Yeah, it's easy to kick a team when it's down. But John McGrath's got his reasons for kicking the Mariners ...
Remember Michael Saunders? Remember the kid who struggled through a challenging month in Tacoma before revealing a glimpse of his potential with the big club? After Saunders was promoted from the Rainiers on May 8, he had seven hits in 18 at-bats, including a Mother’s Day home run that ranks among the few Mariners highlights of 2010.
But once Milton Bradley returned from his two-week stay on the restricted list, somebody had to sit, and Wakamatsu has decided that somebody shall be Saunders. It’s a discouraging development, underscored by the plodding look of Wakamatsu’s revised lineup on Sunday. The Mariners started a 36-year-old designated hitter at first base (Mike Sweeney), a 32-year-old designated hitter in left field (Bradley), and a 40-year-old as their actual designated hitter (Griffey).
A team rolling along a track toward 95 defeats, a team that’s virtually been eliminated from playoff contention – don’t bother doing the math, it’ll only depress you – is a team whose fans deserve somebody to hinge their hopes upon the future.
Saunders is 23. The last time we saw him put in meaningful work, he was making a diving catch that led to a double play in an extra-inning game against the A’s in Oakland. This was, let’s see, last Tuesday.
the M's were behind 3-0,
Johnson bats right-handed,
Gregerson's slider is death to right-handed hitters, and
Wakamatsu had two left-handed hitters (and a switch-hitter) on the bench.
There are things we don't. Hypothetically, maybe Gregerson is a ground-ball pitcher who pounds the lower-right quadrant of the strike zone, and Johnson just happens to thrive against ground-ball pitchers who pound the lower-right quadrant of the strike zone.
Of course none of that's true. My point is that even if it was true, you still can't let Johnson bat in that spot. Luke Gregerson has, in his career, held right-handed batters to a .156 batting average. Johnson, in his career, has batted .217 against right-handed pitchers (granted, he's been even worse against lefties).
Simply put, this was about as obvious a case of managerial malpractice as you'll ever see, within a single game (I mean, aside from making a sore-armed, high-paid pitcher throw 132 pitches or something), and I'm perfectly comfortable with castigating the manager who's responsible.
I'm willing to cut Wakamatsu a tiny bit of slack for burying Saunders on the bench, though. I have to think he's under some pressure from above to play both Griffey and Milton Bradley regularly, and if those two guys are playing, Saunders is sitting. Simple as that.
There's managerial malpractice, and general managerial malpractice. And the Mariners' roster has been, for nearly two months now, an excellent example of the latter.