Mariners don't learn from past mistakes; young players pay price

Jul 5, 2012

The Mariners are heading into next week's All-Star break as the worst team in the American League. And they're farther behind first place than any other team in baseball.

One bright spot: Mariners star pitcher Felix Hernandez is pitching in the All-Star game on July 10 in Kansas City. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says there's not much else for fans to look forward to this season.

No big moves expected before trade deadline

Art says, normally, there might be some excitement surrounding the July 31st trade deadline. But not for the Mariners this year.

"They have Felix Hernandez and they're not going to trade him. They have a lot of young guys that they don't want to get rid of yet. So, they're sort of dead in the water for doing anything. And I think being dead in the water is about the worst place you can be."

Many young players not ready for primetime

Art says some of the younger players on the team need to be sent down to the minor leagues. He's specifically referring to catcher and designated hitter Jesus Montero, second baseman Dustin Ackley and first baseman Justin Smoak.

"These young players are not ready to deliver yet the Mariners have invested so much in them, either with high draft picks or trade acquisitions, that they're willing to put training wheels on these guys and put them out there every day. They are not ready."

Could do them harm

Art says putting too much pressure on unprepared young players to succeed could backfire in a big way.

"When you get to the Major Leagues where you're paid to deliver and you don't, you wind up getting damaged psychologically and it could wind up crippling a career. It doesn't always happen. Players develop and mature at different paces. A good example in Mariner history is Edgar Martinez. It wasn't until age 27 when Edgar really became who he was."

But he says that's the exception, not the rule.

"With this much losing - and remember that the 17-game losing streak that began a year ago Friday was experienced by these guys - and now they can't hit at Safeco, they have their manager yelling at them all the time, attendance is dwindling and each of these players feels a personal responsibility to help solve it. That's way too much on young men who are not ready for that pressure and that burden. And I put this strictly on ownership and management."

Mariners not learning from past mistakes

Art says the team seems stuck in a web of poor decisions.

"The Mariners never recover from bad moves. And that was illustrated in the Wednesday loss to Baltimore in which two former Mariner players - Adam Jones and Chris Tillman, the pitcher - dominated them. And, in that trade in 2008, the Mariners have nothing to show for it - giving away these prospects. And, of course, Mariner fans lament all the time about the players gone to other teams who become stars elsewhere. Teams do that all the time but the Mariners never make up for their mistakes."

Still lacking a big bat

Art says the Mariners' money is tied up in contracts of older players who aren't producing or young prospects who have yet to show their worth. They don't have a key offensive player who could make an immediate impact.

"They've got an $82 million payroll. And it's so unbalanced in the offense that they're losing to teams with much smaller payrolls. And that's a result of poor management. Just a complete misallocation of resources and I think any business operated like this would fire the people at the top. But Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln aren't going anywhere for a long time unless the owner in Japan says so. And he hasn't said so."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.