As M's fall apart, heat on manager is misplaced

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zduriencik-100610.jpgThe Seattle Mariners were blown out by the Texas Rangers again on Thursday, this time 12-3 in a game in which the Mariners allowed an astounding eight unearned runs.

Seattle dropped a season-worst 14 games below .500 and has been outscored 31-6 in its last three games, all losses to the AL West-leading Rangers.

Seattle has spent most of the season performing below expectations, though anyone who took a realistic look at their offense might have predicted it. The Mariners’ recent run, however, speaks to problems that run deeper than the talent level of the roster, as otherwise sound players are making mistakes in the field and showing a lack of focus.

In fact, there are rumblings that manager Don Wakamatsu is losing control of the clubhouse, in part over the way the beloved Ken Griffey Jr. headed off (or was pushed?) into retirement.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes that Griffey’s departure led to ill-feelings in the clubhouse over how the end of Griffey’s career was handled.

Wakamatsu and Griffey had stopped talking to each other the final 10 days or so before the latter’s abrupt resignation. Griffey was upset over a lack of playing time. His demeanor and relations between him and Wakamatsu quickly deteriorated in the days and weeks after publication of a story that Griffey had been napping in the clubhouse late in a game when he may have been needed in a pinch-hitting role.

Now, with the Mariners having lost six of its last seven games, Wakamatsu and his staff are trying get this season righted again and avoid another 90-loss — or even 100-loss campaign like the one two years ago.

In addition to the Griffey mess, Wakamatsu has rankled Chone Figgins by bumping him to the No. 9 spot in the order, and irritated pitcher Ian Snell for critical comments (though the way Snell has pitched he should be grateful Wakamatsu remembers his name).

But while it’s tempting to pour the heat onto the manager, general manager Jack Zduriencik should share it, or even carry the bulk of it. As golden as his touch was in his first year on the job, Zduriencik got very little right heading into this season.

Sure, Cliff Lee has been great since he got healthy, but the rest of it has been an utter train wreck:

  • Figgins is hitting .225.
  • Casey Kotchman, brought in to be the regular first baseman, is hitting .194.
  • Reliever Brandon League has been good at times, awful at others.
  • The decision to carry Mike Sweeney and Griffey as co-DHs was a disaster, as Griffey can no longer hit, and Sweeney is, at this point in his career, little better than a league-average player who can’t stay healthy.
  • And Milton Bradley? Well, we don’t have time to get into all of that right now.

So JZ, the pressure should be on you. Your first step might be to find some suitors for Lee, because there’s no way he’s going to want to stick around for the rebuilding project that lies ahead.

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Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.