Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri April 26, 2013

Mariners' slump physical and mental

The Mariners beat the Angels Thursday night 6-0. A bit of good news, after they hit a new low on the road.

The team's problem is both physical and mental, says KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel.

Sports with Art Thiel weekly commentary

Injured outfield

The Mariners lost four games out of six to the Houston Astros, the team perceived by many to be the worst in baseball.

Art says "it's been grim" but there's a legitimate reason - not excuse - for some of it. Their starting outfield has been injured for much of the early season.

Michael Saunders hit the wall and sprained his shoulder. Michael Morse broke a bone in his finger that was hit by a pitch. He returned four games later and hasn't gotten back to his early home run-hitting form. And the often-injured Franklin Gutierrez is on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring problem.

"That's a lot of people to have out. And the consequence to that is you're putting poor old 40-year-old Raul Ibanez out in left field to stagger around and almost hurt himself with flying objects out there that he should be catching! That wasn't part of the deal. He was going to be a DH and a pinch hitter and maybe one or two days a week he played left field. Now he's playing regularly and he shouldn't be," he said. 

"A lot of things have accumulated that are legitimate to compromise their start. But that doesn't make it any easier to take because the fans are just ready to be cynical."

Mental game

Art says the Mariners are feeling a lot of pressure to succeed. But, given their past poor seasons, fans would be happy with just .500.

But so far this season, Art says the new guys haven't panned out much (namely Kendrys Morales). And young veterans Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak are struggling - after being acquired either through high profile trades or high in the draft.

"These guys are acting as if the weight of the world is on them. It shouldn't be that way but that's how they're performing."

Art says if the slump happened in July, it would be easier to take.

"Out of the gate after spring training is what is so galling to the fan base and why you leap from skepticism to cynicism. Losing to the Astros - that's just the worst thing possible. The Astros have a $25 million payroll, the Mariners have an $80 million payroll. And the Mariners can't be them. In fact, they get clobbered. So, the mortification is complete."

April slump = losing season

Art says history has shown that April is a very telling month for the Mariners.

"If they have a losing April, they have a losing season. If they have a winning April, they have a winning season. For 35 of their 37 years that's prevailed. It's a remarkable barometer."

He says this is why many fans have jumped off the bandwagon, if they were even on it to begin with.

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.