Around the Horn

Game One thoughts

What do you know. The season really did start. Three weeks ago I'd have put money on it not starting, but then I should have had more faith in the abilities of Commissioner Manfred and the other Major League Baseball powers that be to ignore anything that might get in between them and money. Pandemic, shmandemic. 

But that's another topic, one that's been covered here repeatedly. Right now we're focused on a single baseball game, Game 1 of a mere 60 on the schedule, a predictable but still disheartening loss to those detestable cheaters, the Houston Astros.

I admit, I watched the game under less than ideal circumstances—just talking about mundane stuff here, not anything pandemic related—as I had a surprise drop-in friend visit (from someone I'd already had to interact with a fair amount during pseudo-quarantine time, long story not relevant to this site) from someone who is not a baseball person and who gamely tolerated my writing on this site—hurriedly trying to make up for my blase attitude about the season starting that kept me from preparing all of's usual in-season features—and then logging in to a pre-arranged Zoom call with other friends who are baseball people to watch and criticize the game in real-time while she was here playing with the cats instead of talking to me about not-baseball. I also had telephone interruptions and other distractions. (This is why last year's opening day, which took place in the wee hours as it was happening in Tokyo, was ideally scheduled. No interruptions, no distractions. Who else is for midnight season openers? Night Owls Unite!) But I did pay enough attention for some musings.

  • I grow more annoyed with Scott Servais' handling of pitchers all the time. I know, its the first game, how am I already annoyed? Part of it comes, I'm sure, from my managing the virtual Mariners all through the shutdown and doing things rather differently than ol' Scott does, but really. Does he want to win? I mean, it's hard to tell what with him throwing in the towel during a tie situation against one of the league's best in Justin Verlander. It's 2-1 M's, Marco is pitching pretty well, though not as sharp as we'd expect by this time in a normal year, and the Astros have mounted a bit of a rally with the help of an embarrassingly sloppy error by Kyle Seager. José Altuve singles in the tying run, not on a hard smash but on an infield hit (nice range displayed by JP Crawford), and here comes Servais to replace Marco with Zac Grotz. If not for the error, remember, that single scores no one, and right here is when you need to put out the fire and stop the rally. Best option: stick with your ace, get a ground ball; the runner at third is slow as dirt and you might be able to cut him down or turn a double-play. Other reasonable option: Go to a shut-down reliever, which, granted, is a bit of a grey area with this team. Bad option: Go to Zac Grotz, a guy that spent last year predominantly at Double-A and in his brief big-league time had faced Houston in games they outscored Seattle 42-12. Servais do what Servais do, and Grotz lets four runs across, two of which get charged to Marco, who gets hosed once again.
  • By then the game is lost. But before that, big props to (a) scoring twice off Verlander, and (b) keeping the extremely deep Astros (mostly) off the board. Marco Gonzales is a lot better than he gets credit for.
  • Shed Long batting leadoff: OK, not how I would have done it, but I see some logic there. Long has a history pre-trade to Seattle of being a good on-base guy and is fast enough to make something happen if he gets on. He seemed to lose that skill after arriving in the Mariner organization, though, and I have to wonder what he's been taught since coming over. Is Tim Laker screwing him up? Is it an organizational philosophy that puts too much emphasis on home runs? Both? Neither? Can Shed get his mojo back? Eh, not a bad idea to find out, and Mallex Smith had a poor year and I can see wanting him to prove himself before putting him back atop the lineup.
  • Kyle Lewis playing center: This made me scratch my head a little, but it's not a big deal; I think you do yourself a disservice taking Mallex out of center, but he's fine in any of the three spots, I just would prefer a better arm in right. And Lewis made a nice play on a carom off the wall. Lewis is probably a decent center fielder, but doesn't he profile better as a corner guy? Little weird, but OK.
  • José Marmolejos. Why is he starting? Is there something we don't know about Jake Fraley? Is Fraley sick/hurt or just getting the shaft because Servais likes having too many relief pitchers, even if they're not ready for prime time? (It's Servais' penchant for excessive bullpen arms.) Nothing against José as a player, exactly—well, maybe a little against him—but he's not an outfielder, as we saw tonight when he couldn't pick up a fly ball off the bat, and any extra thump he might provide doesn't help if he can't catch. It reminded me of the Jack Zduriencik era, when the M's would amass half a dozen power-hitting DHs that couldn't run a lick and try to get them all in the lineup at once.
  • I hate the Astros. That's not apropos of anything, just a statement. It's not the cheating scandal, though that doesn't help. I've hated them since my childhood, when I would go to Triple-A games in my then-hometown of Tucson, home of the Astros' top minor league affiliate, and root for the visitors at all times. Because screw the Astros and their city of giant mutant cockroaches and mosquitos.

I fear what we saw tonight is going to be typical of the whole mini-season: Scott Servais mishandling pitchers, auditioning guys that by all rights should get a year in Triple-A, giving short shrift to defense, ignoring his bench. The youzh.

In the interim, the virtual season lives on. I'm inclined to play that to completion, though we may not keep to the schedule—skipping a day here or there and making it up with two or three at a time later might happen as we go on. Also, there's still a better than even chance this season goes sideways pandemic-wise and gets shut down, so...

Anyway, one down. 59 or some fraction thereof to go.

2020 playoff plan

What's your opinion of the expanded playoffs in 2020?


  • Posted by Bill on July 25, 2020 (15 months ago)

    Yes, please keep the M's virtual season going, Tim. To quote a rotund MLB owner in Seinfeld, "I smell a PENAAAAAAAAAAAAANT!!!"

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