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Know Your Enemy: Seattle Mariners

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Siri, was “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” real?

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

That series in Anaheim was certainly something. The White Sox are in 2019 midseason form at this point in the year, with the big bright spot being Yermín Mercedes. I’m hoping he can keep his momentum up, because he’s literally been the biggest bright spot so far (can I get an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” on those three games where we looked like Triple-A?)

But this isn’t about the White Sox. Today we’re trashing the Seattle Mariners!

2020 Record: 27-33 (third Place in AL West)

The Mariners finished in a respectable third place last season in the AL West, which is pretty impressive when you factor in that 2020 kept teams isolated to their corners of the country and the West is a tough two divisions. The AL West does include the A’s and the Rangers who are historically bad depending on who you ask, so do with that what you will.

Kyle Lewis led the 2020 Mariners in batting with a .262/.364/.437 slash that helped him get the bump as Seattle’s first AL Rookie of the Year pick since 2001. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Lewis is starting the 2021 season in the injured list, suffering from a deep bone bruise on the outside of his right knee. He’s slowly been returning to baseball activities, so it’s possible the White Sox will get a look at him at some point this week.

Though it didn’t happen in 2020 I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention (former) team CEO Kevin Mather showing his whole ass in the offseason by making some comments to a Rotary Club complaining about Hisashi Iwakuma (former Mariners pitcher and recent hire as special assignment coach) needing an interpreter and the fact that Mather was tired of paying him, complaining about the ESL skills of Julio Rodriguez, confirming that the team was planning to manipulate the service time of Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, and calling Kyle Seager “overpaid” (and a future Mariners Hall-of-Famer). No big deal; Seager just has a Gold Gove and is an All-Star.

But I digress ...

2020 Manager: Scott Servais

Servais has been the manager for the last six years and during that time the Mariners have posted a win-loss record of 350-361, sitting just barely under .500. The only honor Servais has is coming in sixth to the 2016 Manager of the Year voting. Servais seems to fly under the radar when compared to other managers in his division (what up, Maddon?) so something notable is that he has a gold medal from the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

In a baseball tale of oldest time, Servais got his managerial bump via nepotism, as he is close friends with GM Jerry Dipoto, who previously was known for feuding with Mike Scioscia when both worked for the Angels. So when Dipoto moved north to Seattle, Servais was not far behind.

The Mariners are going through a rebuild (supposedly) and their records the last few years have definitely reflected that, starting by posting a 68-94 record in 2019. As with any rebuild, Servais’ job may be on the line — but since he’s buddy-buddy with the GM it’s possible that he hangs on to the bitter end.

2021 Mariners So Far

Let’s be real: I can make fun of any team. Some I truly hate or dislike, some not so much. The Mariners fall in that “not so much” territory. I don’t find them all that objectionable — they’re not the heels of baseball like the Yankees or the Astros, who thrive on our collective hatred, and they’re not the sweetheart team of our collective hearts, because there’s not really one of those.

This past weekend vs. the Giants featured a couple firsts for the Mariners: Taylor Trammell’s first career hit and Chris Flexen’s Mariners debut (and first major league start since April 2019). The series was full of solid, well-played baseball. There was an offense made up of walks and plenty of small ball but what matters is getting on base, as Brad Pitt as Billy Beane tells us:

Baseball basics: Get on base, drive in runners. Not hard, right?

The Mariners bullpen is rickety right now and they definitely don’t have a Shohei Ohtani equivalent, so you hope that the White Sox can do damage to them, bouncing back from the painful weekend in Anaheim. No one has a sub-4.00 ERA among them, so let’s hope the White Sox offense decides to wake up at some point.

Series Matchup: OK, Now What?

The White Sox had some painful outings in Anaheim, looking less like a team trying to compete and more like a team that forgot how the play baseball. Uneven pitching and failing to hit with guys on base is not exactly sending shockwaves of terror through enemy clubhouses. Jerry wants us to have the same level of confidence in Tony La Russa that he does, so TLR needs to start showing us some of that patented Hall-of-Famer Baseball Brain™. Lest we forget the defensive mistakes, like our Gold Glove center fielder taking a bonk on the head. Yea it sucks that ESPN spent 95% of the broadcast on Sunday talking about the Angels, but with the level of play exhibited by the team this weekend maybe it wasn’t totally unwarranted (who wants to get trashed by the announcers on national TV?).

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels
Lest we forget
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners went 2-1 against the Giants and yes, it is still too early in the season to determine how everyone is going to end up in September. But the Sox need to get it together, and quick, if they want to prove that they’re at the end of the rebuild that Seattle is just beginning.

Monday is a matchup with Carlos Rodón against Justus Sheffield. As we all remember, Rodón was non-tendered in the offseason but brought back two months later in free agency and had a standout spring training. He’s finally fully healthy after some painful runs the last two seasons that were riddled with bumps and bruises. We’re looking for Rodón to make it up to us after Dylan Cease’s showing last night.

Sheffield had an awesome 2020 rookie season but he’s also a LHP. I don’t care about lefty/righty, but you can’t deny the Sox have magic against starting southpaws, and those baseball players are a superstitious bunch. When the Sox last saw Sheffield in 2019 they hit a career-worst six home runs off him, so let’s continue that, OK guys?

Tuesday is the return of Lucas Giolito. He had a solid Opening Day start, striking out eight and walking two (one of those strikeouts included an absolute nasty pitch that stunned Mike Trout) earning himself an ERA of 3.38 after 5 13 innings. He’s facing off against James Paxton, who was supposed to start Friday but was given “extra rest” by Servais. Paxton was only able to make two Cactus League starts due to work visa issues (damn Canada). Paxton wasn’t around as much in 2020 due to a smattering of injuries that ended with him undergoing back surgery during his time with the Yankees, before being dealt to the Mariners in February.

Wednesday’s matchup will have a clash between Dallas Keuchel and Justin Dunn. Keuchel only went for four innings before being replaced by Matt Foster in his first start of the season, allowing six runs (three earned, ouch) with four strikeouts and two walks. We need a little more “Cy Young Keuchel” and a little less “Carson Fulmer-impression Keuchel” as we head into this series. Dunn managed to hit 96 mph with his fastball during spring training, but is still struggling with control issues. He relies heavily on that 4-Seam Fastball (53.6%) followed by the curveball, and appears to have the most control with those two.

Hear it from the Peanut Gallery