Who is to blame for the Mariners’ disappointing season? The culprits are several


 Who is to blame for the Mariners' disappointing season?  The culprits are several

As the notion of “bottom out” for this Mariners season shifts (and falls lower) by the day, Monday’s big guessing game was who would be boarding the plane to Oakland to embark on a road trip.

Or rather, who wouldn’t.

The debacle of a five-game series against the Angels, in which the combination of Mike Trout’s superhumanity and the Mariners’ reckless offense resulted in four demoralizing losses, called for a scapegoat. I’ve been with enough crater baseball teams in my time to know the telltale signs of an imminent purge.

But the only casualties were backup pitcher Sergio Romo, 39, and experienced left-hander Roenis Elias, both of whom were earmarked for action. Not quite the bloodshed that many fans were craving after a doubleheader loss to the Angels on Saturday and the latest in a seemingly endless string of shutout losses on Sunday.

The truth is that this Mariners team’s troubles cannot be attributed to one person whose removal will magically remedy their ailments. There are numerous fingerprints on this dying work.

Of course, it’s longstanding baseball orthodoxy that the manager is the first to take the fall (because, as the old saying goes, you can’t fire 25 players. Or, to put it more modernly, you can’t fire 26 players ). . The Phillies went that route on June 3 when they took on Joe Girardi with the team stuck at 22-29. It had the electrifying effect that was desired: the Phillies are 14-3 under interim manager Rob Thomson, the former bench coach, and back in the thick of wild-card racing. Four days later, the Angels beat Joe Maddon amid a 12-game losing streak that reached 14 games under his replacement, Phil Nevin. The Angels are 6-7 under Nevin, with 67% of those wins coming in the just-completed series in Seattle.

Girardi and Maddon each have a World Series title on their managerial resumes. The Mariners haven’t had a manager with even a playoff berth in Seattle since Lou Piniella in 2001, which was ahead of seven skippers, not counting splits. Scott Servais, in his seventh season, was praised last year for leading an above-average team to 90 wins, 14 games over the expected win total by a minus 51 run margin.

Servais finished second to Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash for American League Manager of the Year and received a contract extension on September 1. This spate of contention prompted significant optimism that the Mariners were ready to end their never-ending drought in 2022, but not unreasonable anticipation that has made the subsequent collapse far more frustrating.

Now the Mariners are thrashing, 10 games under .500 and yet another non-playoff season staring them in the face. Did Servais suddenly become mute? I do not think so. Sure, you can make a number of choices regarding lineup deployment, pitching usage and, especially this weekend, whether or not you keep pitching Trout amid mounting evidence they couldn’t stop him.

As longtime minor league manager Rocky Bridges once said, “There are three things the average man thinks he can do better than anyone else. Build a fire, run a hotel and manage a baseball team.”

But in many cases, Servais chooses between unattractive options, a sort of Hobson’s choice (not named after former Red Sox bat Butch Hobson, although the Mariners could use his bat) where there are often no good answers. This is what happens when your roster is filled with struggling players who are either well below their capability or not yet at representative capability. But if he can’t get players to perform, and soon, Servais could well have his job to pay him. That’s just baseball. Many people updated Twitter on Monday to see if the manager would survive.

Jerry Dipoto, president of baseball operations, like Servais, is in his seventh year in Seattle (and in his fourth year of Reconstruction, which bought some extra time to form a playoff team). He is in charge of the squad that looked much better on paper in March. No one knew then that Robbie Ray wouldn’t get close to his Cy Young form until two starts ago, or that two big offensive additions, Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier, would suffer massive drop-offs, or Jarred Kelenic would be plagued by the same offensive problems as when rookie, or that Mitch Haniger would be out for two months with an ankle injury. Additionally, there are depth issues that have plagued the Mariners all season, with few answers found in the smaller leagues despite their farm system’s shiny rankings.

The lineup the Mariners field most days is as razor thin as it was last year. They’ve already been shut out 10 times in 68 games, or about once every two series. The bullpen has seen its expected setback, and the Mariners aren’t pulling out the tight games like last year. No team leaves more men on base than they do, and only two teams are worse at bringing them home from third place with fewer than two outs. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to look at this team as it is today and see the seeds of a resurgence that will pull them back into contention.

The burning question is to what extent Dipoto was paralyzed by property rights in the offseason in his pursuit of free agents, and how much of their inability to sign players like Trevor Story and Marcus Semien was simply an inability to persuade them to come to Seattle — a growing problem than the lost seasons and the negative word of mouth.

Regardless, it’s fair to ask the same question that has permeated this organization for two decades: How strong is the commitment to winning within the ownership group? Where is the burning desire to end the drought that continues to be a black mark on the organization? That’s not reflected in a payroll that ranks in the bottom third of the league. And there could be more testing in the coming weeks.

Of course, this season would have (and could, with almost 100 games still to play) have a completely different tenor if the players had lived up to their expectations. Too few have done so, and the general malaise has led to a familiar attitude of anger and frustration among the fanbase; It is fully justified based on the 20 years of work of this organization.

Just when it seemed the Mariners were on the verge of turning the season after winning four straight series on the most recent road trip, they suffered a 3-8 home draw that left them reeling again.

Apparently no heads rolled on Monday except for these two helpers. But the Mariners’ headaches are only getting worse.

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