By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners returned home Monday following a series in Anaheim in which the margin between winning and losing was razor — or maybe we should say, arrow—thin. The Angels won two of three, but with two games going to extra innings and the third being an Anaheim comeback win in the ninth, it’s not an exaggeration to say that either team was only a couple plays away from a sweep.
Sunday’s loss came with a bit of controversy that continued to be debated Monday everywhere from local sports radio to national shows on ESPN. That thanks to Mariner closer Fernando Rodney’s premature celebration, if you will, in which he shot off his imaginary arrow at the end of the eighth, something he usually does after finishing off a save in the ninth. The Angels, of course, rallied in the ninth, and that comeback included Mike Trout and Albert Pujols firing retaliatory imaginary arrows after Trout scored on a Pujols double.
Since that Mariners loss, some people have wondered if Rodney motivated the Angels with the fake arrow he shot at or near the Angels dugout. It’s safe to say that Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon isn’t one of those people.
“That’s a bunch of baloney,” McClendon said. “They understand the importance of these games as well as we do. The fact is they had the best all-around player in the game leading off and a Hall of Famer hitting behind him. That had a lot to do with them winning the game, not Rodney’s arrow shooting.”
Rodney’s decision to celebrate an inning early came back to bite him because it made him look a little silly, but it wasn’t why the Mariners lost. We’re talking about a grown man with a pretend bow and arrow here — the same guy who at last year’s World Baseball Classic credited his success to a lucky plantain — so like Trout told reporters in Anaheim “Rodney is Rodney. He’s a funny guy. No hard feelings.”
As McClendon said, the Angels won because they have good hitters who came through in the ninth. So no, the takeaway from Sunday’s loss, and the series as a whole, shouldn’t be the silliness of who shot an imaginary arrow at whom, it should be that the Mariners, as presently constructed, are right on the cusp. They’re good enough to have been a clutch hit Friday and half inning Sunday from sweeping the team with the second best record in baseball, but they’re flawed enough to be held to five runs in 28 innings in the first two games of the series.
If we learned anything over the weekend, it wasn’t anything about arrow etiquette, it was that the Mariners are good enough to be in the playoff mix come September. But that they could really stand to make a move or two if they want to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2001, let alone do something if they get there.
With the trade deadline looming at the end of the month, the Mariners have a chance to improve a team that has already taken a big step forward in 2014, but like any buyer at the deadline, they have to weigh the benefit of a trade with what it might mean in the future. Sure a bat like Matt Kemp or Ben Zobrist or Marlon Byrd would help an offense that ranks 13th in the American League in runs, and sure an All-Star pitcher like David Price would make what is already a very good rotation into a downright scary one, but are any of those players, all of whom are rumored to be potential trade targets for Seattle, worth the prospects they would cost the Mariners?
On one hand, this is an organization and a fan base that could really use a postseason appearance, but on the other hand, Oakland is so far ahead in the standings — nine games up on Seattle heading into Monday’s game — the Mariners have to ask themselves if it is worth giving up a top prospect like Taijuan Walker for what very well might be a one-game playoff against another Wild Card opponent.
We’ll almost certainly see the Mariners do something between now and July 31st. General manager Jack Zduriencik knows his resume could really use a postseason appearance, and more importantly, we should see the Mariners do something in an attempt to get better because it’s finally time they do so.
The Mariners need to have some restraint in terms of what they’re giving up, but as a thrilling series in Anaheim showed us, they’re good enough to contend this fall, but could use a piece or two in order to do anything once they’re there.
McClendon has done a remarkable job this year piecing his lineups together without many consistent offensive threats beyond second baseman Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager, but even though he could use some more firepower, he won’t ask for it publicly.
“My job is to manage the players that I’m given,” he said. “… I just take what I got and go out and do the best we can.”
The Mariners have done pretty well so far with what they have. To make this season into a memorable one after too many years of losing, they could use a little more ammunition for the stretch run. Preferably something more powerful than an imaginary arrow.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.