Why The Roster Isn’t Fixed Yet
While we applaud the Mariners for making two correct decisions yesterday, and while they have improved the roster with the additions of Ryan Lagnerhans and Josh Wilson, the roster is not yet fixed.
Right now, the Mariners have the following line-up options, based on the current roster (leaving aside catchers, because that’s an entirely separate issue).
OF: Ichiro, Gutierrez, Langerhans
IF: Kotchman, Figgins, Wilson, Lopez
Bench: Griffey, Sweeney, Wilson
OF: Ichiro, Gutierrez, Bradley
If: Kotchman, Figgins, Wilson, Lopez
Bench: Sweeney, Langerhans, Wilson
I think most of us would prefer option A, as it gets Bradley out of the field (and hopefully keeps his bat in the line-up more often), improves the defense, and relegates Junior to a reduced pinch-hitting role. However, there’s a pretty big problem with that alignment – Josh Wilson acts as the only backup for the other seven guys, because the other two bench dudes can’t play the field. And that’s being kind enough to assume that Josh Wilson can serve as the fourth outfielder, despite the fact that he’s played one game in the outfield in his entire professional career.
Yes, the team can now safely pinch hit for Jack Wilson since they have a guy who can play shortstop to replace him after he’s removed, but that’s the only strategic move you can make. Want to pinch run? Tough, can’t do it. Want to pinch hit for Langerhans when the opposing manager brings in a southpaw in a high leverage situation? Nope, there’s no one else to play left field. While the team’s best line-up now includes Langerhans in left and Bradley at DH, that scenario also creates a remarkably inflexible bench that allows Wak to make one substitution per game. If any of the starters get a minor injury that force them into a day-to-day situation, the team literally would not have a backup for anyone else.
That’s the cost of carrying 12 pitchers and two guys who can’t play the field. An MLB team cannot operate like this without being severely hamstrung in every close, late game situation. We’ve already seen these problems rear their head, with things like Eric Byrnes facing a tough RHP in ridiculously high leverage situations, and last night’s moves don’t address the issue. If the team goes forward with this roster, they essentially will have to choose between keeping Griffey as the regular DH against righies, or not having a usable bench. That’s not a choice they should have to make.
If we accept the fact that Griffey isn’t going anywhere (and we have to – it’s just reality), then the Mariners simply have to choose between Mike Sweeney and the seven man bullpen. They cannot have both. No one can realistically expect the M’s to be able to make the necessary late game moves while they are hamstrung with a bullpen spot they don’t use and two DH’s who can’t hit.
Since Wak is apparently dead set against going back to six relievers, that makes Sweeney the odd man out. You cannot make this roster work with him on it and a 12 man pitching staff. We’ll find out tomorrow if the Mariners are willing to make that call, but I don’t get the sense that they are. I have a feeling that, tomorrow, the Mariners will take the field with a still-broken roster. It’s improved, but it still doesn’t work.
Jettisoning Byrnes and Tuiasosopo was the right start, but there’s one more move to be made. The team has about 30 hours to make it. Let’s see if they’re willing to admit that this roster is still broken.