Mariners Monthly Roundup: September/October “Free at Last” Edition.

AL West pitchers are quickly learning that second hand Smoak can be deadly.

Record: 9-21 (Overall 61-101)  

AL West Standings: Texas, Oakland, L.A., Seattle 

Top Hitter: Ichiro turned it up a notch in September (.342) to continue his extraordinary run of 200 hit seasons but it was a talented rookie who gave Mariners fans the most reasons to cheer in the season’s last month. First baseman Justin Smoak looked like the player we envisioned the team was getting the Cliff Lee trade, posting a line of .325/.400/.525 in September/October, including a string of three straight games with a home run. In a lineup utterly devoid of any power, a full season of Smoak will be just what the doctor ordered for 2011. 

Top Pitcher: Even if he doesn’t win the AL Cy Young Award (he does play on the West Coast after all) Felix Hernandez still  finished the season with a bang, posting a 3-2 record in September with a 1.64 ERA and only 20 hits allowed in 38 innings. Hernandez finished the year ranked first in innings, first in ERA, second in K’s, second in WHIP and third in complete games, and oh yeah, he’s still just 24-years-old. King Felix gave Mariners’ fans something to look forward to every five days and provided hope that things won’t be this bad forever. For all the flak that Jack Zduriencik has received this season (and deservedly so) we should be very thankful that he got Felix inked to a contract extension. Now let’s just hope we can get him some run support in 2011.

Biggest Surprise: After doing absolutely nothing at the plate all year long, Jose Lopez went bananas in a September game against Toronto, hitting three longballs and driving in four runs. Of course he did it at a time when the Mariners couldn’t trade him, instead just stealing time away from young players who needed major league at-bats. Thankfully, he jammed his finger shortly thereafter and was shut down for the rest of the season–if only that had happened in April.

Biggest Disappointment: Everyone except Felix and Ichiro.

Home Run Tracker: The Mariners finished the season with the same number of home runs (101) as losses. Woof!

Injuries: Matt Tuiasosopo and Ryan Langerhans both had surgery to remove bone chips from their elbows. Erik Bedard is on a steady diet of tough pills to prepare for next season, but no one’s holding their breath. It’s dangerous.

Lingering Questions: Why did I pay to go to five Mariners’ games this year? Why did anyone pay to go to any Mariners’ game this year? Will anyone miss Casey Kotchman or Jose Lopez? Did we just witness the worst offensive season in the history of baseball? How was Dave Niehaus able to keep his sanity in the broadcast booth? Will my heart ever recover? Can I ever love the M’s again? Do they even deserve a second chance? Who will be the manager next season?

October Schedule: HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!

Overall Grade: (D) The last month was as painful as any this season but at least Mariners’ fans got to watch Ichiro pass 200 hits and King Felix continue to dominate hitters at an otherworldly level. While the young kids (Cortes, Mangini, Halman, Varvaro, etc.) didn’t wow in their brief stunt with the big club, they gained invaluable major league experience and hopefully will help the Mariners gain some level of respectability in 2011. This month would have been graded an “F” but mercifully, it brought the season to a close. Let’s try to forget about 2010 as quickly as we can…

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Mariners Monthly Roundup: August “Mediocrity Reigns” Edition.

 

Despite being surrounded by a bunch of yea-hoos, Ichiro has continued his indomitable march towards history.

Record: 12-14 (Overall 51-80)       

A.L. West Standings: Texas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle       

Top Hitter: After slumping below .250 in July, Ichiro rebounded to post a .307 average in August including a two home run game at Yankee Stadium (they were against Javier Vasquez however, so they don’t really count). Though Ichiro’s had a down season by his standards (on pace for career lows in HR’s, runs, triples and his second lowest OPS) the Mariners top-of-the-order mainstay is still on pace for a record 10th straight 200 hit season. In a season so wrought with disappointment, it’s nice to have someone to look forward to. Bless you Ichiro. Bless you.  

Top Pitcher: Who’d you think it was gonna be, Sean White? Felix Hernandez continued a dominant season with his best month of the year, posting a 3-2 record with 0.82 ERA, .137 batting average against and 51 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. Despite suffering through some of the worst run support in baseball, King Felix has planted himself firmly in the Cy Young discussion by ranking 1st in innings, 2nd in ERA, 1st in K’s, 4th in WHIP and 3rd in complete games. Felix’s value to this team can’t be overstated–without him they would be utterly unwatchable. As is they’re just mostly unwatchable…  

Biggest Surprise:  Brandon League arrived in Seattle during the offseason in a controversial trade that sent talented but erratic starting pitcher Brandon Morrow to Toronto. The hard-throwing Hawaiian was supposed to be one of the best set-up men in all of baseball, but in the first half of the season he posted a 3.86 ERA and was responsible for many of the Mariners’ most painful defeats (“Oh, we’ve got a three run lead? I guess I’ll walk the bases loaded and then cough up a gopher ball). Since the All-Star break though, League has been in the zone, including August where he posted a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings. I’m not saying it was a good idea to trade Brandon Morrow, but it is nice to know that we weren’t entirely fleeced. Right? Right?  

Biggest Disappointment: Jose Lopez brings less to the table than Bob Cratchit. Why the Mariners are still giving at-bats to someone with a .605 OPS is beyond me, because Lopez has been a black hole all season long. There’s little doubt that he’ll be gone at the end of the season; why wait till then to give Matt Mangini or Matt Tuiasosopo a chance?  

Injuries: Erik Bedard (out for season–hypochondria); Milton Bradley (15-day DL–patellar tendonitis–underwent surgery August 17th); Shawn Kelley (15-day DL–elbow inflammation–appears headed for Tommy John surgery); Jack Wilson (out for season–hand surgery).  

Lingering Questions: If the Mariners win a game, and no one is watching, does it still count? Can Felix win a Cy Young with a losing record? Adam Moore can’t possibly be as bad as Rob Johnson, can he? What medication should I take for Mariners’ Season(al) Depression? 

September Schedule: 1 vs. Los Angeles, 4 vs. Cleveland, 3 @ Oakland, 3 @ Los Angeles, 3 vs. Boston, 3 vs. Texas, 3 @ Toronto, 3 @ Tampa Bay, 3 @ Texas, 1 vs. Oakland.  

Overall Grade: (C+) With new manager Darren Brown at the helm the Mariners weren’t completely awful in August, winning four series in a row before sputtering at the end of the month. Still, while the offense was marginally better than it had been, it was still the worst in baseball and made me question why I even bother to watch the M’s play.

Dave Niehaus, that’s why.

Wak Blocked: Mariners Fire Second-Year Manager Don Wakamatsu; Admit That Season Isn’t Exactly Going As Planned.

Though Wakamatsu took the fall, no one in the organization is without blame.

Though the writing had been on the wall for months, yesterday’s firing of manager Don Wakamatsu still came as a surprise from an organization that had come to reward mediocrity over the last decade.  

With the team in a free fall and showing no signs of improvement, GM Jack Zduriencik decided that Wakamatsu was no longer the right man for the job, and showed his hand-picked manager the door.  

The Mariners entered Monday night with a record of 42-70, the third worst in baseball, after a busy offseason that brought hope of a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. With virtually every player on the team underperforming Wakamatsu never really had a chance to succeed (it is a Seattle sports team after all). Wakamastu wasn’t without blame though;  his questionable handling of the bullpen and inability to get maximum effort out of the team made the lame duck manager a perfect scapegoat for the M’s numerous shortcomings.  

Triple-A manager Darren “Aw Shucks” Brown will replace Wakamatsu for the remainder of the season, though with the current squad, he’s probably not expected to do anything more than shake out the roster and try to figure out which pieces hold value moving into 2011 (so long Jose Lopez, Milton Bradley, Rob Johnson, etc). It would behoove Brown to manage with a bit more evident passion than Wakamatsu, whose Zen-like persona made him appear like an apathetic captain at the helm of a sinking ship.  

It’s unfortunate that a classy manager like Wakamatsu had to be fired after just two seasons because of poor front office decisions, but it was apparent from his run-ins with Ken Griffey Jr., Milton Bradley, Michael Lohan and Chone Figgins that he no longer had the respect of his players. 

He’s not the only one whose lost respect this season–Seattle’s front office and ownership are also on thin ice with M’s fans after putting one of the sorriest teams on the field in the organization’s storied history. 

If more changes aren’t made soon, Wakamatsu won’t be the only one looking for work this offseason…