Sunday, July 20, 2008

Top Ten Things the Seattle Mariners are Doing Wrong With Regularity

10) Not aggressively shopping Arthur Rhodes
It's not the year 2001 but Arthur Rhodes is in a Mariners uniform and mowing down opposing batters. 21 strikeouts in 17.2 innings with a .250 batting average against, Rhodes has been one of the few bright spots for the team. He should be traded to a contender looking for bullpen help. That way the M's can build for the future and Arthur can be part of a pennant race. A win-win situation for everyone. Or as Michael Scott would say, "win-win-win."

9) Starting Willie Bloomquist in center field
One has to hand it to Willie; he makes it tough to include his name on the list despite obvious shortcomings. He has non-existent power (.275 slugging) and a subpar arm. Yet good speed, a versatile glove and a healthy .375 OBP "earns" him playing time. He doesn't deserve to be a regular on any major league team but there are worse situations to be in.

8) Playing Miguel Batista
Whether beginning a game on the mound or coming out of the bullpen Batista has been an equal opportunity offender. 4-11 record, 6.98 ERA, almost one hundred hits and fifty walks allowed in under 80 innings. Yeech. R.A. Dickey and Ryan Rowland-Smith are younger and cheaper alternatives. Miguel should solely be relegated to mop up duties.

7) Coaching Felix Hernandez to throw more fastballs
A preseason edict from the coaches was for Felix to establish the fastball. This has been an ongoing theme and it's a bad one. Hernandez possesses three plus pitches: fastball, changeup and slider. Unless you're Mariano Rivera you want to throw hitters an unpredictable array of pitches. Keep them guessing. This season Felix has thrown the highest percentage of fastballs in his career. While the results have been fairly good an unsettling side effect includes a drop in ground balls. Hernandez is at his peak when he's inducing grounders. Seattle would be well advised to encourage Felix to mix up his arsenal throughout a game.

6) Not aggressively shopping Jarrod Washburn
As of today Jarrod is a member of the Seattle Mariners. If he's still with the ballclub in August that will be bad. He's a flyball pitcher so Safeco suits his game. An average pitcher throwing in an extreme pitcher's park, Jarrod's a serviceable talent with a question attitude. Seattle should try hard to trade him to a potential contender, even if it means eating some of the $9 million owed to Washburn next year.

5) Playing Miguel Cairo
An older, slower version of Bloomquist. He doesn't deserve a spot on a 40-man roster yet alone an occasional appearance in a game yet alone a place in the starting lineup. Naturally a team as misguided as Seattle would allow Miguel to step up to the plate at least three times in half the team's games so far this month. Basically any other player in the league offers more than the washed-up Cairo.

4) Batting Jose Vidro cleanup
Only in the bizarro world of the Mariners universe would a player sporting a .215./.261/.313 line be asked to "protect" the number three hitter. This same player, whose slugging percentage has decreased seven years in a row, is relegated to being a prodding slap hitter. That sort of profile might suit Vidro as a late-inning pinch hitter, but certainly not as a cleanup hitter. Recently he's been demoted to batting sixth, which is progress of sorts. Vidro might be the least productive DH in baseball, which is a sad fact for a franchise that was graced by the great Edgar Martinez so many years ago.

3) Not playing Jeff Clement everyday
He's the best combination of talent and youth when it comes to position players in the organization. Jeff should be given every opportunity to gain experience. Instead Cairo, Vidro and the struggling Johjima take away valuable at-bats. Furthermore Clement has much to improve upon behind the plate, meaning incumbent Johjima needs to have to his workload reduced: Kenji's on pace to play 136 games.

2) Sticking Raul Ibanez in left field
Jim Street threw down some nonsense the other day, portraying Raul as a competent defender. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Ibanez is atrocious with a glove. He's a notch above Manny Ramirez. Raul should be replaced by Jeremy Reed and become the team's DH going forward. That would instantly solve two of the M's most glaring problems: the defensive sinkhole in left field as well as the offensive sinkhole that has been the DH position.

1) Using Brandon Morrow as a closer/set-up man
Last year I referred to him as insanity at 60 feet, 6 inches. Morrow's 2007 campaign ended with him tossing 63.1 IP, 50 BB and 66 K. This year he's been a different pitcher, much more comfortable and confident. His 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio says it all. With this season beyond redemption Seattle should look to the future and begin the long process of converting Morrow into a starter. His arm is too valuable to spend the next decade coming out for the eighth and ninth innings.

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