The Mariners are playing their final series before the All-Star break this weekend, hosting the Angels at Safeco Field.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the Mariners need to get hot to get into the playoff hunt.
Can't Bring 'Em Home
Thiel said the Mariners have a lot of work to do in the second half of the season. And a big decision to make in the next few days.
"It’s really a dilemma because there’s a lot of expectation around this team. And a lot of payroll – they’re in the top 10 in baseball," Thiel noted.
"And yet they’ve just struggled so mightily in the first half of the season, mostly because they can’t get runners home.
"A great example of that was Wednesday against the Tigers when they went 0-14 with runners in scoring position. That’s hard to do. Somebody should be able to bunt a runner home or something!
"It really is altogether remarkable and, for fans, annoying to watch a reasonably-competent group of hitters be unable to push a run across," he added.
Update: The Mariners beat the Angels Thursday night 7-2 with a season-high 19 hits.
In It To Win It?
Theil said the Mariners have a very big decision to make.
"We are three weeks away from the trade deadline in Major League Baseball (July 31) and the Mariners have to decide: are they in it to win it or are they sellers? Will they get rid of players in order to get prospects for yet another rebuilding campaign?"
Thiel noted that the Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs in 14 years. "That’s what makes these next three weeks crucial in the Mariners’ future," he said.
"They have to get hot or they’re basically going to have to get rid of (general manager) Jack Zduriencik after the year and probably the manager because it isn’t working after seven years under Zduriencik."
The Cano Factor
Mariners slugger Robinson Cano struggled during the first half of the season. Thiel said it's still a bit of a mystery as to what's going on.
"Cano disclosed on Sunday that he’d had a stomach ailment – apparently a parasite that was detected back in August last year.
"It caused his production to fall off in September during the pennant race when they came up a game short of the playoffs. And it’s continued through the offseason and apparently it was bothering him during the season.
"There’s been confusion about it because, Sunday, Cano told reporters that his health was okay; there was nothing bothering him and there was no stomach ailment. Then he told a Spanish-speaking reporter for USA Today that he’s had this ailment and it’s really been impacting his play.
Did Mariners Do The Right Thing?
"The whole thing is awkward for the Mariners," Thiel said.
"I’m not saying that they were wrong in how they handled it. But when you see that his production was the primary culprit in the bad first half of the season, you wonder, could he have been helped by rest?
"Giving him a week off – would that have worked? I don’t know and I don’t know exactly how sick he is. He did own up to acid reflux.
"But the mystery around it continues simply because the Mariners have not decided to disclose what’s going on.
"I understand, from a competitive standpoint, Robinson Cano is part of the macho creed of pro sports where if the broken bone isn’t sticking out, you play. But that’s also counter-productive.
"What the Mariners needed was somebody coldly unemotional to evaluate the situation and decide is it worth it for him to continue to play or is it better to have him rest and come back strong?
"I don’t know the answer but, given the skepticism that’s always around the Mariners and personnel decisions, I think the eyebrow arched is the proper position," he said.
Road To Recovery?
Thiel noted that Cano has rallied recently.
"Over the last month, he’s hit over .300. He has four home runs since June 7. There is productivity returning," he said.
"I can’t quite say yet that it’s the real deal because when the Mariners were 0-14 Wednesday, Cano had at least two chances with runners in scoring position to drive in the tying or, maybe, winning run. And he didn’t come through.
"That has been THE problem this year. And it continues to cripple the Mariners as they head toward the trading deadline."