Drayer: Raleigh makes strong statement after Mariners fall short
Sep 30, 2023, 11:07 PM | Updated: Oct 1, 2023, 12:08 pm
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Following the Seattle Mariners’ deflating 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, the team returned to a quiet clubhouse. No music played like after wins. No happy fist bumps awaited them from the support staff. Even the televisions were off as there was uncertainty as to what they would want to see when they returned.
Quietly, a large group gathered on the leather sofas around one of the TVs as someone turned on the Astros game as it headed into the final inning. A Diamondbacks win over Houston was the Mariners’ last hope to give them a sliver of a chance heading into the final day of the regular season, but Arizona trailed 1-0 heading into the ninth.
From the equipment room, a yell could be heard as a Diamondbacks baserunner was thrown out. In the main clubhouse, the group on the sofa watched silently as the final out was made. Players got up, some headed to their lockers, some down the tunnel, others out the door. Nobody wanted to say too much as they were still processing what had happened and where they were after 161 games. On the outside looking in, the odd good team out in the wild card chase.
“Obviously everyone is very upset,” said reliever Matt Brash, who earlier had made his MLB-leading 78th appearance of the season.”It’s going to take some time to get over it.”
“It’s not the way you want your year to end,” Julio Rodríguez said. “It’s definitely not what we were working towards. It was tough.”
Brash spoke of the frustration of not getting the job done with what he believed was a good group of players.
“We had a lot of ups and down, but we fought hard and we put ourselves in a good spot there and just didn’t get it done,” he said.
Rodríguez addressed questions head-on about his own performance after going 1 for 21 with nine strikeouts in the critical final homestand.
“I could have been better. There’s no other way around it. I take that on myself,” he said. “I prepared and everything, it just didn’t happen for me. It’s not the way I wanted it, but it is what it is. You saw it, I saw it, there’s no other way around it. It was not the best.”
As is his nature, however, Rodríguez tried to find a positive in the season that fell short of expectations.
“It’s definitely something we have to build on,” he said. “We have got to keep on going, we have got to keep moving forward. We have got a lot of things to look forward to. We definitely have a really young and good group and we are not done. We are going to be here for a while. We are going to keep competing. We are going to get right back into it.”
Julio’s message was one of encouragement. In another corner of the clubhouse was catcher Cal Raleigh, who has taken on a leadership role that goes beyond managing the pitching, saying it would take more than belief in this group to take the next step.
“We have to become a better team. You know, straight up,” he said. “We’ve been right at this 90 (win) mark for a few years now. Something’s got to change. I don’t think by any means we were a bad team this year. But it’s not where we want to be. We want to get into the World Series. We want to make the playoffs every single year. And in order to do that, some things have to change. And, you know, it starts with the players here in the clubhouse.”
A game or three would have made all the difference in making the postseason, and while there are missed opportunities for every team in a 162-game season, for the Mariners, Raleigh believes that some of those missed opportunities just didn’t add up. Or more precisely, couldn’t add up.
“You’re just looking at one game, two games. And that’s all that matters,” he said. “And if you go back and look at those little things and win ballgames, there’s things that you can’t really quantify. I know you guys hear a lot about the numbers, about the analytics. But there’s a lot of things that you can’t quantify. And I think that we’ve got to get better in that area, for sure.”
Another way to get over the hump of 90-ish wins would be to add to the roster.
“It’s really important,” Raleigh answered when asked what role outside talent could play in moving forward. “We’ve got to commit to going and getting those players you see other teams going for, getting big time pitchers, getting big time hitters. We have to do that to keep up. I think we’ve done a great job with growing some players here and within the farm system, but sometimes you have to go out and you have to buy and that’s just the name of the game. And you know, we’ll see what happens this offseason. Hopefully we can add some players and become a better team.”
Raleigh was asked if he was comfortable sharing his thoughts with the front office. Raleigh gave the smallest of chuckles with his answer, as it was clear he just did.
“I mean, yeah,” he said, then referring to the Rangers team the Mariners had just played. “Anytime you can add, you look over in the other locker room right there, they’ve added more than anybody else and you saw where they’re going this year. So there’s more than one way to skin a cat, that’s for sure. Going out and getting those big names, people who have done it, people who have been there, people who are leaders, people who have shown time and time again that they can be successful in this league is definitely going to help this clubhouse and help this team, maybe help with those little things that we need.”
Strong words, without question, but Raleigh has answered the call for the Mariners every time. From playing down the stretch last season with a thumb hanging on by a thread when he was desperately needed, to this season starting all but one game from Sept. 12, all the while drawing praise for how well he manages a pitching staff. It would seem he’s earned the right to be heard.
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