O’Neil: As hard as it is, patience is the best option with this young Mariners team
And now we wait. This isn’t going to be pleasant as we’ve discovered over the past month of this Mariners season as base hits have evaporated. It isn’t going to feel fair, either, given the fact that we’ve already waited through the first two seasons of this rebuilding process that was supposed to start bearing fruit is instead producing futility at legitimately unbelievable level.
A buck ninety-eight is not a drug-store price, but it’s the Mariners’ collective batting average after 44 games, worst in the big leagues heading into Friday’s game at San Diego. They’ve been no-hit twice this year, and while injuries certainly haven’t helped Seattle this year, they don’t explain the problems, either. Evan White wasn’t hitting before his hip was hurt. Neither was Dylan Moore. The fact that Sam Haggerty was used as a designated hitter last week should tell you everything you need to know about the lack of viable major-league hitting options at this point.
The wailing may now commence. Maybe some gnashing of teeth or rending of garments. The suffering is biblical and provoking angst over everything from the development path of specific prospects to the timeline to see results to the previous developmental failures that occurred years before the arrival of the men who currently compose this team’s baseball operations.
Take a deep breath, everyone.
We knew this team was going to be young. We knew this team was unlikely to make the playoffs this year. So while no one expected the hitting to be this bad, the past two months should not be mistaken as some referendum on the state of Seattle’s franchise. It is a disappointing offensive start after an unprecedented year in which there was no minor-league baseball.
As a fan, you face a choice right now over how you express understandable frustration. You can be a screaming toddler who invokes 20 years of futility and cites previous failures that predate the guys who are running things now. The short-term payoff for this approach is high in that it provides a cathartic emission of anger and pressure. It’s like a steam valve. Unfortunately, tantrums don’t tend to produce much in the way of results especially when the bulk of things you’re mad about happened years before the current regime took route.
A second approach is to look for short-term fixes or failures. You can scour the list of available players for those marginal major-leaguers who could provide incremental improvement over existing options. You can second-guess the guys Seattle didn’t sign in the offseason who would’ve lessened the Mariners’ reliance on players without proven major-league track records. In this regard, Kolten Wong has become the patron saint of Seattle’s road not traveled. The Mariners were interested in Wong, who wound up with the Brewers.
Seattle would undoubtedly be better if Wong were the everyday second baseman this season instead of hoping Moore built upon last year’s success.
Enough better to make the playoffs? Probably not. Enough better to justify guaranteeing Wong another $9 million next season? I doubt it because I’ve seen enough of those sort of deals to know that Seattle isn’t capable of spending itself out of the middle-class rut it has been in. Or did you forget Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson? Or Robinson Cano? Or Chone Figgins who was supposed to be that versatile veteran that would come and make a difference and ended up being an absolute miserable player who once tried to fight the manager in the dugout.
Instead of choosing to fixate on where Seattle went wrong this season, I’m more interested in about what will get Seattle right. That’s going to depend not on veteran stopgaps or league-average veterans, but when the young hitters on this team season their talent with enough experience to start doing damage. That is how Seattle is going to get good, and once they get good, that’s the time to start looking for the older (and expensive) players who can put the team over the top.
It’s a bit early in the season to be looking for trades as the better opportunities aren’t going to be available until mid June or even into July. There are no better alternatives here, so toughen up, Seattle, and wait for this team to start helping itself. General manager Jerry Dipoto was fairly blunt about that on Thursday when he was asked where improvement was going to come from.
“Most of that is going to come from within,” he said.
So we wait. We wait for Jarred Kelenic to find some consistency. We wait for Ty France to come from the injured list. We wait to see if White is actually going to start making consistent so he can stop striking out so much.
There will be a time to stop and take stock of Seattle’s rebuilding project to see if the Mariners are on the right track, but that point is not 44 games into the year after there was no minor-league baseball. It’s not when the team has been missing half its starting rotation and one-third of its lineup. It’s not after having the poorest hitting month of any team in the poorest hitting year of baseball that anyone can remember.
As hard as it is to preach patience, the best option here is to wait.