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Mariners Finished; Time For More Changes

Today's game left me irate. It is the angriest I have been at the Mariners in a long, long time. I will admit that I am as irrational as they come when I get angry, and I feel like that's even a trait of what makes me angry in the first place. So this afternoon's game probably wasn't the type that should set me off.

Still, 2010 is over. This was a game the team needed to get, especially with how it unfolded. The Angels were down Kendry Morales and Torii Hunter, and they tossed Joe Saunders on the mound. He looked awful, and the Mariners offense beat him up pretty good. Not only did that spot Ian Snell a big lead, but it gave the Mariners five innings against the worst bullpen in baseball.

Meanwhile, out in Detroit, the AL West leaders, the A's, were in the midst of getting shellacked, 10-2.

Then the roof fell in. The Mariners let the Angels back in the game with atrocious pitching. They never took advantage of the shoddy bullpen arms they faced for the majority of the game. The game was mercifully over when Howie Kendrick hit the latest dagger of the year.

I wish I never would have written that the Mariners could get back in this thing. I only wrote that yesterday. This team had a glimmer of hope, and what's so infuriating is that it is gone, and should not be gone. The M's got a killer start from Felix yesterday, and beat around a bad starter today. The rest of the west is playing poor enough right now to allow a team to gain ground. Everything was in place for the Mariners to make the run that I sensed they were about to get on.

Well, everything was in place but the Mariners themselves. They got so many breaks in the last few games, yet took advantage of almost none of them. Fielding miscues, baserunning miscues, and freak injuries should have derailed the Angels in this series. However, the M's found ways to out-miscue them.

If you want a more rational recap of today's game, check out Jeff Sullivan's thoughts at Lookout Landing. In fact, I recommend always checking his game thoughts. He is one of the bigger reasons I rarely recap games here.

This game is different because I need to get out the fury it caused. This is baseball, and you win some and lose some, but you can only flush so many games down the toilet before the whole season flows out a pipe into Puget Sound. That is certainly part of the fury - the realization that this season is over on May 30.

Part of the fury is how horrible the game was, purely from an aesthetic standpoint. Both sides pitched horrendously. The game moved along at a glacial pace, and it was only my dedication to this team and the game of baseball that kept me watching. As a reward, I feel like I got a bar of soap stuffed down my throat.

Part of the fury is how bad the offense continues to look. Today, the memorable hits came from Eliezer Alfonzo and Josh Wilson; both of whom are the definition of replacement level players in my book. Given with the M's current injuries and organizational depth, I have no problems with either of them being on the roster playing. I certainly root for them too. However, the offensive "surge" has come largely from fringy dudes the M's stashed away in AAA, and the regulars should be ashamed of that.

As much as I enjoyed the team making Joe Saunders look bad, I hated how they looked from the 5th inning onward. Jesus Colome came in and looked like Jesus Colome, further making me wonder why he is on the team. For the record, I was not irritated that Wak brought him in, but I was irritated to see him in there, because I am irritated that he is on the roster in the first place. Then, Kanekoa Texeira came in and threw balls over creation. I chalk that up to more of a bad outing of sorts, which isn't shocking from a young guy that hasn't pitched in a week. It's as if Jesus Colome takes away from appearances he should be making, and Colome sucks when he steals them to boot.

The hitting against the Angels bullpen was pathetic too. I distinctly remember the M's going 1-2-3 in the sixth inning against Trevor Bell, in particularly depressing fashion. Franklin Gutierrez fouled off one fastball down the heart of the plate, and then missed another for strike three. Milton Bradley followed up by breaking his bat on a 2-1 fastball, a count where he should have still been in the driver's seat. Then, after watching Bell struggle to throw anything but a fastball over the plate to Guti and Bradley, Mike Sweeney popped up a first pitch breaking ball down in the zone to end the inning.

That's awful hitting, and I am tired of watching it. Granted, the three hitters I just singled out have been among the better ones this season, so I was unfair. However, it's the kind of inning that has played out way too many times. We don't need to imagine what such an awful approach looks like when the hitters are awful too, because that's what we saw for the majority of this month.

The catcher's interference made me furious too. When will the Mariners find a catcher that can just catch behind the plate? The blown save was the ultimate dagger, though calmer heads have noted how impressive Kendrick's home run was. I wasn't in a mindset to be rational by the time we had hit the ninth inning anyway.

It felt like a game that the M's were destined to blow from about the 6th inning onward, and they did...with a walk-off home they do at least a couple times a week on the road. It was so predictable, so depressing, so everything that makes me want to throw the remote right through the television.

That's why it is time for change. This is what this roster does. It is time to look towards 2011, and in the process, the team might stumble upon better performances this year. Here is the collection of moves I would make:

  • Move Shawn Kelley to the starting rotation. Supposedly, Kelley has a change-up in his hip pocket that he hardly shows in relief work. That, with his slider and fastball, gives reason to think he has a repertoire that could power him multiple times through a lineup. More than that, I love his aggressive, strike-throwing mentality, with solid stuff. I want to find out if he can be a starter. I wouldn't even send him down to Tacoma to stretch out. Kelley replaces Snell immediately, and his pitch count works up on the fly. The move would leave Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell in the bullpen, so it could handle short outings as he builds his stamina.
  • Send Casey Kotchman to AAA. Either that or cut him loose completely; I don't really care all that much at this point. His glove is as good as advertised, but he can't hit, and his overly timid approach locks him out from realistically improving. Ryan Langerhans could play first base, where he would be as patient of a hitter with more power, average, and much better baserunning. I think all that offsets whatever is lost defensively, and it also frees up more playing time for Michael Saunders in left field (assuming Bradley DHs more and Sweeney plays first more).
  • Fire Mike Brumley. He never should have sent Josh Wilson home today. I think there is a good chance he had something to do with Eliezer Alfonzo's farce trying to make it to third base today. Unlike Allen Cockrell with the M's hitting, there is a legitimate argument to be made that Brumley's third base coaching has something to do with this team's atrocious baserunning. If the team doesn't want to can him, at least have Ty Van Burkleo, or even Don Wakamatsu himself, go out to the third base coache's box instead.
  • Ditch Jesus Colome. And I want the official release from the M's to say they "have ditched Jesus Colome." No DFA'd, "moving on," or "going in a different direction," etc. I watched where Alfonzo set up for Colome today, and he consistently missed his spots today by a good foot to foot and a half. Low and away? I'll pitch middle in! He has no command whatsoever, and that's par for his career. The stuff is tantalizingly good (it's the only thing that keeps his ERA around 5.00), but he is 32 years old. He is what he is, and that isn't all that good, and it's likely to get worse as he ages out of his prime.
My moves leave two 25-man roster spots open, and at least one 40-man slot. One of them goes to a bullpen guy, and I would let Wak call up whomever he wishes. I am guessing that man would be Sean White, but perhaps Garrett Olson and Luke French also get consideration. The other spot would preferably go to a middle infielder. I would give it to Ramon Vazquez for the time being, until Jack Wilson is back. Vazquez would need to be added to the 40-man roster, but there is room with my moves.

Looking down the road, I have no issues shopping all sorts of pieces on this ballclub. Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard, and David Aardsma are all available for the right price.

Maybe all the moves I have in my head are cosmetic. They could even hurt this year's team, but after today, all that matters to me is change. This roster doles out painful loss after painful loss, and it just slammed the door shut on a season that practically begged them to be in contention. No organization that claims to care about winning can watch a team do what this one has without reacting somehow.