Official Scorer: E-MGR
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 18, 2006
I’m so tired of Mike Hargrove’s terrible antics at the helm of the hometown nine, that I can’t wait to start my rant on why he should be fired – yesterday.
Just four days ago, I said I wouldn’t fire him at this point in the year. As of today, Thursday, May 18, I want him gone and I want him gone now.
And so should anyone else who cares about the success of the Seattle Mariners franchise.
I’m just going to jump right into it.
Who has a better chance of getting a hit off a right-handed pitcher, a red-hot Jeremy Reed or Matt Lawton who has one freakin’ AB since May 5?
If your name is Mike Hargrove, the answer is – WRONG!
While nobody can ridicule Hargrove for sitting Reed versus some left-handers, keeping him on the bench after 4-for-13 (.308) series in which the 24-year-old smacked his first two home runs of the year and drive in four runs is criminal.
To further prove Hargrove’s insanity and stupidity, Lawton went 0-for-4 and Reed pinch hit and went 1-for-1 with a run scored.
Sure, that’s just one incident you say. But it’s inexcusable managing to cut Reed’s playing time after he finally starts hitting. It’s not as if he’d played 12 days straight and needed a break. And the M’s weren’t facing a lefty. It was right-hander Joe Blanton, whom Reed was 1-for-2 off this season.
Not to mention the defensive advantage Reed gives the club over Lawton – with Felix Hernandez on the hill… a struggling Hernandez.
Hargrove is gutless. And if he catches wind of me calling him out here and on the air on KJR every chance I get, I challenge him to explain himself. If he can get past the blabbering jargon he usually offers up and makes sense in his defense of such a move, I’ll cut him some slack.
But he’ll still be wrong. I don’t doubt his will to win. I just doubt he has the marbles to get the job done with any regularity whatsoever.
Could I manage better? No. But I can draw up a better lineup card than he could on his best day. Why?
Because I don’t give a flying feces what any veteran says to me, about me or at me. If Lawton wants to complain, let him. I’m playing the players that have the best chance to help the club win, not only today, but all year.
And no way does Lawton improve the M’s chances enough to warrant sitting Reed versus a right-handed pitcher. What’s the upside of starting Lawton who hadn’t had an AB in 11 days?
Now, what’s the upside of starting Reed who, after struggling mightily for five weeks, showed big-time life in Los Angeles?
It’s not even close and the damage Hargrove is causing this team right now is pure bull.
Hargrove’s idiocy flies far past this instance, however.
It’s a known fact that a manager’s personality comes out in his managing style and that a ballclub’s play often reflects that style. If the roster is simply inept, the results will not likely be positive, but the energy will still be there.
Ozzie Guillen, Terry Francona, Felipe Alou, Bobby Cox, Mike Scoscia and Bruce Bochy all come to mind when I think of managers that portray their own character on their clubs successfully.
Bochy is a great example, because he isn’t blessed with top talent like Joe Torre, Francona, Guillen or Tony LaRussa.
But that sub-par roster fights and scratches and plays through adversity and hovers around .500 when they shouldn’t…
Hargrove couldn’t manage his minuscule aptitude for baseball managing through the broken detectors at the SeaTac airport’s Gate A.
Another factor in Dan Rohn’s predecessor’s shortcomings is his obvious reluctance to make a change in the batting order.
It’s really quite simple, Mike. It’s broke. Fix it.
I don’t think anyone who has a clue can argue with leaving Ichiro in the top spot. It’s where he’s most comfortable and batting him third removes him from his element and it’s asking him to change his game. The M’s need Ichiro to continue to get on base like he has all month.
If Ichiro is swinging to drive in runs, he probably repeats April. No thanks.
And batting Jose Lopez second, well, it’s hard to argue against that, too. It’s working, leaving it be.
But if moving Lopez down in the order might help Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre, or simply give the Mariners a better shot to score more runs, than by all means, try it at least.
In the end, I’m not particularly laced off about the No. 2 spot, either. My beef is with Hargrove’s handling, or mishandling, of the 3-4-5-6 spots in the order.
Richie Sexson is the best hitter on this team. No, he’s not the best hitter for average. But his .900 OPS last season is a good reason why he’s this club’s best bet to score runs.
He’s struggling. So what does Hargrove do to help him? Not a single thing.
Not a change in who’s hitting behind him, not a change in Sexson’s own batting slot, nothing. Not even for a weekend to see if it sparks anything.
I have studied about half of Sexson’s ABs, in which I can tell you he is 11-for-82 (.134) and what I have noticed is:
1. He’s not getting good pitches to hit.
2. Since about the second full week of the year, he’s clearly pressing by swinging at more balls out of the strike zone.
3. Sexson was thrown 59% fastballs in 2005. He’s seeing 52.5% this season. And fewer of them are strikes. Why? No protection.
Last season, Adrian Beltre, he of the 48-homer season the year prior to last, was protecting Sexson in the lineup. Even after a few months of Beltre’s underwhelming production, pitchers were still afraid of him. He was still unknown, but he was a monster the year before.
This year, it’s the Adrian Beltre that struggled all of 2005 and continues to do so in 2006. Pitchers aren’t afraid of Beltre any more than Dice Clay is of profanity.
So now it’s Carl Everett “protecting” Sexson and while he’s hitting .293 in May, it’s too late. Sexson is in a funk and is still pressing to force the action. Nobody is afraid of Everett, either.
The difference in production between Ibanez and Everett is somewhat negligible, but in the eyes of the pitcher, facing Crazy Carl is a much better idea than pitching to Ibanez, who can drive any pitch into the gap in any count.
My suggestion is to bat both Ibanez and Everett behind Sexson, putting the second and third most dangerous run producers the team currently has, behind the club’s best RBI man.
So who hits third? I’d move Sexson to third with Ibanez and Everett fourth and fifth – versus right-handers. Split Ibanez and Everett with Beltre or Johjima versus left-handers and see what happens for a week or two.
Can it get worse? Not likely, Mike.
From 2003 through 2005, the No. 2 slot in the batting orders of all AL clubs had 13% fewer PAs with runners in scoring position than did the No. 6 or 7 hitter. Sounds odd, but considering the average leadoff man’s OBP over that stretch is under .350 and the average combined OBP of the No. 5 and 6 hitters is almost 15 points higher, it’s not tough to understand how that happens.
Not to mention the fact that the middle of the order bats are clubbing more doubles than Mr. Leadoff.
So maybe this is a call for Lopez to hit sixth or seventh for a stretch. Try it while Reed is hitting, so he can be used in the two-slot.
As you can see, I’m not above sitting Reed versus lefties sometimes. But he’s never going to get better against southpaws if he doesn’t get to see some pitches from them. Sitting him versus every left-hander, starter or reliever, is asinine.
[Note: Reed entered today’s game 2-for-7 with a triple, a walk and no strikeouts versus Barry Zito. Lawton was 3-for-12 with no extra-base hits and five strikeouts.]
Hargrove has no idea how to balance his lineup and still cater to his best bats. The lightbulb is out and he’s lost directions to the hardware store.
There’s only one problem with Hargrove’s handling of the pitching staff. No, it has nothing to do with Felix Hernandez, Eddie Guardado or George Sherrill. Guardado deserved every last shot to right the ship in the closer role and I think Hargrove handled that one fine.
Sherrill’s struggles versus righties are well-known and the skipper has to pick his spots where he allows Sherrill to face a right-hander. He let him face Vlad in LA and it paid off. Sherrill certainly has more confidence after that series.
But when the field manager tells the general manager that he needs another bullpen arm that can go two or more innings per appearance and the GM obliges by calling up a Triple-A starting pitcher, wouldn’t the sane act be to use that pitcher on a regular regimen, somewhat according to how that specific pitcher had been used his entire career in order to maximize the kids’ chances for success?
If you ask the manager, his answer would be WRONG… again.
Bobby Livingston was called up on April 25, the day he was scheduled to make his fourth start for Tacoma. Livingston pitched 1 2/3 innings that day for the Mariners, but then wouldn’t see the mound again for 10 days.
He tossed three shutout innings at the defending world champs in Chicago on May 4 and was rewarded with eight more days between outings.
Great idea, Grover. Take a 23-year-old starting pitcher who has but two career relief appearances in four and a half years as a pro, and pitch him five innings in 20 days.
That’s a great way to set up a rookie with a chance to succeed.
And that’s all Hargrove’s job requires… set his team up with the best chance to succeed as possible.
Clearly, he’s not doing that. Clearly, he’s a terrible baseball manager.
The Mariners are currently 17-24 and by all accounts are better than a .415 club. Yes, some major cogs are not performing. Yes, the roster isn’t good enough to win the division – any division in any year.
But Hargrove has done nothing to dig this team out of the hole in which they are rotting. Ya know, the one in the cellar of the AL West?
By the time Hargrove figures out that he should do something different, this team will be 15 games under .500 and 20 games out of first place.
He was given a nickname as a player, due to his deliberate routine as a hitter. It worked for him, he was a solid hitter in his day. Remember what it was?
As a big-league manager, however, he’s not worthy of a fun-loving nickname like that, but I can come close in terms of word usage.
Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove is The Human Brain Delay.