The Mariners haven’t had a decent offense in a decade, and this year is no different. Previous managers tried to fix the problem. But Lloyd McClendon has wisely turned it into the team’s identity.
“We’re not an ideal powerhouse,” McClendon said last week. “We’ve got a BB gun—we dodge the bullets and shoot ’em between the eyes.”
Last Sunday’s win against Tampa Bay was right out of the 2014 Mariner playbook. Felix Hernandez pitched the game of his life, shutting out the Rays and striking out a career-high 15. But the Mariners didn’t score either. Then, in the 9th, with two outs, two strikes, and nobody on, punchless shortstop Brad Miller lined a triple into the rightfield corner. One batter later, Endy Chavez reached for a fastball that was six inches outside and squirted a grounder through the infield to score Miller with the winning run. The Rays never knew what hit ’em.
McClendon’s predecessors were amateur psychologists who attempted to brew offensive success out of mind games and motivational speaking. McClendon is more of a realist. Asked last week why he had struggling rookie Stefen Romero batting fourth in the order, McClendon replied: “Somebody’s gotta hit there. I don’t have Bonds, so it’s gonna be Romero.”
Asked why prospect Nick Franklin was being sent down to the minors, McClendon said, “This is not a country club. You have to have positive results here.”
In his search for positive results, McClendon tried 56 different batting orders in the season’s first 62 games. He’s started 10 different outfielders this season. And, somehow, it’s working. The Mariners started June with six wins in seven games and, at press time, hold the second of the American League’s two Wild Card spots.
The BB-gun approach is only sporadically successful—despite the old canard about “pitching and defense win championships,” most World Series winners possess elite offenses. It has been done, though—the shining example being the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, who won a World Series averaging just 3.88 runs per game.
McClendon’s thrown out a challenge not just to his team but to Mariner fans everywhere: Instead of bitching about the team’s offense, accept and love it. This is the team we’ve got, and there is something endearing about it: Stefen Romero playing the role of Barry Bonds, Endy Chavez reaching for bad-ball singles, Brad “Crazy Legs” Miller tearing around the bases on the rare occasions that he hits the ball. For better or worse, these are your Seattle Mariners. E