Some things never change, do they? Just like last year, the Seattle Mariners are a team with a sensational pitching staff--and this is a statement that precedes All-Star acquisition Cliff Lee's debut Friday. And just like last year, with a few notable exceptions (Ichiro, Guierrez), the team can't hit a lick. For purists, 3-2 wins can be a thing of beauty--but most Mariner homers would prefer the occasional six-run triumph, not to mention more homers.
Replace the "cks" with a "g" on the jersey, and this photo would captionize itself.
Central to the M's offensive anorexia, like last year, is the lack of production out of its rotating cast of left fielders and designated hitters. Here, we're talking about newcomers Milton Bradley and Eric Byrnes in left, and oldcomers Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney (as well as Bradley) at DH. With the exception of Griffey, all of these thirty-plussers were left for dead by other franchises before the M's salvaged them from the has-been scrap heap. And while Bradley's bat has shown some occasional pop, collectively, this quartet has been godawful--2 home runs (both Bradley's) and 17 RBIs (11 Bradley's) awful. I don't even have to look at other LF-DH combinations around the league to know the M's have, far and away, the worst.
So something's gotta give, right?
Cutting loose the likes of Byrnes or Sweeney, whose strong spring training led to the release of free agent Ryan Garko (note to Jack Z: never trust spring training stats), wouldn't be much skin off the Mariners' back salary-wise--each are making at or near the $400,000 veteran minimum. It's just that, internally, the call-up options--Michael Saunders (.157 and 0 home runs at AAA Tacoma, not-yet-ready-for-prime-time) and Ryan Langerhans (.241 and 0 home runs at Tacoma, career backup at best)--are nearly as bleak as having to watch Byrnes endure another "surprise" day of muffing fly balls and crashing into catchers in the sun.
Externally, OF/DH Jermaine Dye appears to be the only plausible option. He turned down a $4 million per year offer from the Nationals in the off-season, but that was the Nationals, and his leverage decreases with the mailing of every unemployment check. Dye's said he'd like to play for the Mariners, a statement that was greeted with buckets, if not oceans, of cold water by the Seattle media. Granted, he's a below-average outfielder, but so is Bradley, and Dye would likely represent a significant upgrade over Byrnes or Sweeney in a right-handed platoon slot.
So if Jack Z warms up to Dye--and we'll be the lone voice in the wilderness advocating for such a thaw--then who should get pink-slipped? Byrnes and his .111 average get our vote. After two dreadful, injury-riddled seasons prior to this one in Arizona, it's clear the guy can no longer hit major league pitching. And as the sunshine odyssey versus Detroit made clear, fielding and base-running can no longer be counted as strengths of his either.
Carrying two glorified bench coaches (Griffey and Sweeney) masquerading (poorly) as veteran contributors is already one too many. The M's probably shouldn't have kept Sweeney in the first place, but they definitely shouldn't have signed Byrnes either. After 22 games, we're Byrnt out--send Eric back to the commentator's desk, where he's genuinely skilled.