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Moore: I can take the ‘step-back’ season but not the Mariners’ defense

The Mariners are on pace for more errors than the 1977 expansion team. (Getty).

I can’t remember whether general manager Jerry Dipoto said you can get a good handle on a team after 50 or 60 games, but we’ve seen 49, and I think that’s enough to make a few assessments of the Mariners in 2019.

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We were told this would be a step-back season, and overall that’s what we’ve seen in spite of the 13-2 start that skewed expectations. The Mariners are 23-26, an acceptable record given the circumstances of a team that is trying to build for future success in the 2020s.

But I admit to losing sight of that when I watch the Mariners. As a baseball fan, there are certain things you come to expect and probably take for granted when you watch for years and years and see major league players make one defensive play after another. Some are routine, others are spectacular.

The Mariners aren’t anywhere close to a passable level in that department. And I don’t care if so-and-so isn’t part of the future plans, I’d still like to see so-and-so catch a ball and throw a ball the way a major leaguer is supposed to do it. It’s unbelievable how bad this team’s defense is. The Mariners have committed 53 errors, 16 more than the second-worst team, the White Sox. Kansas City is one of MLB’s worst teams, but the Royals have committed only 15 errors, proving you can be a terrible team record-wise and still play good baseball in that aspect of the game.

Along with poor relief pitching – which I don’t care about as much this year – the one thing you can expect from the Mariners night in and night out is an error or two. And usually they’re of the Little League variety, ones you typically see from 12 year olds, head-slappers like dropping pop-ups.

It’s reached the point of being comical. And since they’re such a joke defensively, isn’t it fair to question the use of these stop-gap players and wonder why manager Scott Servais and his coaches aren’t getting them to play cleaner games? When a team isn’t hitting, the hitting coach always comes under fire. Why aren’t the assistant coaches coming under fire now for this awful defense?

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Then again, you could look at it in a different way. Why not “capitalize” on the Mariners’ defense and make light of it. I mean, big deal, this season doesn’t matter anyway, right? Besides, even if they played flawless baseball, they’re not good enough to make the playoffs.

I like the Taco Time promotion of giving away free Mexi-Fries to those who have downloaded the Taco Time app every time the Mariners hit a triple. If I’m the owner of some company, I’d come up with a similar promotion for errors. If I’m running a bagel shop, I’ll give you a free bagel if the Mariners committed an error last night. If I’m running a butcher shop, I’ll give you a free pepperoni stick if the Mariners committed an error last night. Just have some fun with it.

And if I’m the Mariners, if you’re at a game when we commit an error, you get half-priced beers at our game tomorrow night. For that matter, they should introduce a new kind of dynamic pricing – we’ll take $5 off of ticket prices for tomorrow’s game for every error we commit. With this team, you could be looking at $15 off the next day.

Dipoto is very gracious with his time, and we talk to him every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. on Danny, Dave and Moore. Last week he supported his defensively-challenged left fielder Domingo Santana. Part of his struggles stem from moving to left field from right field. But then Dipoto also talked about left field being the hardest of the three outfield positions to play because of the angle of the ball coming at you from the plate, or something along those lines.

First of all, he might be right. But in 50-plus years of watching baseball, I’ve never heard anyone say anything about angles of balls making it harder for a left fielder than a right fielder. I’ve always assumed that center field is the toughest of the three positions because you’ve got more ground to cover. It reminded me of the time that former Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon made an excuse for Brad Miller’s errant throws to first base in preseason games, saying that it was difficult because so many fans wore white shirts. Apparently it was hard for Miller to determine which white-shirted guy to throw to, the one with the peanuts in his hand or the one with the glove. I wasn’t buying that explanation then, and I’m not buying Dipoto’s now.

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The other thing, the 2019 Mariners give hope to delusional parents who think their marginally talented kids might eventually play in the big leagues. Little Johnny might have booted a grounder to lose the state championship Pony League game, but his dad can tell him on the ride home that it’s OK, maybe you can still play in Seattle someday.

If you think I’m being harsh, you haven’t been watching this team. There are a lot of things you can deal with in a step-back season. I really don’t mind the parade of run-of-the-mill relievers I’ve never heard of and actually appreciate some of their stories like Parker Markel’s, complete with details about how he worked last year for a hot-air balloon operation in Arizona.

But come on, enough already with the defensive buffoonery. I guess you can say they’re not as bad as the 1962 Mets, who committed 210 errors that season. But they were an expansion team. For comparison, the 1977 Mariners were also an expansion team and they committed 147 errors. The 2019 Mariners are on a pace for 175 errors. Think about that for a second. In 1977 the Mariners had a bunch of cast-offs, has-beens and never-will-be’s on their team and they still made fewer errors than the 2019 team is projected to make.

I don’t know about you, but the short-term decisions that led to the creation of this team make me less confident in the long-term decisions for the franchise.

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