Moore: No more Mariners makeovers — time for the full rebuild in 2019
Starting last Thursday with their series against the Angels, the Mariners should have all of their remaining wins marked with an asterisk. Same goes for any player who improves his batting average or ERA over the last 2 1/2 weeks of the season.
These games don’t matter anymore. If so-and-so hits .500 the rest of the season, I don’t want to hear am announcer tell me how he had a great finish to his 2018 season. And any wins the rest of the way? Please… They will be empty victories, cosmetically enhancing their final record.
When they beat the Angels in the first three games of their four-game series, were you thinking the same thing I was? “OK, now you put together a winning streak WHEN IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYMORE! Where were those victories against the Padres when it still mattered?”
If they finish with a 90-72 record, I would call the Mariners the most disappointing 90-win team in Major League Baseball history. And I’m guessing they will get to 90 wins because they’re relaxed and loose now. The pressure’s gone. They’re mathematically alive but we all know they’re dead – the A’s will secure the wild-card berth by the end of this week.
It’s been the strangest Mariners season I can remember, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m old enough to have seen them all. I can’t remember a Mariners team that has been so good and so bad in the same season. There have been times this year when I thought they might be the best team in the league and times when I thought they were the worst.
On July 5 they were 56-32. The next day, general manager Jerry Dipoto was given a multi-year contract extension. The Mariners have gone 26-35 since. It’s interesting and almost ominous when you look back at what Dipoto had to say that day: “My time here has gone just as well as I’d hoped it could go, provided we finish strong.”
Well, that finishing strong thing hasn’t happened. The Mariners remind me of too many horses I’ve bet on that had huge early leads only to be overtaken down the stretch, faltering brutally. When they were lights out, we marveled at the Mariners’ terrific record in one-run games and pooh-poohed their paltry run differential, thinking that mojo would carry them the rest of the way. They never seemed quite good enough to maintain a 100-win pace, but we were rolling with it, hoping the baseball gods would keep sprinkling magic dust on Scott Servais’ team.
Their flaws began to show here and there, and then we saw them on a nightly basis. I’m not in that clubhouse so I don’t know what’s happened, but Dipoto was upset last week about how some of his players have handled adversity. It seems like their are internal issues that led to their external issues. I know the team tried to downplay the fight earlier this month between Dee Gordon and whomever else, reportedly Jean Segura. But it suggests some friction on a supposedly tight team.
Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but from Dipoto’s comments last week, I gather that he’s going to purge some bad eggs in the offseason. Dipoto said he’s embarrassed by the team’s collapse and disappointed in the players’ response to tough times in his weekly interview on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore. Sounds to me like they fractured instead of rallying together.
From their high-water mark of 24 games over .500 on July 5, if the Mariners had simply gone .500 the rest of the way, they’d still be in the wild-card race. But we’ve seen them – they look more like a 72-90 team instead of a 90-72 team now.
It will be their 17th consecutive year of missing the playoffs, the longest dry spell in professional sports. Here’s my hope – I don’t want to hear anything about rebuilding or retooling or even renovating a 90-72 or 88-74 team. I don’t want to see a run at a wild-card spot next year; let’s face it, the Astros are going to win the AL West in 2019, and if they don’t, the A’s will.
Instead of upgrading the house, I’d advocate a complete tear-down at this point. If we’ve gone 17 years, we can go 18, even 19, how about 20? Sure, let’s go two decades without a playoff appearance if it means that in 2022 the Mariners would be in position to annually compete for trips to the World Series.
Baseball seamheads and acronym enthusiasts would tell me it’s not that simple. Other franchises who used the wrecking ball on their teams are trying the same tear-down model, but it’s more difficult now than it used to be. I’m at a point where I’d respond with an “I don’t care, l want the Mariners to do it anyway.”
Dipoto has young guys who crunch numbers and help him out, but I’m an old guy who’s offering some free advice. I’m like what’s his name on “Network.” Google it and check it out. I can’t take it anymore. Let’s blow the whole thing up.
I’d start by eating the last year of Félix Hernández’s contract, all $27 million. I really don’t want to go through another spring training and season of Félix Watch with all of those questions, how’s he doing, how’s he looking, how’s he feeling, how’s he embracing the change from fire-baller to pitcher, on and on – enough already. Can we be honest? Félix is one of the greatest all-time Mariners, but I’d rather see someone else, almost anyone else, replace him in the rotation in 2019.
I wouldn’t re-sign Nelson Cruz. I know he’s been the Mariners’ best power hitter over the last four years and a great clubhouse leader. But he’s going to be 39 next July and when you’re ripping it down to the studs, you don’t keep a Nelson Cruz at his age.
In fact, you don’t keep many players when you’re in wrecking-ball mode. The only gotta-keep players on my list are Mitch Haniger, James Paxton and Denard Span. Haniger for obvious reasons, a five-tool player who has been the Mariners’ most consistent player all season. I still believe in Paxton as an ace, though I could be talked out of keeping him too. And Span? Yeah, he’s 34, but I’ve grown so sick of watching bad at-bats from his teammates that I want to know I’ve got one more guy I can count on for good ABs, which is what you typically get from Span.
By the way, what happened to all of that “control the zone” stuff? Dipoto preached that as the new Mariners’ mantra and as far as I can tell, they’ve been more out of control than in control of the zone. Their on-base percentage is terrible, and I don’t care what Gordon says about pitchers not wanting to walk him because they want to keep his speed off the basepaths. He should have more than eight walks this season. That’s ridiculous.
You know when the Mariners really lost me? When they struck out nine times in a row against the Padres last Wednesday. That’s the polar opposite of controlling the zone.
I’d put everyone besides Haniger, Paxton and Span in the available and/or trash bin, and I understand you can’t just get rid of highly-paid players such as Robinson Canó and Kyle Seager, but I’d try to move them anyway, even if you have to take on most of their salaries.
Something’s up with Seager. I don’t know what it is, maybe he’s just having a down year and will bounce back next year. But he’s made some strange errors this season and doesn’t seem right for whatever reason.
The available bin also includes Edwin Díaz mainly because you never know what’s going to happen with closers and relievers from year to year, and I’m concerned about a future injury due to his frequent use this season.
Mike Zunino’s available too. As is the case with Félix, I don’t want another season of the same story lines, wondering if his swing changes will last and hoping they will because he’s such a defensive asset behind the plate. Every time he strikes out, I question whether he is truly that valuable and if the Mariners would have been that much worse off with, say, David Freitas as their every-day catcher. Point is, I’m ready to try someone else and see what happens.
In a renovation, I’d keep Marco Gonzales and Segura. I like Gonzales’ potential and the hitting machine’s bat. But in a tear-down, they’re going to be victims of the wrecking ball too.
Maybe it’s just frustration, but tinkering and half-baked makeovers haven’t worked with the Mariners. I’m ready for a complete facelift. Don’t just give me the collagen shots for wrinkles around the eyes, give me an entirely new look. It’s time for the Mariners to blow it up and start over.