Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Mariners make me homicidal.

The Mariners signed relief pitcher Rick White about ten days ago. I thought very little of it at the time. White is the very definition of a journeyman (twelve teams!). Every team has a scrub at the end of their bench to eat up unimportant innings. The Mariners' main strength in a highly unlikely pennant drive has been their bullpen, so if they're looking for a guy to eat a few innings, White is interchangeable with anyone else.

But in the last few days, well...things have gotten strange.

First, White entered a tie game in Texas. If it's a tie game...well, those aren't unimportant innings. Why debut an unknown quantity there? White gave up two runs in two and a third innings, and the M's lost by those two runs.

Then, something truly baffling the other night. The M's were down by one in a must-win game against the Angels. It's the eighth inning. J.J. Putz hasn't pitched in four days. The bases are loaded. Vladimir Guerrero is coming up. It's a huge at-bat...absolutely massive. A Guerrero hit puts the game out of reach, and probably ends any hope of the division title. Time for J.J. It's not a save situation, but it's way, way more important than most save situations. The M's go to the bullpen...

and in runs Rick White.

HUH? WHAT? WHY?

White gives up two hits and a walk, and the game, for all intents and purposes, ends. (By the way, this is Exhibit A for why ERA is an inadequate stat for pitchers, particularly relievers. White, because the runs weren't "his," had an ERA of 0.00 on the day.)

Yesterday, White returned to give up four hits while recording five outs. He turned a four-run deficit into a six-run deficit. OK...with three straight subpar outings, even John McLaren should banish the guy to mop-up duty, right?

So let's fast-forward to today. I missed the Cleveland game because I was out seeing The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters again (and you should see it too). On the way home, I turn on the radio and hear that the M's have lost on a bases-loaded walk. I casually joke to myself: "Gee! Probably Rick White again! Ha ha ha!"

Well, shit. It was.

This time it was a tie score in the bottom of the ninth. One out, men on first and second. J.J. Putz hasn't pitched in six days. Sure, I'll grant that this isn't a save situation. But it's way more important than that. Saving Putz for a save that will never come makes absolutely no sense.

Nope. Not J.J. Rick. Flyout, walk, and walk. Game over. M's no longer in a playoff slot.

On ESPN radio tonight, they played the Cleveland announcers' radio call of the final pitch of the game. Here's what they said, as best as I can remember it:

"The pitch...Inside, ball four! Indians win! Kenny Lofton draws the walk, Josh Barfield scores, and Rick White hasn't changed!"

Ouch.

We've lost six in a row. In that time, Rick White has made four appearances while J.J. has gotten splinters in his butt.

Why this sudden Mariner obsession with White? Look at his stats. The man was a serviceable reliever briefly in the early '90s, and had a decent year the year before last. But his recent numbers have been bad. His ERA+ (100 is average, above is better) last year was 91, and this year it's sub 60. Putz's 2007 ERA+? THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN. White is 38 (older than I am!), so it's not like he's going to pick up any new tricks. As the Tribe announcers noted, he "hasn't changed," and if he hasn't changed by 38, he never will.

Still, even if the M's see some spark and think he can develop into something, their recent moves with him are comically inept. Give White some meaningless innings to show what he's got (or, more likely, hasn't got). But the most important innings of a pennant race? Those are NOT the place to suddenly test an unproven guy who has been dumped by ELEVEN major league teams at one time or another! Every other guy in the M's bullpen has shown me at least a little something. I don't cringe when anybody else in the bullpen enters (and for a guy who suffered through the M's bullpens of the late '90s, that's a wonderful feeling). But Rick White? Rick White has shown me nothing, and he's shown John McLaren nothing. Why in the name of all that is holy are we hinging the season on him again and again?

I cannot come up with a philosophical approach to baseball, including any which I disagree with, that indicates this is a good idea.

I'm on record fairly often (most recently here) as saying that the M's record is a wonderful, joyous anomaly, and that it won't last. But if we're going to go down, I want it to be with our best players duking it out in the most important situations, and not a clearly overmatched journeyman who's been with us a week and a half, and has done nothing to get us into our unlikely playoff chase.

Win or lose, M's fans deserve way better than what they've gotten this week.

2 comments:

KC in PDX said...

My friend, did you creep into my mind and transcribe my thoughts? I had a Row 1 view of slacker White on Wed. One pitch. ONE PITCH. Why on earth would Mac bring in a D or at best, a C- hurler to throw to an A+ hitter in Vlad?

With the team on the skids, but still in contention, Mac needs to use his resources wisely, but get a little clever. Game on the line w/ Vlad up. Hell yes, bring in Putz. (Altho I am worried about Putz... he's showing wear... and last nite in Toronto I'm not sure if it was wear or rust and bench splinters that rendered him ineffective.)

Mac needs to yank the ineffective starters quicker, too. On Wed., the only reason Felix wasn't demolished was because of sterling dfensive plays; he was wild inside and the Angels were teeing off on him. And if Washburn can't pitch a strike by the second, he's not going to by the 4th.

Smarter baserunning might be a little helpful, too. Man, the M's are failing both in the physical AND the mental game.

Oh the sad irony for me is that the Mariners went south immediately after I bought my playoff strips. My apologies to all

Anonymous said...

What I thought was insane was when Maclaren got booted from the first Angels home game in the FIRST inning. WTF is up with that? To defend or back Ichiro? Hey, Ichiro is a man who has played this game for years and knows LOTS of calls don't go your way. If Maclaren thought his ejection would "pump up" the team for a very important series, he blew it and blew it badly. Not only did the M's lose that critical game to the Angels, they lost all three and I have to believe Maclaren's foolish antics and subsequent ejection helped screw up whatever mojo or chemistry or good vibes the Mariners had going for themselves at the time. And you are spot on...RICK WHITE? WTF?????????????