Tailgating Online

Mariners’ Youth Excuse Grows Old

We have all fallen ill over watching the Mariners the last several years. Yet, we continue watching. We continue believing the higher-ups as they unveil their plans and beg for our patience. We are continuously convinced to wait and appreciate the talent that is nearing fruition. Instead, we watch as the Mariners next move becomes their next epic failure. The front office pleads their innocence and constantly blames youth and inexperience for their lack of success.  I foolishly believed this was true, as we all did, until noticing one common theme throughout this year’s All-Star roster. Youth.

In a year when a hit was recorded by the youngest player in All-Star history (Bryce Harper, 19), the All-Star rosters touted 19 players who are no older than 25. A few of these young stars boast outstanding batting averages over .340. Conversely, our young Mariners, averaging 27.7-years-old, cannot post a batting average better than .267. And for the first time since 1987, not one Mariners player participated in the All-Star Game. Among a roster full of failures, Justin Smoak and Jesús Montero are leading the way to our disappointment.

Justin Smoak was acquired in a trade for Cliff Lee, an All-Star-talented pitcher. He brought with him the expectation of being the best 1st baseman prospect in the league. Smoak has undoubtedly failed these expectations, never hitting above .239 or amassing over 15 homeruns. It has become a common sight to see him scoff at long fly-outs and speak out about the big ballpark rather than try to learn how to square up his hits or hit the gym for some extra power.

Jesús Montero has matched Smoak step-for-step in disappointment. Arriving here via the Michael Pineda trade, another All-Star pitcher, he has proven to be a fraction of his expectations. Once believed to be the next great Bronx Bomber, Montero posted an astonishing 1 RBI in the month of June. He has also only hit 8 homeruns by the All-Star break, which is quite embarrassing as our ‘sexiest’ power hitter. Adding to the embarrassment is his play behind the plate. Video replays show Montero closing his eyes and turning his head while catching several times this year.

I am sick of hearing that we are too young to be successful right now. The 2012 youth-laden All-Star team proves age is just a number. Our problem is talent and leadership. Chuck Armstrong, Howard Lincoln, and Hiroshi Yamauchi have tied the hands of every GM and skipper to come here, forcing over-the-hill players on us like Ichiro and Ken Griffey Jr. They admittedly strive for family atmosphere over success, and it shows, consistently embarrassing themselves and their fans with failed draft picks and historically bad trades.

I have no more patience. I do not want to just see improvement this year. I do not want to just see improvement next year. I want these young prospects to be All-Stars next year or everyone needs to go, starting at the top. It is embarrassing as a fan knowing that the owner of the team has never been to a game. It is embarrassing knowing the two men running the team think garlic fries and bobble heads are more important than ensuring young players like Dustin Ackley every opportunity to improve. It is embarrassing to be a Mariners fan and it needs to stop now!

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4 Responses »

  1. It is a really screwy dilemma indeed. I understand your point about some of the young phenoms making a splash at the All-Star game; however how many came from decidedly bad teams? How many teams were represented by multiple good young players? Beyond Washington (Strausberg and Harper), not many. Going young is fine, but you need at least a half-decent supporting cast to foster growth in young players. You also need a ballpark more suited to their talents. It is not like we have not had young phenoms, the problem is the vast majority that exceed expectations have been PITCHERS. Don’t forget about King Felix, Michael Penada (I know he is gimpy now but he has one hell of a career ahead of him) and Hultzen to go along with a number of can’t-miss pitching prospects.

    I get that the stadium argument is wearing thin, but look at what some of our current players are doing at home vs. road. In 44 games at home, we are hitting .196 with 22 HR and 119 RBIs, with a .275 OBP (top 2 teams have a bleeping AVG higher than our OBP). Numbers on the road: 48 games, 57 HR, 225 RBI, .258 AVG and .309 OBP. Road AVG and OBP = meh, but look at the power numbers. We lead the league in runs scored on the road. I am not saying we need to turn Safeco Field into Coors, but bring the fences in at least a little. Think Griffey, Buhner and Edgar would have put up those crazy numbers if they spent the majority of their home games at Safeco? Hell no. Our young players we have would put up much better numbers at the Kingdome. If Montero stayed in NY, he would be on pace to hit 30 HR with a .315 AVG this year.

    There might be something going on psychologically there, but that is a rant for another day.

    A few gripes I have…

    I am not sure how much relevance I would place on their owner not attending games. Howard Schultz attended a lot of Sonics games and they were mediocre for much of his brief time as an owner. Attending games or being a “hands-on” owner does not make your team better. The Mavericks do not continuously win games because Mark Cuban is courtside at every game.

    There are a number of players you can take issue with the signing, or re-signing of (yes you Kenji Johjima), but do not fault them for re-signing Griffey and Ichiro. Griffey was not that far removed from some productive seasons with the Reds and most people in Seattle wanted him back. You could say the same for Ichiro. It would have been nice to see Griffey go out on a better note (perfect ending would have been ending his career after his 1st season back), and I will say we would be better off benching (or trading) Ichiro.

    I do think some major changes need to be made from the top of the organization – primarily all of Jackie Z’s bosses, other than the owner. People need to be patient with Jackie Z and Eric Wedge.

  2. I think the comparison to Shultz and Cuban is unfair. That’s the extreme opposite. The Mariners owner doesn’t need to be “hands on” but he does need to know the ins and outs of the team and the community that supports the team. Its sad that he didn’t even attend the games that were in Japan! He doesnt need to hold hands with the GM but he does need to know that everyone who supports the team hates Lincoln and Armstrong. He views the team as just a business and not a sports teams. There’s a balance you need to keep. Instead of focusing on success, he allows the leaders of the team to drive the franchise into the ground.

    Also, when you start comparing stats on road vs home and look at weather and park factors, you’re conforming to the loser mentality of Seattle. If we factor in all the “ifs” and “buts” and “maybes” we do look good… but the FACT is that we suck overall. The game isnt decided by what ifs, its decided by the on field production. We can’t keep taking the small successes and and turning them into something they’re not. It would be like me saying I’m a great ballplayer because IF I was 6’5″ and IF I threw a 100mph fastball, I’d be good.

  3. The Safeco effect is an interesting phenomenon, but the stats back up that the visiting team experiences the same drop in offensive production while playing there. So while we may have the disadvantage when comparing our teams offensive stats to the rest of the league, per game there it’s a null factor because it’s a neutral effect on both teams. We won’t win more games if we move in the fences, because the other team will receive the same benefit. The only thing I honestly see it impacting would be it reducing the difficulty of luring a power hitting free agent to Seattle, because I’m sure guys like Prince Fielder don’t want to see thierry power numbers drop, and hurt their contract value. When considering the positives, the negatives also need to be considered that the Safeco effect protects many of our poor pitchers, and enhances the effectiveness of our good pitchers…

  4. And as far as the young players argument; we need to look at the past few drafts and really think about how we did… Strasberg and Harper were #1 overall picks, so it’s not fair really to put them into the equation, we just weren’t good enough at being shitty to have the #1 pick.
    HOWEVER, 2009 draft we selected Dustin Ackley #2 overall (.236, 6 HR, 27rbi, 8 steals) and 23 picks later the Angels select Mike Trout (.355, 13 HR, 44rbi, 30 steals.) Trout is 3rd in MLB in batting average and 1st in stolen bases. Trout is also a 20 year old All Star in his rookie season, Ackley is 24 and already has 1 year of experience under his belt, so don’t make me puke by saying give Ackley time because of his age.
    In the 2010 draft we forfeited our 1st round pick to the Angels for signing Chone Figgins as a type A free agent. They used that selection to take Caleb Cowart 18th overall. Cowart is a switch hitting, 3rd baseman who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2010. “Cowart has quick feet and a cannon arm.” – scoutingbook.com “Cowart is a power hitting, switch hitting 3rd baseman, who also was in the pitching rotation and featured a 97mph fastball, sharp breaking curve, and developing change up.” – baseballreference.com
    “Cowart Is a switch hitter with a quick bat that generates plus power from both sides of the plate. Ranked #3 overall prospect in the Angels system.” – MLB.com
    The Angels also received the 40th overall selection as part of that Figgins blunder. Type A free agents, are players deemed in the top 20% at their position. When a team loses a type A free agent the team that signs them forfeits their 1st round draft choice to the players former team, as well as that team receives an extra ‘compensatory’ 1st round draft pick at the end of the 1st round.
    While its too early to really judge the 2011 draft, Hultzen looks really good… But we will have to see how Anthony Rendon and Bubba Starling pan out for comparison.

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