Mariners' mess, Pirates' sinking ship and the rise of the NL
The Seattle Mariners are a mess, cramming a season's worth of fiascos (and just 13 wins) into 34 games. There was the
At 32, the next time Bradley plays 145 games or drives in 80 runs will be the first. To his credit, Bradley went to the club asking for help after personal and emotional issues became too much for him to bear.
"When you sit there and a grown man cries out for help, it's pretty humbling," Zduriencek said. "You want to help any way you can."
You have to root for a guy who has been overwhelmed trying to find emotional stability in his life and took a step back on his own. Baseball becomes secondary, but given that's what Bradley does best, the game can be a big part of his healing process. But here's the problem for the Mariners: they have no idea when Bradley is coming back and they still desperately need him to hit when he does.
"It's yet to be determined," Zduriencek said when asked about Bradley's return. "There's been progress. We're just going to be patient with this. There will be a time when we get a professional recommendation to play, and then it has to be in the player's comfort zone."
For now, Bradley is working out daily, but not under club supervision, as stipulated by the rules of the restricted list. Whenever he does get back, he immediately will be faced with the pressure of having to be a key hitter -- maybe even the most important one -- in the Seattle lineup.
"I still think he will be able to do that," Zduriencek said. "When he went down I thought he was swinging the bat well. You could see his impact on the lineup. He can hit, he takes pitches, he knows the strike zone, he's pretty advanced as far as those elements of the game, so to say we need him would be an understatement."
Bradley, aside from or because of his emotional issues, has hit nothing like an impact hitter for the past two years. In 145 games in that time, Bradley has hit .251/.368/.393 with 14 homers and 52 RBI. Then again, that makes him a veritable
Meanwhile, the Mariners embarrassed themselves with Napgate. Sad to say, sleeping in the clubhouse is done so often it's not exactly a baseball felony. But Seattle manager
What Wakamatsu did say, by his game management, was that he would rather have banjo-hitting
And yet whom do the Mariners blame? The reporter, of course -- the guy who was just doing his job, not sleeping on it. Lee and his teammates turned childish by saying they wouldn't speak if the reporter was at their locker.
You will be hard pressed to find a sorrier display of hitting than the Pirates have put on this week, and if you're lucky, you won't. Pittsburgh lost four consecutive games while scoring a total of five runs on 18 hits while batting .148. Worst of all, they went down hacking as if they wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. This might be the worst hitting Pirates team in more than half a century. In the past four games entering Friday, the Pirates:
• Became the first team in 10 years to go two straight games without a run or a walk (the 2000 Devil Rays were the last to go down so meekly).
• Saw only 457 pitches in four games, an average of 114 per game -- well below the NL average of 149.
• Saw only 192 pitches in back-to-back shutout losses to Cincinnati. They managed to get the count to three balls only three times in 56 at-bats in those two games.
Four games is a small sample, of course. But there are signs that the Pirates have systemic problems when it comes to showing significant growth in an offensive philosophy. Of the worst 35 regulars in the National League at pitches per plate appearance, five of them are Pirates:
This lack of quality at-bats is nothing new in Pittsburgh. Here is where the Pirates have ranked in OBP in the league since 2004: 12, 12, 13, 12, 15, 14, 15. This year Pittsburgh's offense has been bad even by Pittsburgh standards. The Pirates are averaging 3.45 runs per game. The last Pirates team that finished a season scoring less than three and a half runs per game was the 1952 club -- an outfit that lost 112 games.
It may be time to forget everything you've thought about how the American League is so much better than the National League. NL teams -- yes, the NL, a league with no DH and the awful Houston Astros -- are averaging more runs per game than the AL, 4.54-4.44.
The AL has four teams scoring fewer than four runs per game: the Angels, Indians, Mariners and Orioles. The Royals and White Sox are dreadful. That's almost half your league right there. Night after night there are too many matchups that are just not compelling.
True, the NL has the Pirates (run differential after 34 games: minus-97) and Astros (six hits, zero home runs by anybody under age 26). But the most exciting young players in baseball -- including the very young - are mostly in or coming to the NL, signaling the cycle of AL dominance is nearing an end.
The NL has outfielder
Hey, who knows? Maybe the NL will even win an All-Star Game this time. If I'm manager