In the long, long baseball season thereís always a game or two like this. A game where the scapegoats rise up and shove it in the face of all the haters. The Mariners won today in large part because Chone Figgins had three hits and Miguel Olivo caught a hanging slider on the barrel and hit his first home run. The Mariners bullpen gutted out four innings and the team hung on to sweep the chic preseason pennant pick on the road.
Itís a conundrum. On the one hand yay! victory! On the other boo doing so with players that most (including myself) donít believe should be playing. Olivoís home run was the worst. I donít know anyone, in person or online who thinks Miguel Olivo ďEveryday CatcherĒ is a good idea. But, as he reiterated today, Eric Wedge sure does. Olivo hitting a home run does nothing but reinforce his belief that Miguel Olivo is an everyday player. So, perpetually, fans are stuck cheering the battle victory but questioning the cost.
Personally I find these intellectual quandaries overblown. Miguel Olivo is going to play unless he completely craters. If heís going to play as a fan I have nothing, NOTHING to lose by hoping he does well, save some Johjima-esque extension. Barring that scenario Iíve sat through enough victories with players I dislike and (more than) enough defeats with my favorite players in the lineup to know my heart doesnít really care either way as long as victory is the final result. Iíll scream before the game about platoon-splits, track record, age, contract, etc. etc. but when the game gets going Iím pulling for a win, anyway it happens. So bully for you, crappy baseball players, today you carried the banner. When you play tomorrow do it again and again and again until you're not crappy anymore.
- Hector Noesi was somewhere closer to his ďHAHA Yankees we totally screwed youĒ form than his ďRight-handed Anthony VazquezĒ one. Although far from unhittable he was able to work away from hitters in order to induce weak contact. He's still allowing flyballs like crazy and didnít generate as many swinging strikes as we would like (only six) but on a day where the ball seemed to be jumping the only significant damage occurred when Miguel Cabrera took a pitch about 5 inches off the plate inside into the left field bullpen. Itís an improvement and weíll have to just wait for another rotation spot and another data point to try and figure out what kind of a pitcher heís going to be. Letís hope a good one!
- Given another day to quiet down his hammy/get his shit together Justin Smoak had a game Iíd like to see about 30-35 more times this year. Heís still struggling to be patient but in the first Rick Porcello floated up a change at the letters and, as he has done so infrequently Smoak punished it into the right field seats with what was in many ways the decisive blow of the game. I donít know how much of Smoakís struggles are mental or physical, his swing does look slow to my laymanís eye, but confidence is always better than no confidence. Some success today will hopefully provide a foundation for improvement. No player has greater potential to make this offense respectable than Smoak so here's hoping this is the beginning of a trend.
- Itís probably time we start getting real about this: Despite coming into the season with a lot of questions the Mariners bullpen may end up being a true strength of the team. They arenít going to throw four shutout innings every game, like today, but the arms are there. With Delebar, Wilhelmsen and League all throwing mid-90ís from the right side, and Furbush looking every bit a left-handed killer in limited action a team that figures to have to win a lot of close games to be competitive looks well equipped to do so. Look for fewer home runs to leave the yard (18.6% FB/HR, highest in the AL) and fewer runners stranded (84.3% LOB, again highest in the AL) but as currently constructed Seattle's bullpen is potentially top five. If this season is going to be fun past early June itíll probably have to be.
Off to Toronto tomorrow. I hope that someone asks Michael Saunders what there is to do in Canada and Saunders has to explain that heís from like 2000 miles away and whoever asked the question (*Cough Smoak *Cough) doesnít get it and itís super awkward. Also watch this video of Saunders. So, so cute.