Tag Archives: Don Wakamatsu

M’s Hire Branyan’s Big Brother

Eric Wedge, not Bobby Valentine, and not Joey Cora, will be the next manager for your Seattle Mariners. A lot of fan’s first reaction is probably that once again Chuck and Howard don’t want to pay what it takes to bring in a big name, thus we are stuck with a reincarnation of Bob Melvin or Don Wakamatsu. I’ll be honest, my first reaction was how similar this guy looks to Russell Branyan (see pic below). Fans can have whatever reaction they’d like, and no one is wrong. Seattle has seen 7 managers come and go since Lou left, so at this point, Joe Torre could have been hired and some fans would still react negatively. Personally, I think Wedge is an outstanding pick. Here’s why.

The Mariners made no secret about their desire to have an experienced manager this time around. No more rookies! In addition, it seemed safe to assume that a younger guy might be on their wish list, or at least someone who can relate well with young players, because the M’s will no doubt have a plethora of youth in 2011. Furthermore, following the Wak era, I’m sure Jack Z was looking for a manager that would not take crap from anyone (cough Figgy cough). Wedge meets all of these qualifiers, not to mention a nice track record of successfully taking over a rebuilding situation, as he did in Cleveland, eventually getting them to within 1 win of the World Series. At just age 42, Wedge has quite an impressive resume. In 2002, he was hired at age 35 by the Indians, and in 7 seasons he led the tribe to a .495 win%. Not bad for Cleveland.

Yesterday I listened to both Eduardo Perez (ex-player) and Tom Hamilton (Indians announcer), both give ringing endorsements of Wedge. The interesting point that both men made was that Wedge was fired following the ’09 season for the simple reason that Indians management wanted to turn the page, and enthuse the fan base with a managerial switch. It had little to do with Wedge, and in fact, GM Mark Shapiro fought to keep Wedge. Had Cleveland held onto Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Franklin Gutierrez, and Brandon Phillips, Hamilton noted that “we would not be talking about Wedge in Seattle, but rather, Wedge and the Indians in the ALCS.”

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The Worst Case Scenario? Pretty Close…

Following the ridiculous 6-5 loss to Baltimore on Thursday, I was listening to Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN, and Dave Cameron from USSM was on the show. Cameron said the pre-season likelihood that the M’s would have finished the first 34 games at 13-21, would have been about 7-10%. This number is not a scientific fact, but anyone who knows a thing about baseball can look at the roster Seattle assembled, paired with the weak division they play in, and conclude that a 13-21 start would have been tough to imagine. Is this the worst case scenario? Well, of course it’s not the absolute worst case. That would be a winless team with multiple injured starters, a manager soon to be fired, and a clubhouse that is fist fighting. But this is pretty close to the worst possible scenario I could have thought up back in March. Here are 5 reasons why the M’s are where they are. (And sorry, this gets a little lengthy)

1) Bad luck (aka sucking in crunch time)
Last year, the M’s made hay in 1-run games. Despite giving up more runs than they scored, the M’s won 85 games, which by most standards, was an anomaly. The odd that Seattle could have racked up 85 W’s last year was slim when the year began. It was a pleasure seeing my team hang on in close games and show grit time and time again. This year, the Gods have not been so kind in similar games. In fact, in 9 of Seattle’s 21 losses, the M’s either led or were tied going into the eighth inning. That is a staggering result. If the Mariners could have won even just 4 of those 9 games, we would be talking about a 17-17 team heading into the Tampa series. The worst part is that in most cases, one minor miscue has been the difference between a win and a loss. The Byrnes whiffed bunt. The Johnson passed balls. The poor execution of bases loaded in extra innings. Those are the type of missed opportunities that has defined this team through 35 games. If you care to look at just how those 9 gut wrenching games played out, take a look at the quick summaries Shannon Drayer put together-http://www.mynorthwest.com/category/mariners_blog_articles/20100513/Too-Many-Tough-Losses

2) Slow start offense
In addition to the close losses, the Mariners are not hitting. Figgins, Kotchman, Griffey, Lopez, Bradley, Moore, Johnson and Jack Wilson are all off to slow starts. Typically you assume a few regulars will start slow, but it’s hard to win when all but 2 starters are hitting around .200 or lower. The offense is without a doubt the biggest reason the M’s are sitting where they are.

3) The Bullpen
The Mariners have a solid bullpen. I’d bet as many as 4 of our relievers could be closers on some major league teams. But despite good overall stats, some untimely blow ups have resulted in numerous losses. Lowe, League and Aardsma have combined to give up 6 home runs. That’s not the astounding number though, as 6 home runs between 3 relievers in mid-May is not unreasonable. What is astounding is that all 6 of those home runs were either game tiers or game winners, and all came in the 8th or 9th innings. Ouch. Often times home runs are not all the pitchers fault, because even perfectly executed pitches can be hit 400 feet by major league hitters. A lot of the bullpen’s failures are just plain bad luck. That’s just baseball. The bullpen is not a major concern for this team.

4) Off the field issues
The Bradley fiasco and the Griffey nap have been the two biggest off the field incidents thus far. The Milton thing was almost to be expected, considering his past, while the Griffey thing has snowballed from a minor issue to headlines on ESPN. That whole thing is just weird. You could include injuries in this category I suppose, to Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe, and Jack Wilson.

5) Inconsistency
The problem with this team is similar to the problem with my golf game. If I’m driving and putting well, my irons and chipping are failing me. If my short game is on, my drives are erratic. For the Mariners, the offense, starting pitching, and defense was great on Thursday. The bullpen was not, and so despite playing well in 3 out of 4 facets of the game, that one poor area bit us hard. It seems like that’s how it has gone all year. We just can’t play well in all aspects, and even when we play well in 2 or 3 areas, the 1 that we suck at ends up costing us the game.

Reason for hope after the jump! Continue reading

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Game Recap — 5/11/2010

Nothing like seeing Baltimore on the schedule to cheer up a blue Mariners fan. They are really bad. And yesterday, we looked really good. It appears the team is rallying around the Griffey story and if that’s what it takes to come together, then I’m all for it.

The quick analysis is Cliff did his thing, the Tacoma bats continued their hot hitting, and the M’s took care of business in efficient fashion. Speaking of those Tacoma bats, Langerhans, Wilson, and Saunders combined to go 5-11 with a homer, 2 RBI, and 9 total bases. I especially love seeing Michael Saunders play well, because left field is a position of need for the M’s. If his early success continues, we may look back and point to his call up from Tacoma as the turning point in this season.

Cliff Lee is fun to watch. I love his first pitch strikes. I love how fast he works. I love that he doesn’t walk batters. I love his cool demeanor. I love you Cliff. Now, please engage in the following conversation, because I’ve had this dream a couple times already.

Jack Z: Hey Cliff, thanks for coming in, take a seat.
Cliff: Whats up?
Jack Z: Well, I noticed your contract is up at year’s end and, well, let’s see if we can’t figure something out to keep you a Mariner a little while longer.
Cliff: Hmm, I usually don’t do this type of thing mid-season, but I sure love being part of baseball’s best 1-2 punch. Awe heck, let’s bang something out.
Jack Z: Perfect. How about 3 years, 52 million.
Cliff: That is generous, but 55 million has a better ring to it. Deal?
Jack Z: Deal! Now, excuse me while I go get you some bats. I hear Mauer is available, let’s see what Minnesota thinks of Rob Johnson.

Then I wake up from my dream.

Some more quick notes and hero/goat after the jump! Continue reading

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Bradley Blowup, Act I

I’m sure you’ve heard the story. Milton Bradley was removed from the game last night in the 6th inning, and was replaced for Ryan Langerhans. Usually that substitution would occur in the 9th inning, when the M’s are leading, and wanting to sure up the outfield defense. But that was not the case. It was the 6th inning and Seattle trailed 3-1. Hardly the time to remove your power threat from this anemic offense. The tweets began pouring in by Mariners reporters. Is Milton hurt? Is Wak sending a message? Now, it appears we have found out.

Per Mike Salk:

“The Mariners appear to have a serious problem. Milton Bradley left the team last night in the middle of the game. Bradley apparently left after striking out looking in the sixth inning with the bases loaded.

According to a source, Bradley yelled at the umpire from the bench before being told by Don Wakamatsu to cool it. Wakamatsu said that he would handle the umpire himself. Bradley responded that someone had to say something and that if Wak wouldn’t, then he would.
According to the source, a few minutes later Bradley walked back over to the skipper and said, ‘I’m packing my stuff. I’m out of here.’ And then he left.”

First of all, Milton had absolutely nothing to be arguing with the umpire about. He struck out on a pitch that was clearly a strike, right down the middle. But that’s not the issue. The issue is Milton walking out during the game. If that is true, he committed a cardinal sin, the ultimate act of selfishness in sports. He abandoned his teammates.

Seattle knew Milton’s baggage was part of the deal when he was acquired for Carlos Silva. They knew about his 8 teams in 10 years. They knew about the countless fits of rage, the turmoil he has created in clubhouse after clubhouse. But the Mariners also knew about his bat, his indisputable talent, and the numbers he put up just 2 years ago in Texas. Figuring Seattle could provide the bubble he needs to stay calm, along with Sweeney, Griffey, and Wakamatsu to counsel him through any rough spells, the M’s pulled the trigger on a deal that came with little risk, especially considering the sunk cost from Silva was all they had to give up.

But now, the crap is starting to hit the fan. The M’s are on a skid, and with losing often comes poor team chemistry and lots of frustration. But Milton’s past, and the present situation, are no excuse to walk out during the game, shortly after undermining his manager. I can’t understand a grown man, who at age 32 simply cannot get his act together. You’d think by his 3rd, 4th or 5th chance he might finally just shut up and play baseball. Instead, it appears Milton is back to his old habits, with his temper getting the best of him. I am sympathetic for Milton, despite the millions he makes and the countless chances he has had to change, because he needs help. None of us are perfect, and in fact quite the opposite. Born sinners, we all need help, but a spotlight does not shine bright on us as it does for Milton. I am pulling for him because he can really help this team. But his actions are inexcusable, no matter how much of a fiery competitor he is.

Something must be done if things played out the way Mike Salk has described. You can’t just stick Bradley in the lineup tonight and hope things get back to normal. His teammates don’t deserve that, and neither does Wak, who Milton greatly disrespected. Wak needs to step up and show that this team does not tolerate the kind of behavior he allegedly exhibited last night. Whether he does that by means of a suspension, which I think is most likely, or some other form of discipline. I suspect we have not seen the end of Milton in Seattle. The M’s would have to eat $27 million if they cut him. The first Milton blowup has occurred, to the surprise of no one, and now the M’s need to react before things get out of hand on the field, and off the field.

-Dan

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A Tale of Two Miserable Weekends…and some ridiculous stats!

I didn’t think things could get more painful than watching the Mariners give up 3 late game homeruns on route to being swept last weekend in Chicago. All 3 games were 1 run losses, and I remember thinking the M’s should have legitimately taken 2 of 3 in that series. Despite the frustration, those losses were a product of a few hiccups, albeit in consecutive games, by our usually solid bullpen. There wasn’t too much analysis required, and while it sucked to have them happen in a row, that’s baseball. We moved on.

This past weekend, however, had many more layers of dreadfulness. To condense this mess, I’ve bulleted 5 events that were pretty unbelievable (not in a good way), and another 5 RIDICULOUS facts that may require reading with a puke bucket by your side…

  1. Sweeney’s double play: When a walk, sac fly, base hit, or really anything past the infield would have won the game, Mike swung at the 1st pitch from Darren O’Day, a slider low and away, and ended the bases loaded threat in the bottom of the 10th on Friday. Although I must say, none of this surprised me.
  2. Byrnes whiffed bunt: This oddity captured the short Eric Byrnes era well. With the bases juiced just one inning after Sweeney failed in the same situation, Wak called on Byrnes to just make contact on a bunt attempt. I liked the call because asking Byrnes to not strike out or pop it up to an infielder is a tall task. Still, he failed…and then struck out for good measure.
  3. Bradley’s blown pop up: Many say Milton just gave up on this play, while some argue the sun got in his eyes. Regardless, this ball needed to be caught, because it allowed 2 runs to score with 2 outs after Felix had fought back from bases loaded and none out.
  4. Aardsma’s blown save: For the 2nd consecutive game following 8 dazzling innings by “Can’t buy a break Fister,” Aardsma surrendered a lead-off walk, then after a stolen base and a base hit, the game was tied, the save was blown, and Fister was given another no decision. I’m scared every time Aardsma enters the game and starts firing fastballs. This past week reminded me why I have this fear, despite his league leading 8 saves.
  5. 2 passed balls in 1 inning by Rob Johnson: Perhaps the previous events are explainable, but this one is not. Andrew touched on “Hips” and his lack of catching in his recap from yesterday’s game, so I won’t ramble. This tweet from Dave Cameron pretty well sums it up-

    “Rob Johnson had as many passed balls in 1 inning yesterday as every non-Mariner AL team has all season.”

What is especially disappointing about all this is that if ANY one of these scenarios hadn’t happened, the M’s would likely have won the game. But it all happened, and as the wheels came off, it was like watching a bad horror film that started off decent, turned frustratingly unrealistic, and ended up humorous. The snowball of unfortunate events that overcame this team could not be stopped, and this team was coming up with new ways to blow games.

And now, grab your bucket… Continue reading

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I Need to Vent

Last night had set up so well. I was going to the Husky Spring Game, which we will write about later, then, I was excited to come home and watch Cliff Lee dazzle the Rangers in his Mariners debut. Needless to say, my expectations were high for the evening. The Husky game did not disappoint, though it took 2 hours to drive from Maple Valley to Montlake even with the 520 carpool lane! And Cliff Lee didn’t disappoint either. But the Mariners offense did. Don Wakamatsu did. Eric Byrnes and Mike Sweeney did as well. And now for the venting…

This offense ticks me off. Not scoring runs ticks me off. 9 home runs in 23 games ticks me off. Our lineup, bench, and designated hitters really tick me off. Having an 0-5 record when the game is tied in the 9th inning really, really, grinds my gears. Call it bad luck, but that does nothing to help my frustration. Apparently this stuff balances out over a 162 game season, but in a division of 4 teams, where the separation from first to last is a half game, garbage like last night can’t happen.

Having back to back innings where the bases are loaded with 1 out, then coming away with no runs both times is absurd. Pinch hitting double play machine Mike Sweeney was painful to watch. Also painful was seeing Eric Byrnes whiff on a bunt attempt. But that’s okay because Wakamatsu says Byrnes is “the ultimate competitor.” Maybe he is, but he’s also the ultimate spaz, the ultimate infield pop up artist, and the ultimate swinging strike king. He and Sweeney should not be on this team. And back to Wakamatsu, who normally is a pretty likable manager. I’m not that dumb fan who wishes their manager would be fired after a couple questionable moves, but his lineup selection is horrible. How can you possibly justify having Lopez as the clean up hitter?!

I’m not irrational and I realize there is plenty of time, no one is running away with the division, and the bats are bound to heat up. But there is something about the nature of our losses…walk-off hits, pitching gems wasted, and of course last night where any ball past the infield would have won the game twice, that just makes my head want to explode. I’m sure the plan is to stay within a couple games of the division leader in July, make a move for a bat, get Bedard back, and start the playoff run. But until then, I will expect games like last night to be commonplace, especially as long as Sweeney and Byrnes are on this team, and Wakamatsu’s infatuation with Lopez in the 4 hole continues.

And what the heck is with sending Kelley down to Tacoma? He is one of our best relievers. Weird.

I am about one more painful loss away from taking a week off from this team. That loss may very well come today, because it looks like Texas just scored 3 in the second. 2 of those runs came off a bloop pop fly that Bradley just gave up on. As Ryan Divish says, “Milton Bradley does things in a way where people can’t help but dislike him.” Those 3 runs should be plenty enough for the win against our offense, which again just hit into a double play with bases loaded and 1 out. Thanks to Rob for that one. That would be 2 losses in 17 hours, coming against Lee and Felix.

(This is just one Good Guy’s opinion. I’m sure the others disagree on parts of this)

-Dan

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Mariners Game Recap – 4/30/2010 -Cliff Lee debut

Cliff Lee was masterful

Elation and frustration. Those words describe watching the Mariners play over the course of 12 quick innings. For the first 7 innings, it was elation watching Cliff Lee do exactly what we all hoped he would be. Pinpoint control. A very quick pace on the mound. Working seamlessly with young Adam Moore behind the plate. Baffling Texas batters one after another. The bottom of those innings? I cannot tell you how hard it is to watch professional hitters literally stand and watch as a pitcher throws strikes. The Mariners simply stood and watched as Colby Lewis threw a gem of a game. It was a shame that neither Lee or Lewis got any decision, because they were the stars of the show. Hitters? Not so much. Mangers? Even worse…

Let’s start with the hero of the game, Cliff Lee. It was a joy to watch him pitch. Stats don’t do justice to his night, even though they were outstanding: 7 Innings, 3 hits, 8 K’s, 0 BB’s, 116 pitches, 73 for strikes. He continually pounded the strike zone, kept the Rangers hitters off balance, worked quick (I LOVE that…), interacted positively with Moore behind the plate, and was yucking it up on the bench between innings with the likes of Ryan Rowland-Smith and Felix Hernandez. He seemed to fit right in with the team and seemed to really ENJOY pitching, he seemed to really, truly be happy pitching. I love seeing that from pro athletes. You can tell Cliff Lee is a professional’s professional. Even though the 7 innings Lee pitched went by like a flash, it was a pure baseball joy to watch him pitch. As advertised is an understatement. Well done Cliff, well done!

Ok, on to the co-goats of the night: Mariners hitters and Don Wakamatsu. “Co-goats” you say? Yup. This game had so many goats at the plate and in the dugout it was hard to choose, so I am doing a Good Guys first: a “basically the entire rest of the team goat award”. Harsh? Maybe.

The Mariners as a team left 18 men on base. In the early innings, there were few base runners as the Mariners decided to go with the “stand at the plate and watch” approach. It got so bad I decided to go prepare dinner when the Mariners were at bat, then come back at watch Lee mow down some hitters. I understand Colby Lewis has solid stuff, it was clearly his best start of the year. He was mixing pitches well, throwing strikes, and spotting his breaking balls. Kudos to him. But the Mariners put up no fight whatsoever. On a night where just a few runs wins the game, I was surprised at the lack of urgency at the plate. Hey, guys, you have to score at least one run to win!!

In the later innings, and I mean late, like extra innings, Lewis finally left the game, replaced by Darren Oliver. Oliver was shaky and the Mariners were able to get to him. Griffey led off with a cue-shot grounder to shortstop that was an infield hit because they had the shift one him. Byrnes pinch ran, and Bradley then proceeded to rip a double to left. 2nd and 3rd, no outs. All they need is a fly ball. Kotchman then has one of the worst at bats of the year, completely fooled by Oliver (it was like Kotchman had never seen him before, odd…), constantly hesitant at the plate, finally check swinging and popping out to short. It was painful. Just swing away Casey!!! Swing hard buddy!! Adam Moore was then intentionally walked to get to Jack Wilson. This actually was great because Jack is a hacker, a fly ball artist who would swing for the fences and we’ll get the sac-fly and go home. But wait, Wakamatsu had other ideas. He decided to bring Mike Sweeney, ice cold, off the bench to pinch hit. I didn’t like the move at the time, and I hate it now. Texas brought in submariner O’Day, and Sweeney proceeded to swing at the first pitch for a double play. Fail. Not only on Sweeney, but on Wak. Why pinch hit Wilson? Could he have done any worse?? Wilson may have beat out the DP ball, or better, whacked a fly ball somewhere. Additionally, not having Wilson in the field will cost the Mariners later… I hate the move: goat for Wak, goat for Sweeney.

An inning later, Franky Francisco relieved O’Day. Good news for the M’s! Francisco has struggled all year. Ichiro leads off with a single to left, Figgins then bunts his way on. Ok, here we go I thought, two men on, no outs, heart of the order coming up with speedy Ichiro on 2nd. Smart baseball wins this game. Uh oh! Gutierrez comes to the plate and makes Franky look like Mariano Rivera. Horrid at bat by Guti, strikes out. Lopez was then walked to bring up Byrnes. Here is where it gets weird. As I was watching the at bat, my brother pointed out that third base coach Mike Brumley kept running through the signs for Byrnes, and kept chatting with Ichiro at 3rd. I scoffed and hoped they all just shut up and let Byrnes hit the ball hard somewhere. The Rangers were at DP depth which was great, Byrnes has awesome speed. A ground ball might win the game, a fly ball certainly does. This is easy I say! DOH! Wakamatsu calls of a squeeze play!!! But Byrnes forgets to try and bunt the ball! He just stands there, watches the ball go by, and Ichiro gets tagged out at the plate. Byrnes then proceeds to look horrid, AGAIN, at the plate, striking out. To say this was a cluster of failure is an understatement. I love Don Wakamatsu, but this was a classic case of over management. Just let the guys swing. Yeah, maybe things go sideways anyway, but at some point you have to trust these guys to make a play and win. The situation set itself up nicely for the Mariners, and they out smarted themselves right out of the inning.

Remember Jack Wilson getting pinch hit a couple innings before? Well the top of the 12th came with Matt Tuiasasopo at SS. I love Tui, but he is no Jack Wilson with the glove. To lead off Andrus had an infield single. Then Michael Young chopped a ball over the mound that Tui should have simply ate. Instead he tried to make a play and ended up throwing the ball into the dugout. I am convinced either Wilson makes the play, or eats the ball. If Wilson is in there, the M’s get out of the inning because Texas didn’t even get the ball out of the infield on League, yet they scored 2 runs, largely because of the error on Tui. I am not ripping Tui too bad here, Wak should not have pinch hit Wilson beforehand.

Moore & Lee: Student and Teacher

I have already gone overboard on this recap. Felix is on the mound today, so let’s hope for better things from the plate and get Felix a win. Overall the game was massive highs, and massive lows. The hitting was pathetic, managing not much better, and Cliff Lee was amazing. The call-out of Kotchman at first base was brutal, as was Ron Washington blowing up for no reason and getting tossed. Makes me wonder if he had dinner reservations to get to? It was bizarre.

Goats: Mariners hitters and Don Wakamatsu (see above)

Hero: Cliff Lee (see above)

-Joe

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