Plenty of teams struggle to generate consistent offense. Nobody's in the Mariners' league. What we have all been through, nobody else has been through over the same period of time. We have had it worse than everyone else. We have earned the right to be the most cynical.

This was supposed to be the year that things got better, and it might still turn out that way. For stretches, it appeared that it was that way. Look at all of the talent that the Mariners have amassed. Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders look like average, left-handed bats. John Jaso's approach (against righties) is practically flawless. Justin Smoak was quite recently one of the top position-player prospects in baseball, for his offense. Jesus Montero was quite recently one of the top position-player prospects in baseball, for his offense. Dustin Ackley was quite recently one of the top position-player prospects in baseball, for his offense. A few years ago, the idea that Smoak, Montero, and Ackley would be in the same lineup in 2012 would've been unthinkable. Teams don't just collect that kind of young talent; that's nothing but a fantasy. The Mariners collected that young talent, and it's been bad. It's young. But it's been bad.

And now Jesus Montero has a concussion. That's another thing you missed, as he took a foul ball off the helmet. The Mariners say it's mild and that he won't have to go on the seven-day concussion disabled list, so, okay, there are only three more games until the All-Star break anyway. Montero's probably going to be fine, soon, but then he'll get back to playing and if he plays anything like he has been playing, he won't be fine in the performance department. Montero might need to go to triple-A. All three of the Mariners' bright young prospects might need to go to triple-A. All three of them have problems and who among us has faith that they'll be worked out in the majors? I guess I should ask at a time when we're not all feeling so cynical, but as established, we have the right to feel cynical.

This team doesn't hit, and I don't know how it doesn't hit, but it's driving everybody crazy. Just hit! You can keep losing if you want to, but lose and hit! Just score runs often enough that we don't have to make a big deal of it when you score runs! Just hit enough that we don't have to wonder whether John Jaso is the best batter on the team! John Jaso is very neat and I love his approach, but John Jaso should not be the guy you most want to have come to the plate in an important situation. He should be a guy you accept in those situations. He should be someone who's closer to being underrated than overrated.

As long as I'm sitting here complaining because I spent three hours of a holiday watching these Mariners, Hector Noesi allowed four runs in five innings. Eric Wedge pulled him after 80 pitches, presumably out of frustration. Now, today, you could say Noesi had positive indicators - zero walks, four strikeouts, 11 missed swings. Looking beyond the surface stuff showed hints of ability. But it's not like Noesi has been allowing runs while posting decent "sabermetric" numbers all year long. The sabermetric numbers have hated him too. Coming into Wednesday, among 145 starting pitchers, Noesi's ERA ranked 17th-worst. His FIP ranked fourth-worst, and his xFIP ranked sixth-worst. No matter how one would choose to look at Hector Noesi, he's been terrible, relative to other starters.

Maybe today was progress, I don't know. Maybe today was a little bad luck. Noesi hasn't always been there with the strikeouts, and he generated an acceptable number of grounders. There were more positives than there often have been. But Noesi has to be on thin ice, and I wouldn't mind seeing him get shipped to Tacoma tomorrow or after that. Give his rotation spot to Hisashi Iwakuma for the time being because why not? Noesi has plenty of things to work on, as do other pitchers, as do many hitters. So many players have things they need to work on.

Which, I guess, we were warned about. Remember:

"Let's not kid ourselves."

--Jack Zduriencik

That pre-spring training luncheon and press conference is supposed to be a time for positivity and optimism, so Zduriencik raised some eyebrows by being honest. We understood, and we were willing to buy in, and we knew the season wouldn't go smoothly, but I can't imagine that the team has met Zduriencik's expectations so far. We were warned to expect some cloudy conditions, but we've barely seen the sun.

Maybe the Mariners just need to go back on the road. They're 19-24 on the road, with runs. They're 16-25 at home, with no runs. I remember when the Mariners were playing decent baseball and they had way more games played on the road than at home. I remember thinking things could get even better, because teams tend to perform better in their home ballpark. The Mariners have the second-worst home record in baseball. Opposing teams haven't scored in Safeco, but the Mariners really haven't scored in Safeco.

This post turned out to be a lot more depressing than I thought it would be when I started it. I'm going to stop it now and do something else. If you're reading this on July 4, and you don't want to be depressed on a holiday, consider that at least the Mariners' disappointing young hitters aren't disappointing old hitters. Things could be worse. Things have been worse. And we all lived through them! Except for Ed. Ed cared entirely too deeply about the Mariners.