Law: AAA isn’t the answer to young Mariners’ struggles

Jul 6, 2012, 2:50 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm

By Sean Quinton
Special to

With once-heralded prospects Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero all struggling at the plate, Mariners management is left to decide whether to take action or chalk the poor play up to growing pains.

ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law joined “The Kevin Calabro Show” on Thursday to weigh in, saying that sending a player down to Triple-A because he’s struggling isn’t necessarily the right move.

“You don’t send a guy to Triple-A just to get him out of the way,” Law said. “Sending a guy down to Triple-A isn’t automatically going to fix him.”

Justin Smoak has hit for power this season but his batting average has dropped to around .200. (AP)

Instead, Law believes the Mariners need to pinpoint the problem before attempting to find a solution, saying, “You have to know exactly what’s wrong or at least have a good idea of what’s wrong, and have a plan.”

The problem is clear: players aren’t producing the way general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge envisioned. Smoak is barely hitting above the Mendoza Line, Ackley has yet to prove why he was the second overall draft pick in 2009, and Montero had a miserable June.

The root of the problem is less clear. Whether it be the daunting dimensions of Safeco Field, the unseasonably cool weather or just poor performance, the Mariners simply can’t hit at home.

“It’s just depressing run scoring,” Law said. “They’re essentially hitting like little leaguers at home.”

Law said he doesn’t buy into changing the dimensions of the field to cater to this offense. He believes the construction of the team should be the primary concern.

In any case, the Mariners’ youngsters have failed to deliver tangible evidence of a playoff-bound ballclub thus far. What makes the offensive woes more puzzling is the collectiveness of the struggles.

Law said he wonders if the root of the problem lies outside the difficult ballpark.

“What if it’s not the ballpark? What if it’s the coaching staff,” Law asked. “Why are all these guys who were supposed to rake not hitting at all when they get to the big leagues?”

“When it starts happening up and down the lineup, then it’s fair to ask if there’s a systemic reason,” Law continued. “There’s more likely a common cause behind all of these guys falling so short behind expectations.”

Related audio: Baseball America’s Jim Callis discusses Ackley’s struggles, Mariners’ prospects

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