Thiel: Some Fans May Call Them 'Despairiners' But There's Still Hope For Mariners In 2017
The Mariners are wrapping up a road trip this weekend with a three-game series in Cleveland. They’re also finishing a month that featured some pretty demoralizing losses.
KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel explains to 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick why he still has hope for the team this season.
'A Lot To Like' Despite 'Egregious Losses'
"I'm not ready to panic because I think there's a lot to like about this team," Thiel said." [There are] vulnerabilities for sure. I don't see a World Series in this group.
"I do think the problem is a psychological one. The Mariners had four really bad losses, including the game Tuesday in Detroit where they lost 19-9 and then also had injuries to Felix Hernandez and Mitch Haniger, the star right fielder who's been leading the team's offense.
"They also had three other losses in April. They blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning. They also blew another five-run lead. And they had a 13-inning loss when they could've won it half a dozen times in that game.
"You add that into the Tuesday game and the gravitas that those losses have are pulling people down into some real dark despair."
Fan Base 'Trained To Despair'
"It's not a team that's incompetent," Thiel continued. "They've just had some egregious defeats that have really made things feel worse because the Mariners have trained the fan base to despair.
"It's 40 years and four playoff appearances - none in the last 15 years. So, when you have a bad loss, it feels worse because we are habituated to travail. It's just too bad but the Mariners have no one to blame but themselves."
Yet He Still Has Hope
"I like the everyday lineup - with Haniger in there," Thiel said. "And he will be back in a month after his strained oblique muscle heals. He's on the disabled list.
"I think with him, the new shortstop Jean Segura, plus the holdovers with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager, I think it's still a strong lineup. And Taylor Motter, the utility guy, has been a revelation.
"I think they've got a pretty solid everyday team. The first three games of this week, they had 27 runs combined. So, I think the team can hit and that is going to keep them in games where they would've been lost last year."
Pitching Is A Different Story
"At one point this week, the Mariners' starting pitching had the second-worst collective ERA [Earned Run Average] in baseball and the bullpen had the second-worst ERA in baseball," Thiel said. "So, it's been bad.
"Of course, Felix is at the heart of that. The one thing I saw in spring training that I think the Mariner brass screwed up was the confidence in Felix Hernandez.
"Felix is now 31. [He has] 2,400 hard miles of innings on him. And he's got shoulder inflammation. I'm guessing he's going to be out at least two or three weeks - maybe longer if they find something worse.
"I understand the emotional bond. One of the reasons he's so popular in Seattle is because he's declined offers to play elsewhere.
"So, to have Felix not be doing well is really adding to that sense of despair. But he's one pitcher. James Paxton is now the ace of this staff. The other question comes in with the other three starters.
"Hisashi Iwakuma is doing reasonably well but he's 36 with a lot of hard miles on him too. And the two big question marks are Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo. Both of those guys have a ways to go to be adequate. So, that's a vulnerability.
"I think the bullpen will straighten out with good health. It's not clear yet that this is a playoff pitching staff. But if the big guys hit up front, they can overcome a lot of bad pitching."
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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.