Wed., June 28, 2023
A GRIP ON SPORTS • Newspapers used to have a feature we loved. “On This Date” would list a year and then an interesting historical event that happened, say, on June 28. We’re stealing the idea today and applying it to the baseball team across the mountains.
• On This Date … in 2022, the Seattle Mariners woke up after a 9-2 home loss to Baltimore, checked the standings and saw they were 35-41. Fourth place in the American League West, 12½ games behind the Astros. A season that seemed full of promise was dead in the water.
Until it wasn’t.
That night the M’s embarked on their most meaningful three-week stretch since 1995, winning 2-0 over the Orioles. And then won 16 of their next 17 games. When the hot streak cooled, they were nine games over .500, alone in second in the West and in the middle of the wild card race.
That was then. Now? Let us allow one of last year’s key components, Cal Raleigh, describe how the team is playing as the sun dawns over the Cascades:
“I just look at us and we’re not a good baseball team right now,” the catcher said after the miserable 7-4, 11-inning home loss to Washington, a loss punctuated by the inability to score in the bottom of a 10th inning that featured a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity.
Ty France, Teoscar Hernandez and Raleigh himself had “terrible at-bats,” according to Raleigh, the Nationals wiggled off the line and the M’s fell to 38-40.
They are 9½ games behind the Rangers in the West and, once again, sit in fourth place. More importantly, perhaps, is they are 4½ games out in the wild card race, tied with Cleveland, which holds the tie-breaker, and behind three others.
A season that seemed full of promise is dead in the water.
Can they make lightning strike again? It’s possible. Though it’s not going to happen unless they overcome a recent bout of performance anxiety.
“There were some pitches to hit, but, overall, guys got anxious,” manager Scott Servais told reporters last night, addressing the 10th-inning failures. “You get anxious and you want to make it happen so bad. You foul pitches off that you should put in play and you swing at some pitches you shouldn’t swing at. Ultimately in those moments, you’ve got to take a deep breath, relax, let the game come to you.”
How does Servais fix it? He can’t. It’s up to Jerry Dipoto and the front office. And the players, of course.
If there is one time-honored way to cure baseball’s version of offensive anxiety, it is to introduce a new bat to the lineup. Bring in someone who is the designated savior, the load-carrier, the new broad-shouldered star. Rent a player. Show the team you’ll do what it takes to get them back on track. If you think it’s worth it.
Dipoto did it on June 27 last year. He traded two minor leaguers to Kansas City for Carlos Santana. No longer a star but a calming veteran who played a role in the ensuing winning streak.
What if you don’t think it’s worth such a deal this year? Then start looking for trade partners. Offer France, or Hernandez, or, maybe, J.P. Crawford and Eugenio Suarez. Start re-stocking the farm system, start looking toward next year and the year after.
Standing pat, right now, isn’t worth it. Either up the ante or get out of the game.
The lineup is scuffling. It needs an infusion of confidence. Veteran confidence. Find it. Add it. Ease the load on Julio Rodriguez. On the rest. Do it now. Don’t wait.
• One last Mariner thought, though it won’t make you feel better. They are not alone in the disappointment category. There are even bigger ones.
San Diego, which spent more money than Elon Musk, seems to have replicated his success with Twitter. The Padres are 37-42 and pointing fingers at each other. The Mets, also spending like a drunken senator, are 36-43 and hoping their ancient starting pitching holds together. Each fanbase is melting down. St. Louis, the Cubs, the White Sox. All in the M’s boat. Who cares, you say?
Hey, we started with “it won’t make you feel better” didn’t we?
WSU: A quarterback is always a key piece of a recruiting class. Washington State has settled on its 2024 target at that position and Evans Chuba, a three-star recruit out of Florida, has settled on the Cougars. He said yesterday he will sign a letter-of-intent with WSU. Colton Clark has the story. … Former WSU linebacker Scott Pelluer, whose son Peyton was also a Cougar and a fan favorite, died Monday at age 64. The Times’ Adam Jude has Pelluer’s obituary. … Kyle Manzardo, who played at Lake City High before heading down to Pullman and starring for the Cougars, will be part of the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle this year. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we can pass along this football recruiting evaluation. … Washington yesterday added to its total of players saying there are headed there in 2024. … Colorado is reviving its Nebraska rivalry.
Gonzaga: Rui Hachimura isn’t going home. The former GU star is focusing on his NBA career this summer instead of playing for Japan in the FIBA World Cup. Jim Meehan has all the details in this story.
Idaho: Last year’s athletic success – along with a couple coaching changes – seems to have raised expectations in Moscow. And we’re not just referring to football, although that plays an oversized role. … Elsewhere the Big Sky, Montana State announced kickoff times for its home games.
Preps: We don’t want to bury the lead here. Yes, U-Hi rising sophomore Czar Quintanilla won a wrestling freestyle gold and a Greco-Roman bronze medal in the U17 Pan-Am Championships on Saturday. That’s quite an accomplishment. But so is just making the U.S. team at his age. Dave Nichols has more in this story.
Indians: Spokane traveled north of the border but its offense must have been delayed at Blaine. The Indians fell 2-1 to Vancouver. Dave has the coverage.
Bowling: It’s not often we link bowling stories, but this one from Charlotte McKinley in the S-R is worth it. Kay Cook has the type of attitude everyone should carry in their back pocket.
Storm: The Lynx rode Naphessa Collier to a win over visiting Seattle.
Sounders: Jordan Morris will be a member of the MLS All-Star team that will face the EPL’s Arsenal in the upcoming match.
Mariners: We know we are on the right track when Larry Stone writes about a similar subject. After all, he’s an all-star performer in this realm. We’re just a utility guy hoping to get enough games in to earn a decent pension. … The Marco Gonzales injury news isn’t good. … Branch Rickey is credited with saying it’s better to trade a player a year too early than designate him for assignment a year too late. Or something like that. Rickey wasn’t thinking about Chris Flexen but he might have been. … Hey, maybe the issue is the music at T-Mobile. It’s as good a guess as any.
Kraken: After a pretty successful season, Seattle will pick 20th in the NHL draft. It’s an interesting spot.
• We’re not sure we’ve ever been angrier about three consecutive at-bats than we were last night. France swung at awful pitches. Hernandez swung at a third strike that never was in the strike zone. And Raleigh? He got himself out on a check swing. Jack Clark (ya, that Jack Clark) once told me the key to hitting with runners in scoring position is to be patient. The pitcher will always make a mistake if you give him enough time. It was good advice. Until later …
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Updated 9:31 p.m.
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