Time to exult in M’s sheer awfulness
Commentary: Greg Jayne
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Considering that we are talking about a historic level of futility, perhaps we should go back in time to find the appropriate description.
You know, something such as, “Stunningly bad!”
Those are the words of Leonard Pinth-Garnell. And while the Saturday Night Live character was last seen in the 1970s, his assessments are applicable today when describing the Seattle Mariners’ offense.
Because Seattle, once again, is threatening to set new standards for impotency.
A year ago, the Mariners scored 513 runs — the lowest total by a team in a full season during the designated hitter era. This year, they are on pace for 529, ranking last in the American League in runs, hits, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.
But at least they are 12th among the 14 teams in home runs. It’s nice to be proficient at something.
The lineup for Friday’s loss — the team’s 13th in a row — included Chone Figgins and his .182 batting average, Franklin Gutierrez (.183), Jack Cust (.212), Miguel Olivo (.220), and Justin Smoak (.225). Even Ichiro was limping along at .267, infected either by the failure around him or the fact that he’s 37 years old.
And you thought the Deadball Era ended some 90 years ago.
The problem, really, isn’t that Seattle’s offense has been so putrid. It’s that there seemingly is no help on the horizon, save for Dustin Ackley. And that speaks to the genesis of the Mariners’ deficiencies.
For a generation now, the club’s homegrown talent has been devoid of, well, talent. Through the draft, through trades for minor leaguers, through the signing of undrafted free agents, rainy Seattle has been a desert when it comes to producing major-league hitters.
In the past 15 years, the franchise has developed exactly two players who became decent major-league hitters — Adam Jones and Shin-Soo Choo.
They traded Jones when he was 22 in exchange for Erik Bedard; they traded Choo at the age of 24 for Ben Broussard.
Which points out the realities of modern baseball. As much as we chafe over the Yankees’ $200 million payroll or the Phillies’ ability to sign every good pitcher, the fact is that success on the field often is dictated by a team’s ability to scout, draft, trade, and develop players.
How hard can it be to come up with a decent hitter instead of producing an assembly line of Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Wladimir Balentien and Jeremy Reed?
The Red Sox might have a huge payroll, but they also drafted Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis, and they signed David Ortiz when nobody wanted him.
Ortiz, by the way, was originally in the Mariners’ system.
They traded him for Dave Hollins.
Seattle’s run production the past five seasons has gone from 794 to 671 to 640 to 513 to this year’s dreck, and at some point, you have to think the fans will have had enough.
In 2004, when the Mariners lost 99 games, they still ranked third in the AL in attendance. That figure has steadily dropped, and the club ranks ninth this season.
That’s the price a franchise pays for years of failure by the front office, and it’s one that will be felt for years to come.
As Leonard Pinth-Garnell would say, “Couldn’t be worse!”
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne. To “Like” him on Facebook, search for “Greg Jayne - The Columbian.”