If there is a team that needs the All-Star Game break to take a step back and purge the system before the season resumes, that team would be the Mariners.
For a month and a half the Mariners played at a level that suggested Seattle could be a contender in the American League West. In the final five days before the break, the Mariners gave away all of that.
It wasnt just that they were 0-5. It wasnt even that the two teams in front of Seattle in the standings, the Rangers and Angels, went 5-0. It wasnt even that the Mariners went from 2½ to 7½ games out of first.
It was that the problems that have dogged the Mariners were no closer to resolution. The offense, despite new personnel and lineups, remained terrible, scoring nine runs in the five games. Despite that, Seattle should have, or at least could have, won two or three of those games, including Sundays 4-2 loss to the Angels.
Before the game, manager Eric Wedge talked about his high level of confidence that the Mariners will hit well in the second half. The man has faith in his convictions; you have to give him that. But the reality is that the Mariners have, for the second season in a row, the worst offense in the game.
Last year the Mariners scored 298 runs before the break; this year theyve scored 299, but it took two more games to do it. The Mariners home run total (55), batting average (.225), on-base percentage (.290), slugging percentage (.332) and OPS (.622) are all notably worse than they were a year ago and last years team scored 100 fewer runs than any team in the American League.
Things are actually getting worse. Since June 6, the Mariners have averaged 2.53 runs per game over 32 games. In the first 59 games, they averaged 3.73 runs per game. The fall-off comes despite benching the unproductive Jack Cust and Chone Figgins and despite the fact that (since a day off June 10 Ichiro) is looking a bit more like his old self a .313 batting average after a stretch from May 12-June 9 when he hit .162.
Justin Smoak, the first baseman the team looks to for power, hasnt homered since June 12. Franklin Gutierrez is healthy, but hasnt found his stroke and is, like Figgins and rookie outfielder Carlos Peguero, hitting under .200.
Catcher Miguel Olivo and utility man Adam Kennedy have been reasonably clutch it was Kennedy Sunday who drove in the only Seattle runs with a two-out, two-run single in the first inning but neither is the core of a potent offense.
The Mariners have scored one or no runs 12 times in the last 32 games. They seem thoroughly over-matched, although Wedge doesnt see it that way.
“I love the way weve competed, Wedge said on one hand, but shortly thereafter he says, as it seems like he says every day: “We need to be more consistent offensively.
Trouble is, the Mariners are being consistent. What they need to be is productive.
Is it time to make a deal for some hitters? Its past time. But the Mariners need to have something to deal. Their best chip in that pool, left-handed starter Erik Bedard, is on the disabled list.
Wedge said Sunday that Bedard, just now starting to play catch again, wont start in the clubs first two series after the All-Star break and is problematic for the third, in Boston June 22-24.
Many contending clubs are looking for pitching. Some may be willing to pay handsomely for it a year ago, the Mariners dealt lefty Cliff Lee to Texas in a deal that brought Smoak and new starting pitcher Blake Beavan, and two other prospects. But with the oft-injured Bedards health in question, Seattle will be hard-put to find a team willing to part with top-end prospects.
The team has gone out of its way to bring up some kids. Dustin Ackley has been the teams most productive hitter the last three weeks, Greg Halman is hitting .305 in limited play, and fellow rookie Kyle Seager got his first big league hit Sunday. Beavan is 1-0 in two starts with a 2.03 ERA. A rookie who has been with the club all year, Michael Pineda, was added to the All-Star roster Sunday.
Its the veterans who havent gotten it done,. If that doesnt change, the second half will wind up being ugly indeed.